Family who fled torture in Kenya to be deported

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The Independent Online

"They came to my house to look for human rights propaganda. When they couldn't find any they took me away to a dark building in the city, beat me and then they raped me."

For two months Jane Kariuki was tortured and abused in a Nairobi prison just because her husband was a prominent member of the human rights movement.

When she was finally released, she found her house had been burnt down and her husband and youngest daughter had disappeared.

Fearing further persecution, Mrs Kariuki, 49, an executive with a Kenyan conservation charity, took her two surviving children to London where she sought sanctuary. For the past 10 years the Kariuki family has slowly rebuilt its life among the communities of London and Leeds.

But now the family has lost its claim for asylum and all three members face deportation to a country in violent turmoil, torn apart by the same tribal divisions that caused them to flee in 1997.

Home Office officials have decided that Mrs Kariuki's son, Kevin Kahara, is to be the first to go. His departure is scheduled for this evening. "Kevin has only ever known this country; he won't recognise Kenya," says his mother. "How is he supposed to defend himself from all this violence?"

The Kariuki family are members of the Kikuyu tribe, which has been at the centre of the recent violence costing hundreds of lives. Mrs Kariuki, 49, fears her son will be an easy target.

"The things that are happening today are the same abuses that forced us out. Then the government of President Moi was made up of the Kalenjin tribe and the Kikuyu opposition were persecuted. Today the Kikuyu are being attacked because they are in power. Will it take the death of my son for the British Government to take our case seriously?"

Kevin Kahara, 25, who is being held at Campsfield immigration detention centre in Oxfordshire, will have to leave behind his five-year-old son, Kai, who he had with his British resident girlfriend. "It will tear him apart to leave his little boy here," says Mrs Kariuki.

Kevin went to school in London, before studying business management in Leeds. Mrs Kariuki's daughter, Cynthia, was also educated in London before going to university to study hotel management. Mrs Kariuki, an assistant editor with a Kenyan charity before she was arrested, has had to take low-paid work to support her children.

"I worked in the care sector with elderly people and children with learning difficulties. Later I helped set up a charity called Hope for Africa, which supported ethnic minorities by showing what they could contribute to society," she says. "I have made lots of friends and have been supported by the church when I was taken into detention last year."

The prospect of Mrs Kariuki's return to Kenya has revived disturbing memories of torture and abuse. Asked about its decisions, the Home Office said that it was monitoring the situation in Kenya. A spokesman said: "We will continue to provide protection through the asylum system for those with a well-founded fear of persecution. But this does not mean everyone is at risk."