“Hey Nashibe!” I shouted to my sister through the window, “I’m going to Turkana!”
She opened the door for me smiling, “so, you are going back to Turkana after two years. Same place?”
I explained to her that this time round, I was going to Kakuma refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp in Africa. Two years earlier, I had been to Kaikor, a small village deep in the arid Turkana heartland.
“At least eighty thousand refugees live in Kakuma!” I said excitedly as I removed my beige cotton coat and slumped into a three-seater wooden couch that was occupying most of the space in our small living room.
After serving me one of my favorite meals – green grams and rice – my sister grabbed her handbag, wished me a safe journey, made me to promise that I would bring her a gift and left for Utalii College, where she was pursuing a diploma in hotel management.
I was going to the Refugee camp in my capacity as the Chairman of Kenya Voluntary Development Association (KVDA), to officially close an international work camp that had been ongoing for almost three weeks.
During the few days I would spend there, I was hoping to find out exactly how all those thousands of refugees lived and how the refugee system could be improved.
I was eager to talk to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) people and find out from them more about their limitations. I also couldn’t wait to talk to South Sudanese youth and find out about their hopes for their beleaguered country. In the same vein, I wanted to know from Ethiopian refugees why they hadn’t gone back home after the war stopped. As for the Rwandan refugees, my burning question was, “do they think the emotional wounds of the genocide will ever heal?” I really wanted to brainstorm with them ways of healing those scars.
When I reach Turkana, I am going to have deep conversations with each of the thirty-five international volunteers about their experiences with the refugees. I thought as I cleared the last grains of rice from my floral white plate.
A few hours later at exactly half past seven, I arrived at the Gantaal Bus Service station in Eastleigh suburb of Nairobi. The driver was revving the engine as he geared to depart for the long, twenty-four hour journey to northern Kenya.
I took my seat in the left side of the bus, mid-section and we set off within minutes. To my dismay, my seatmate was a rotund Somali man and not a gorgeous Ethiopian lady as I had hoped.
Across the aisle, in the three-seater seat, were three young South Sudanese men. They stood out from the crowd, not just because of their tall height but also because of their amazingly dark complexion. They also had the typical southern Sudanese initiation marks on their fore heads. It was as if innumerable dots had been poked into their foreheads. Just behind the Sudanese trio, was another Sudanese trio; two elderly women and a teenage girl.
The girl was holding two infants in her slender hands. I looked at her curiously and promised himself to have a chat with her later on. I wanted to know her story. Was she a refugee returning to Kakuma? Were those babies hers? Where was the father? Why weren’t the two women seated next to her not helping her to carry one of the baby?
Was there anyone in this whole wide world who would take a bullet for her?