Official PEV Camps Closed But IDPs Still Struggling

Posted on 11 February 2009. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity |


Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
The Kanamker IDP camp on the outskirts of Lowdar town

LODWAR, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) – A year after election-related violence rocked Kenya, hundreds of displaced families are still living in temporary shelters in small camps in Rift Valley province.

The government sought to close all camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of last year, following operation “Rudi Nyumbani” [Go back home] in June.

Some IDP families received resettlement packages and bought land. But others are waiting to return home or are still officially displaced.

Describing themselves as “self-help groups”, the families in Naivasha, near Nairobi, for example, live in tented or wooden and iron-sheet-covered shelters, saying they lack sufficient money to build better homes.

Njenga Miiri, District Commissioner in Nakuru, said after several relocation sites were set up and some displaced people helped to buy land, government efforts were directed at peace-building and reconciliation.


Photo: http://www.go2africa.com/
Map of the Rift Valley

The sites, which dot the province from Maai Mahiu, about 70km south of Nairobi, to the arid Turkana areas 700km north-west of the capital, still exist, despite efforts by the government and its humanitarian partners to resettle all the displaced in 2008.

In the North Rift – covering the districts of Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia West, Nandi North, Nandi South, Kwanza, Turbo and Mt Elgon – two government-recognised IDP camps remain. There are 72 transit sites.

Thirty of these are in Uasin Gishu, according to the Eldoret sub-office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Kenya. The displaced who returned to Trans Nzoia East and Koibatek have, however, been fully integrated and transit sites closed.

Resource problems

Those trying to settle on land they have purchased complain of neglect. In Naivasha’s Jikaze self-help site, water is a problem. Jikaze’s 145 households comprise former IDPs who pooled their resettlement funds to purchase land away from their original homes.

Spokesman Mohammed Ngugi said most of the families came from Naivasha showground camp. Each now owns a small plot in the new settlement.

“The major problem is a lack of water; we rely on hired donkeys to ferry water from distances up to 7km away, although we had been promised that water would be trucked to us regularly,” Ngugi said.


Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
A group of young men sit by empty water at their new settlement in Mai Mahiu, Naivasha District. They settled in the area after almost one year of being in an IDP camp in Naivasha town

Local well-wishers have offered Jikaze at least 60 acres for farming, but the IDPs lack funds to hire a tractor for ploughing. “Some people have donated seeds but we are unable to plant,” Ngugi said. “If we got a tractor, we would farm and sustain ourselves instead of relying on relief food.”

A group in Nakuru that had been living with relatives and friends but had now pitched camp near the district commissioner’s office said they were waiting for government help.

“When we sought refuge at the Nakuru agricultural showground we found it already congested and the officials there said if we could stay with friends and relatives, our case would be considered later,” Ann Nyambura, from Kipkelion in the South Rift, told IRIN.

But now their relatives could no longer accommodate them, and the 150 families had clashed with the administration.

“These people did not stay in camps but they are now putting pressure on the government to consider their case,” Miiri said. “We have undertaken a filtering process and have managed to remove some of the genuine cases but the number keeps increasing.”

At Eldoret showground, the IDP camp was still open on 7 February, with the government and partners making efforts to have it closed by March. OCHA-Kenya said 33 families had left the camp in recent weeks to return home.

Challenges

Shelter is just one problem. In Turkana, north-western Kenya, food is the key challenge. The area – comprising Turkana Central, Turkana East and Turkana South districts – is arid and gripped by severe food shortages.


Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
Njenga Miiri, Nakuru District Commissioner

While election violence was not experienced in Turkana, hundreds of IDPs live in camps like Kanamkemer on the outskirts of Lodwar town.

“One year later, we are still in camps; here we are 2,987 people and there are other camps in the district,” Joshua Ebei, Kanamkemer camp chairman, said. “We did not fight each other [so] we cannot talk of reconciliation among ourselves. We were working for those who were evicted [but] we cannot return there as our employers are not fully resettled.”

Government officials, he added, had in the meantime allocated them land to settle but the Kanamkemer area lacked water.

“In the face of the current food shortages, we would not survive in our new plots if we moved there,” he told IRIN on 7 February. “For now we will remain under the generosity of the Reformed Church [the owners of the land], the Catholic Church and other agencies.”

The Reformed Church has, however, given the IDPs two months’ notice. “When this period expires, what will happen to us?” Ebei asked. “If water was provided at the land allocated to us, we would move there tomorrow.”

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