Violence Threatens Rebecca Lolosoli and Umoja Uaso Village in Kenya: An Update

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Rebecca Lolosoli

On August 20, Rebecca Lolosoli, Kenyan leader and founder of Umoja Uaso Women’s Village, who informed Vital Voices that she was confronted with violent threats by her estranged husband earlier this week, secured legal representation and petitioned a local Samburu court for protection. Recently, with Vital Voices’ support, Rebecca traveled to the United States to showcase artisan products from Umoja at the Santa Fe Folk Art Festival. Proceeds from the sales and fundraising efforts belong to the entire community. Having learned about Umoja’s income, Rebecca’s estranged husband and another family member traveled to Umoja allegedly armed with a gun and confronted her on August 18.

The court has granted Rebecca an injunction that prohibits her estranged husband from entering the Umoja village. Law enforcement will inform Rebecca’s husband, who has not been charged with any crimes, that he cannot enter Umoja. Officials also plan to visit the Umoja village to reassure residents that measures are being taken to protect the community.

Uncertain and insecure, Rebecca remains reluctant to return to Umoja. She plans to travel to Nairobi to meet with members of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), an organization with expertise in violence against women. Members of Vital Voices Global Leadership Network in and around Nairobi have shown extraordinary effort in reaching out to Rebecca and providing for her needs.

Vital Voices is grateful to members of its network in Kenya, including Jane Kiragu, Eva Muraya and Phyllis Mwangi, as well as Mendi Njonjo of the Advocacy Project, for their efforts on Rebecca’s behalf. The U.S. State Department Africa Bureau, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, and the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. State Department are also monitoring the situation. Finally, the Kenya Embassy in Washington has made calls to local officials to ensure that all steps are being taken to protect Rebecca’s safety.

As we continue to learn more about Rebecca’s situation, we will keep our network updated and provide information about the ways in which all can express their support for Rebecca and the women of Umoja Uaso.

Posted on August 19:

On August 18, Rebecca Lolosoli, founder of Umoja Uaso Women’s Village, informed Vital Voices that she was confronted by allegedly armed male family members demanding access to the village’s land and money. Located in the remote and isolated Samburu region of Kenya, Umoja is a safe haven for women fleeing domestic violence. This recent violence traumatized this protected community, displacing Rebecca and instilling fear among Umoja’s women and children.

Rebecca is an accomplished member of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network. Recently, with Vital Voices’ support, Rebecca traveled the United States in July to showcase artisan products from Umoja at the Santa Fe Folk Art Festival. Proceeds from the sales and fundraising efforts belong to the entire community. When Rebecca returned to Kenya she deposited the earnings in Umoja’s account.

Having learned about Umoja’s income, Rebecca’s estranged husband and another family member traveled to Umoja allegedly armed with a gun and ready to confront her. Rebecca told Vital Voices that she suffered an awful beating before her estranged husband demanded she turn over Umoja’s earnings to him. Rebecca refused. She escaped, fled, and reported the crime. Uncertain and insecure she briefly returned to Umoja before fleeing the region. A majority of Umoja’s women residents have also scattered, waiting for security to improve and a sense of normalcy to return.

Rebecca filed complaints with the local police chief in Archer’s Post, Kenya, and also with the area police chief in the town of Maralal. According to these authorities, the alleged attack is considered a domestic incident that does not justify police intervention. Vital Voices is working closely with partners in the US and Kenya, including the Advocacy Project, to urge the police to take action to protect Rebecca and the women of Umoja.

A remarkable leader and valued member of the Vital Voices network, Rebecca and her safety, as well that as all the women of Umoja, are of great concern to Vital Voices and its international supporters. We are actively monitoring threats to her safety and coordinating with members of the Vital Voices Network, partner organizations, and public officials of the U.S. and Kenyan governments, to protect Rebecca and Umoja from threats to their security and well being.

We ask that our network members and supporters stay alert and vigilant, and we will provide updates on Rebecca’s condition and information about ways that all can support this exceptional leader.