Thirty-nine-year-old Joyce Mema Wanjiru, a mother of five is a distressed woman.
She is a victim of the now common attacks in Lamu County blamed on alshabaab militants and which have left a trail of destruction, death and displacement in their wake.
On August 21 2023, she was a victim of a gang attack which left several people homeless after suspected alshabaab militants raided her village looting her small shop before setting her house ablaze alongside about 15 others including a church in Salama Village, Mkunumbi ward, Lamu West constituency.
The events of the day leaving behind painful memories that have now left her emotionally and psychologically traumatised.
On the fateful day around 9pm, Joyce recounts how she was woken up by screams of help signifying that something bad was happening and meant to alert people to take necessary action.
Gazing at the remains of her now burnt house, with her one year old strapped on her back, Joyce says the events of the night would dramatically alter her life.
“I was deep asleep when I was woken up by screams from my neighbour. I hurriedly woke up my children and took cover after I realised that my neighbour’s house had been torched.” Recounted Joyce.
Joyce has been living in Salama village since 2006, even before she got married to her now deceased husband John Murimi who she says was also killed by militants on a Sunday, January 2nd 2022.
Since the death of my husband, I have had no shoulder to lean on. Everyone seems preoccupied by their own problems,” Joyce painfully states.
Amid the despair, Wanjiru wonders why the place she has called home for many years has become a target of the recent attacks. She however says, the fact that the land in which she lives is not titled, could be one reason fuelling animosity in the once peaceful and harmonious village.
“We have serious land issues in this village and there are people who want us out,” Joyce says as she calls on relevant authorities to move with speed and issue title deeds so as to settle the matter once and for all.
“Imagine this is the second time that my house has been torched. They murdered my husband, stole my goats and chicken, the government needs to resolve the underlying issues,” Wanjiru pleaded as she battled tears.
Her deceased husband John Murimi was among six people killed by suspected al Shabaab militants at Witho shopping centre in Lamu East on 2nd January last year.
A police report indicate that four people were set ablaze inside the Murimi Mangwe drinking den and got burnt beyond recognition.
Among the identified four were the den owner John Murimi (husband to Joyce Wanjiru) and his three casual workers Peter Musyoka, Maina Wanjege and Peter Maina. They had their hands tied from behind before they were set on fire, police said.
Joyce Wanjiru’s eldest daughter Teresia Wambui aged 17 is in form four at Lamu girls secondary school.
A candidate in this year’s KCSE examinations, her mother is worried. Her learning materials were burnt inside their house amid fears that the latest happenings could massively affect her performance even as she appeals for assistance from well-wishers and government.
Mathias Mema is a brother to Joyce Wanjiru. He says residents are living in fear.
“The people who live in the villages are fleeing their homes and looking for a safe place to stay, we don’t know if it’s land they want or what the really cause is, he says. The people that live around the forest are terrified. Although there is calm in some sections, the bigger population is a worried lot.” He says.
Terrorist strikes in Lamu County, particularly in areas near the forests, have killed dozens in recent years. Suspected Al-Shabab militants have been blamed for these attacks since Kenya sent troops into Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission in 2011.