Kenyan school for homeless children torched in postelection turmoil

>SUGOI, Kenya (AP) – They survived life on the streets, drug use and beatings before finding refuge at a children’s home in western Kenya.

Now children who struggled so hard to overcome their pasts fear Kenya’s postelection turmoil is threatening their future.

Over the weekend, their playmates turned on them, creeping out of the surrounding coffee plantation smeared with clay and armed with spears, machetes and bows and arrows. The attackers from the surrounding village, who had just shared a game of soccer with some of the children in the home, looted and burned the Sugoi-Munsingen Children’s Home and School. One child heard an attacker mention President Mwai Kibaki.

The opposition accuses Kibaki of stealing Dec. 27 polls. Protests quickly deteriorated into clashes in which more than 1,000 people have died across the country. Much of the violence has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki’s Kikuyu people, long resented for their perceived dominance of Kenyan business and politics.

Headmaster Samuel Rutto says the gangs who destroyed his school are using politics as a cover while taking advantage of the chaos.

“This had nothing to do with the elections,” Rutto said. “It is just believed that (the school) belonged to the Kikuyus.”

He said more than 100 attackers entered the school at around 9 p.m. Saturday. They initially tried to stab him in the chest in front of his horrified students, but the blade slid on his coat down his side instead, he said.

The gang took almost everything – the TV the older children had been able to buy after laboring in the coffee plantation, students’ clothes, teachers’ cell phones, even the spectacles from the headmaster’s face.

On Sunday, his shoes ground pieces of chalk into the concrete floor. A blizzard of ash fell from the walls of the library. Twisted metal bunk beds and emptied strongboxes where children stored their few possessions were all that remained of the dormitories. A store of corn intended to feed the school next year was still in flames, and an abandoned club acted as paperweight for charred papers on the headmaster’s desk.