Kiambaa IDPs Still Afraid to Return Home
Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
|Stephen Kariuki Gichuhi, chairman of the IDPs who have sought shelter at the Ngecha All Nations Gospel Church in Limuru|
LIMURU, 30 July 2008 (IRIN) – Hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled Kenya’s Rift Valley Province after their church was set ablaze in January’s post-election violence, burning to death some of their relatives, have yet to return home.
“We are tired of staying in an IDP camp; many of us are not used to just sitting idle and living in tents such as these,” Stephen Kariuki Gichuhi, chairman of the IDPs who sought shelter at the Ngecha All Nations Gospel Church in Limuru, Kiambu District, told IRIN on 30 July.
Gichuhi is one of the IDPs from Kiambaa farm in Eldoret, which witnessed the worst scenes of violence. The IDPs have since lived in church compounds or with relatives, despite a government directive in May to all IDPs to return home.
On 5 May, the ministry of special programmes launched “Operation Rudi Nyumbani” (Return Home), targeting at least 158,000 IDPs in camps across the country. On 20 July, it launched the reconstruction phase of the programme, after some 85,000 IDPs left the camps.
“I had lived in Kiambaa for 40 years, I had a thriving bee-keeping business and managed a tree nursery with my family,” Gichuhi said. “[But] I am not going back because the people who burnt the church are still there, the people who killed my child and my father are still there.”
At least 30 people died and dozens more injured – most of them children and women – when arsonists set ablaze the church on 1 January, at the beginning of violence that later spread across Kenya in protest against the outcome of the 27 December presidential elections.
Most of the 260 IDPs from Kiambaa need help but still insist they cannot return home, according to Daniel Kihuha, the pastor. “The IDPs are in dire need of food, medical services, sanitation and firewood for cooking.”
The IDPs were sharing a limited number of toilets, which were also being used by the regular church congregation, while some of their tents were more than three months old and needed replacement.
“The nearest public health centre is about 4km away,” Kihuha said. “Water facilities at the church camp are overstretched; we have had at least two deaths recently.”
The children had no nursery facility but the older ones were learning in nearby schools.
“Despite earlier forms of assistance, such as tents from the UN and food and medical aid from the Kenya Red Cross, the IDPs feel abandoned,” Kihuha said.
Only a week’s worth of food stocks was available at the church camp, he said. The IDPs also had to contend with cold weather, which is set to continue into August, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Kenya), in a 3-9 July update, said 59,666 IDPs remained in 89 IDP camps across Kenya, while 98,289 others had been registered in 134 transit sites across the country.
Government figures indicate that 212,590 IDPs have returned to areas from where they were displaced.