On Friday, July 29, a Kenyan woman named Mary Kibawana Kamajo lost her three-month battle to stay alive. Kamajo, a Kenyan immigrant who worked in Lebanon as a house maid, was set ablaze in April of this year by her cruel Lebanese employer and left to die.
Just 31 years old, Kamajo had moved to the Middle East in search of the proverbial greener pastures. But with little formal qualification, she soon had to settle for a menial job working as a domestic maid for a Lebanese family. Like many Africans immigrants working in the Middle East she suffered constant discrimination in addition to verbal and physical abuse.
Kamajo says her Arab boss, his wife, and their daughter treated her very poorly. She recalls:
My female boss and her daughter would often beat me for the most trivial of reasons. They would also give me bad food. I had no breaks from work and I would toil from 6 am daily to late in the night. They took my passport away the day I arrived and I had no access to a calendar so I never knew what day it was, let alone the time.
The cruelty from Kamajo’s employers took a vicious, new turn earlier this year, however, when her boss willfully set her ablaze by igniting a gas cylinder, causing her serious burns. Kamajo remembers the day as the 17 of April. She says on that day, she was in the middle of her usual domestic chores when her employer attacked her with fire.
“My clothes and lower body immediately caught fire before it spread to my chest. I managed to run to the bathroom where I passed out,” Kamajo stated. She describes regaining consciousness only to find her boss still pouring invectives on her while kicking her around.
The attack left Kamajo with extensive third-degree burns covering some 47 percent of her body. She was only rescued after a kind neighbour heard her screams and alerted the police, who rushed her to a hospital.
Kamajo was in a hospital in Lebanon for at least six weeks, and in that time she says her employer refused to inform her family back in Kenya about her ordeal; he also denied her access to a phone so that she could not directly contact her family members.
I would cry every day, begging the doctors and the nurses to send me home but nobody listened. I begged to be allowed to speak to the Kenyan embassy but the people in the hospital ignored me,” she said.
In the end, Kamajo was returned to Kenya with the assistance of a Kenyan lawmaker only after her condition had deteriorated significantly and she was on the brink of death. Upon arrival in Kenya, she was immediately taken to the Kenyatta National Hospital for intensive care.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Kenyan medical personnel, Mary Kamajo did not make it out of the hospital alive. Her sad death came last Friday after enduring months of excruciating pain. She leaves behind four young children.