What drives conflict in northern Kenya

Posted on 18 December 2009. Filed under: Environment, Humanitarian, Insecurity |

Turkana youths in northern Kenya, near the Sudanese border.Increasingly severe and unpredictable drought has contributed to an increase in conflict between different groups competing for dwindling resources of pasture and water

MARSABIT, 18 December 2009 (IRIN) – Cattle raids, inter-communal resource conflicts and banditry are common across much of the arid lands of northern Kenya, where firearms are increasingly common among pastoralist communities. In 2009 alone, such violence claimed more than 354 lives, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Kenya.

In the northeastern Isiolo region, drought management officer Paul Kimeu told IRIN: “People are no longer attacked using spears and arrows. Sometimes very sophisticated guns are used, increasing fatalities.”

According to OCHA, the onset of the short rains, from mid-October to December, tends to increase the likelihood of cattle raids and thus conflict, because this is when pastoralists restock their herds and it also when rites of passage take place, increasing the demand for livestock.

In Samburu district, morans, or young warriors, frequently target livestock traders and passenger cars on main roads.

“People are not able to take their livestock to the market in Dagoretti [in Nairobi about 350km south],” said Peter Emanman, a resident of the Samburu town of Maralal. “If security were improved, people could be self-reliant,” he said.

Umuro Roba Godana, executive director of the Marsabit-based Pastoralists Integrated Support Programme (PISP), a national NGO supporting pastoral livelihoods in the north, is worried there may be even more conflict now that the rains have come. “If you steal during the drought, where do you take stunted animals?” he asked. “People fight when there is plenty, not a lack.”

Conflict over water and pasture

Livestock movement in search of water and pasture remains a driver of conflict. “Competition for scarce natural resources is widely understood to be a primary cause of conflict in the region,” notes UK think-tank, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), in a November report, Pastoralists’ vulnerability in the Horn of Africa, Exploring political marginalisation, donors’ policies and cross-border issues.

“The movement of livestock and herders often transcends national borders and pastoralist groups across the region depend on the same communal pool of natural resources. Endemic conflict represents one major obstacle to the free movement of pastoralists and their livestock, and therefore greatly contributes to pastoralists’ chronic vulnerability in the region.”

A young Turkana man armed with an AK-47 rifle, Oropoi, northwestern Kenya. Conflicts involving pastoralists associated with resource competition, cattle rustling and arms are widespread and of increasing concern in the region

Pastoralist communities across the Horn of Africa frequently cross national borders in search of pasture and water. Although neighbouring states often share ethnic groupings, such migrations can be problematic.

“Sometimes there are cross-border attacks,” Rashid Osman, an assistant chief in the town of Moyale, told IRIN, adding that these were especially frequent during the rains.

“During the drought, the police are sent to seal the wells, but during the rains it is less secure,” he said. “Rainfall is an indicator of conflict.”

Land demarcation is also presenting a problem, Godana of PISP told IRIN. “Communities are claiming ownership of territories and regions yet … the boundaries are not clear,” he said.

The loss of communal grazing land to farming and environmental degradation has also fuelled conflicts in a number of pastoral areas across the Horn of Africa region, states ODI, noting that freedom of movement over large areas was a crucial element of the pastoralists’ dry lands resource management system.

“Competition for scarce natural resources is widely understood to be a primary cause of conflict in the region and is in part related to the inability of pastoralists to assert their land rights,” ODI adds.

“The absence of the government in some parts makes people take the law into their own hands,” said PISP’s Godana. Poor leadership and a breakdown in community values also help to foster insecurity, he said, adding: “The role of elders is fast diminishing and people are [instead] operating in cliques.

“Nowadays, even the elders cannot sanction raids.”

Remote areas in the north rely on community-organized security groups such as home guards and police reservists to maintain law and order. This has in part led to the proliferation of weapons in the north – as has the proximity to unstable neighbours such as Somalia.

According to one Marsabit resident, the availability of weapons was to some extent a deterrent to petty crime. “Here, even if you leave the door to your house open no one will come in. You never know what kind of weapon your neighbour may have.”

Involvement in wider conflict

According to the ODI, politics can be a driver of conflict in pastoralist areas.
“Since the second half of the last century, pastoralists have also been involved in larger conflicts in the region and many have joined armed opposition groups. For example, the presence of the Oromo Liberation Front [OLF] in northern Kenya has provoked several Ethiopian military incursions into Kenya,” it said.

This is true in Moyale, where the District Commissioner, Joshua Nkanatha, confirmed that there were “occasional incursions by the Ethiopian army” in search of OLF forces. “We tell them [the Ethiopian forces] to inform us of impending incursions,” he said.

Some residents see the cattle raids as a ploy to drive away specific communities ahead of 2012 national polls, Samburu DMO, Samuel Lempushuna told IRIN. New election constituencies are likely to be created before the polls and ethnically dominant communities stand a better chance of electing a leader from among their own.

Already, a new district, Baragoi, has been carved out of Samburu, north of the main town of Maralal. It borders the Turkana region, and is mainly occupied by the Samburu and Turkana, who clash from time to time, which could result in the Samburu being marginalised.

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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.

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.


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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Q&A: How Not to Resettle IDPs

Posted on 23 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Interview with Prisca Kamungi, Director of the Internal Displacement Policy and Advocacy Centre

NAIROBI, Jul 22 (IPS) – Operation Rudi Nyumbani (Return Home, in Kiswahili), designed to help about 350,000 IDPs living in camps across the country go back to their homes and farms has achieved its primary objective, at least according to the Kenyan government. Officials claim that most of the camps are closed and only 30,000 are living in the few that remain, but these numbers are disputed by independent analysts.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said last week that the plan has graduated to its second phase, which he called “Operation Ujirani Mwema” (Good Neighbourliness). In this phase the displaced families and those who displaced them will learn how to accept each other and to coexist peacefully.

But does this official version reflect the situation on the ground? A report by the government-funded Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights found the plan to be hastily implemented and full of flaws. It also noted that most of the families returning home were in fact moved to satellite camps near their farms so that they were able to do farming, but could not live in their homes due to hostility from the local communities.

For the last few weeks, Prisca Kamungi (pictured), Director of the Nairobi-based Internal Displacement Policy and Advocacy Centre, has visited 30 old camps and satellite camps in some of the worst affected areas, in the Rift Valley and Eastern Province.

She told IPS reporter Najum Mushtaq what she saw in the camps, what she thinks of Operation Rudi Nyumbani and how internal displacement is linked to the larger Kenyan problems of poverty, slums and gender.

IPS: What is the current status of internally displaced persons? How many camps and IDPs have benefited from Operation Rudi Nyumbani?

Prisca Kamungi: All these statistics on IDPs and resettlement are not reliable. The government says only 30,000 people are left in 38 IDP camps; the Kenya Red Cross puts the figure at 68 camps, while OCHA’s latest estimates count about 56,000 people still living in IDP camps.

The statistics are not an indicator of the situation we saw on the ground. Each source gives a number according to its own criteria of who is an IDP and what constitutes a camp. For instance, the government has been doing a profiling exercise to resettle the IDPs. But it only recognises as ‘genuine’ IDPs those families and persons who own land.

If you don’t own land, then for the purposes of resettlement you are not an IDP. All the official assistance to returning IDPs had so far only been given to those with proof of land ownership or who can be identified as such by the area chief (an administrative official under district officer).

Most people still living in camps are landless people, businessmen and workers who have nowhere to go.

IPS: Is this a newly-defined criterion?

PK: No, the government is following the strategy employed by the 2004 Task Force on the IDPs from the 1992 and 1997 displacements.

The Task Force had recognised only land title deeds or letters of allotment as proof of being a genuine IDP. The rationale was to eliminate bogus claims of compensation. The same formula is being applied in this case.

This policy has been used this time also to determine who gets 10,000 to 25,000 Kenyan shillings (roughly $160 – $390) and other assistance under Operation Nyumbani. But I understand the government is discussing with the Chamber of Commerce some modalities of assisting business people.

IPS: What does this means then for the rest of the IDPs?

PK: The biggest problem is that this policy leaves out those displaced from and to urban areas altogether, business people and farmers who do not own land.

It leaves out women, many of whom do not own land.

The government as well as the aid agencies have been focusing largely on IDPs in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Central Province. But the IDPs from the Eastern Province such as the Ichamus, in Mt. Elgon and those in urban areas like Nairobi have been forgotten.

The displaced include all sorts of other people: families that rent land for farming, squatters who were living and working on other people’s lands, small shopkeepers, and farm and factory workers. For example, the post-election violence in Nyanza province and its major city, Kisumu, was not about land and most of the people displaced from there were not land owners but workers and shopkeepers.

In addition, a large number of displaced people did not come to live in the camps but stayed either with family and friends or rented their own places after their forced eviction. They, too, need assistance but only a few of them have got registered with the government or the Red Cross.

So, while the government has indeed relocated thousands of IDPs to their original land, even if most of them are still living in satellite camps and amid inhospitable communities, the plan leaves out other major categories of IDPs. And then there are IDPs from previous conflicts or as a result of ongoing conflicts not directly related to the 2007 elections.

All of them are forgotten IDPs of Kenya who do not appear in the resettlement plans.

IPS: What do you think will be the consequences of this policy?

PK: Displacement generates a vicious cycle of poverty. The manner in which it is being handled now will aggravate Kenya’s crisis of poverty, especially in urban slums.

According to UN Habitat statistics, there was a huge increase in slums and slum population between 1992 and 1995. Before the 1992 conflict, in which almost as many people were displaced as in 2008, there were only two slums in Nairobi. Now, there are over a dozen of them.

The dispersal of the current lot of IDPs will raise poverty levels and thus create more slums. The same goes for other cities where the IDPs have been scattered. Even the recipients of compensation cannot build a house or restart a business with the money they’re given. But giving them more money will not solve the problem either because of diminished purchasing power and the multiple effects of the global food crisis.

A huge population has been pushed into the bracket of the poor — the less-than-a-dollar-a-day group — and many are likely to gravitate to urban slums.

IPS: Is there a pattern to the process of return? Who’s returning and who’s not?

PK: Other than the land-ownership factor, during our visit to several camps we found that many returning families are leaving their children behind in the camps, or in rented rooms, or with relatives. One reason is that there are schools near these camps and the children can continue studying.

But, as a result, families are getting dispersed and children become more vulnerable to all kinds of exploitation and abuse. This is a very serious situation and this phenomenon is widespread. As adult males leave their wives and children behind in order to go check on the security situation in return areas, or to register with the government for the Ksh 10,000 assistance, families are breaking up. In some towns, child-headed displaced families are increasing.

IPS: Has it also meant a greater burden on women and more families without a male provider?

PK: Yes. Displaced women, particularly in central Kenya and in parts of Nairobi, are the worst victims. Men leave the camps and start living in satellite camps or in their old homes but are not able to bring their families along. In some cases, children are distributed to other family members in safe areas.

The situation of women living in rented accommodation or with relatives who are tired of being nice and compassionate is very bad, and for those whose men have left them behind — it is terrible.

One of the unreported aspects of the violence is how many women in inter-ethnic marriages were asked by their men to leave and live with their own families. Marriages were broken because the wife belonged to the other rival tribe. These women are not accepted back by their own families also.

The women staying behind in the camps are not certain if or when their men would be back to take them along. The social disturbance caused by the violence and displacement has affected women and children most severely.

IPS: Are the peace initiatives working in communities to which the IDPs are returning?

PK: There are some success stories. But in most places like Burnt Forest and Eldoret the hostile attitude of the local communities has deterred the process of return.

The government-appointed district peace committees and committees of elders, which have existed for a long time, have had little impact in this situation. In Kenya, tribal and clan chiefs and elders are not as strong or influential as in some other parts of Africa such as West Africa.

The youth, who are the main perpetrators of the violence do not attend peace meetings or pay attention to elders. In these committees, the youth have little representation. In most cases, these peace initiatives are like preaching to the choir because the real agents of violence are not engaged in peace-building. Also, the peace processes should have been initiated before resettlement not afterwards.

Another drawback of these peace committees is that adequate information is not being provided to the displaced people. In one of the camps I visited, people were unaware that a meeting of the peace committee was going on in the police station nearby. The people for whom these committees are supposed to work are not informed or engaged in the process.


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Hundreds Still Displaced in Nairobi

Posted on 23 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
IDPs at the Mathare Chief’s camp in Nairobi.

NAIROBI, 22 July 2008 (IRIN) – Hundreds of Kenyans displaced during post-election violence in early 2008 in the capital, Nairobi, are still in camps more than two months after the government launched a countrywide resettlement programme.

“Many of the displaced were tenants whose houses were destroyed or have since been occupied by other people; dozens were landlords, mostly in the Mathare slums, and these are the ones whose resettlement is difficult,” Abdi Galgalo, the chief of Mathare, told IRIN on 21 July.

Anthony Mwangi, the public relations manager for the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), knew of 778 IDPs in the city.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Kenya) said in an update covering 3-9 July that some 59,666 IDPs remained in 89 IDP camps, while 98,289 others had been registered in 134 transit sites across the country. Government figures indicated that 212,590 IDPs had returned to areas where they had been displaced.

The government, through the ministry of special programmes, launched “Operation Rudi Nyumbani” (Return Home) on 5 May, targeting at least 158,000 IDPs in camps across the country, most of them in Rift Valley Province, which bore the brunt of the violence.

With more than 85,000 of the displaced having left the camps since then, the government began the “reconstruction” phase of the programme on 20 July, to help the returnees build their homes and restart subsistence activities. Special Programmes Minister Naomi Shaban launched the programme in Uasin Gishu district in the Rift Valley.

Displaced in the city

Galgalo said the IDP camp near his office had been emptying gradually since May, with 213 IDPs in July.

The problem with IDPs in urban areas, he said, was that the majority were from slum areas where land disputes were common, hence their reluctance to move out of the camps.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Hundreds of Kenyans were displaced during post-election violence in early 2008 in Nairobi

“Food and availability of medicine are key problems for those still in the camp as they depend on well-wishers and they remain here as efforts are being made to resettle them,” Galgalo said.

He said disputes over land in the slums, especially for those who owned houses, had complicated and slowed the IDPs’ return to their homes. He added that the government had set up peace-building committees to help reconcile the slum dwellers and encourage the displaced to return home.

Godfrey Ngugi, the chairman of the IDP camp in Mathare, said the recent cold weather had made conditions even more difficult.

“The major problem for us is when one of the IDPs falls ill; the cold season has not helped matters and we have had cases of cold-related ailments increasing,” Ngugi said. “Although we have the Kenya Red Cross assisting us, we need medical attention.”

He said there were dozens of children under five who need medical attention due to the cold.

On 12 May, the government raised Ksh1.46 billion (US$22.4 million) of the Ksh30 billion ($462 million) it said it needed to resettle at least 350,000 IDPs.

“The magnitude of the destruction caused by the violence was enormous; we will therefore require about 30 billion shillings to meet the full costs of resettlement, including reconstruction of basic housing, replacement of household effects, as well as rehabilitation of community utilities and institutions destroyed during the violence,” President Mwai Kibaki said on 12 May during a funding drive in Nairobi.

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Tackling Corruption in Humanitarian Intervention

Posted on 19 July 2008. Filed under: Corruption, Humanitarian |

Photo: Anthony Morland/IRIN
Bribe taking: A new report urges humanitarian agencies to work harder and more closely together to minimise various forms of corruption that can affect the delivery of emergency aid

NAIROBI, 18 July 2008 (IRIN) – Humanitarian agencies should work harder and more closely together to minimise various forms of corruption that can affect the delivery of emergency aid and harm the reputation of agencies involved, according to a new report.

“The humanitarian community should step up efforts to address corruption and reduce corruptions risks,” according to Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance , a report by Transparency International, the Feinstein International Center and Tufts University, and the Humanitarian Policy Group at the UK’s Overseas Development Institute.

“There remains little knowledge about the extent or consequences of corruption in humanitarian assistance, little shared knowledge about preventing corruption under emergency circumstances beyond a few standard practices, and a degree of taboo about confronting it publicly,” noted the report, which is based on research involving seven major international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The report explains that, contrary to widespread perception, corrupt practices extend well beyond financial misappropriation and include many forms of “abuse of power”, such as cronyism, nepotism, “sexual exploitation and coercion and intimidation of humanitarian staff or aid recipients for personal, social or political gain, manipulation of assessments, targeting and registration to favour particular groups and diversion of assistance to non-target groups”.

''The humanitarian community should step up efforts to address corruption and reduce corruptions risks''

The report underlined that humanitarian action is particularly vulnerable to corruption, because of the unique nature and context of its delivery. A rapid “burn rate” of expenditure is often expected while “normal physical, administrative, legal and financial infrastructure and services have often been substantially or entirely damaged or destroyed.”

“In many cases,” the report noted, “there may be rapid turnover of supervisory staff, so there is very little accumulated knowledge of the context and very few staff at the supervisory level remain long enough to develop deeper contextual knowledge that could mitigate some of the risk of corruption,” it said.

Based on the research behind the report, Transparency International plans to release a “good practice” handbook in 2009. The report itself recommended that humanitarian agencies take a number of steps to tackle corruption.

These include: making it easier for staff to discuss and report corruption; incorporating the issue into training programmes and into emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction strategies; ensuring any corruption policies are carried right down to the field and adapted to emergency contexts; increasing information transparency and programme monitoring; and encouraging inter-agency coordination.

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Kenyan IDP Monica Mumbi: “There is nothing to go back to”

Posted on 25 June 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Monica Mumbi at the Navaisha IDP camp

NAIVASHA, 25 June 2008 (IRIN) – Monica Mumbi left her hometown of Molo, in Rift Valley Province, in February for the Naivasha internally displaced persons (IDP) camp after violence broke out in her town over the disputed elections. Mumbi spoke to IRIN about her experiences and why she is not looking forward to going back home as the resettlement of IDPs continues.

“We were attacked in our homes by the youths who were angry at the election results. We had to flee to the camp.

“We just left with our children, leaving everything else behind for the attackers. I cannot even go back to farm as our shambas [farms] now have new occupants.

“We have always had problems in the election years in 1992 and in 1997 when different ethnic groups fought each other but this time it was worse because we ended up in a camp.

“Even when we were there [in Molo] we could not live in peace. Our neighbours would graze their livestock on our crops saying we did not belong to the area. They called our farms a ‘free area’.

“My husband was also taken away by a woman from the main ethnic group in the area. When I told the chief he said he could not help. I was left to take care of my children all alone.

“We have been told to leave the camp in 14 days yet we have not been given anything. How will we restart our lives?

“Most of us have many children and we don’t know how we are going to take care of them.

“If I had a little money then maybe I could start a business to take care of my children and rent a house here in Naivasha town.

“There is nothing to go back to.”

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Insecurity & Education Hold Kenyan IDPs in Camps

Posted on 24 June 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Samuel Karanja at Naivasha stadium camp for internally displaced Kenyans

NAIVASHA, 24 June 2008 (IRIN) – Samuel Karanja was a resident of Narok North district in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province until he was displaced in the post-election violence this year.

Karanja, a former shop-owner, has spent the past six months in two internally displaced persons (IDP) camps; first in the town of Gilgil, later in neighbouring Naivasha. Gilgil and Naivasha are both in Rift Valley Province.

“We were camping on private property [in Gilgil] so we were forced to leave,” he said. “Those who had shambas [small farms] went back while the rest of us business people who owned no land had to leave.”

He said he was not willing to leave the camp, despite the resettlement of most IDPs, as he had nowhere else to go.

“I would not want to return … people died before my eyes. I would rather stay here but live in peace,” he said.

Karanja’s situation is common among hundreds of IDPs who remain reluctant to return to their former homes. Most want help to restart their lives elsewhere.

The IDP spokesman at the Naivasha Stadium camp, John Mathias, told IRIN: “There is still a lot of hostility lingering in the places we came from.” IDPs were concerned about security in the areas of return.

With some camps scheduled to close down in the coming weeks, Mathias said the IDPs had not refused to leave, rather “it is the treatment the IDPs [who left] received upon their return that has made us not eager to join them”.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Internally displaced Kenyans listening to officials during a meeting at Naivasha camp

At least 4,411 IDPs remained in two camps in Naivasha out of 11,000 at the peak of the post-election crisis.

Resettlement programmes

“Nobody is going to be forced to resettle unless it is verified [in consultation with the local communities] that the situation is peaceful,” the assistant minister for special programmes, Mohamud Ali Mohamed said.

Mohamed said the government would facilitate the resettlement in addition to providing food and transport.

An estimated 201,022 IDPs had been resettled with 40,411 still in camps, according to the director of resettlements, Wilfred Ndolo. The Molo area had recorded the highest returns – 43,277 out of an initial 55,000.

The government was also providing 10,000 shillings (US$166) in start-up funds. So far, 2,500 households in Kipkelion, in Rift Valley Province, had benefited.

The government set aside 700 million shillings ($11.6 million) for 70,000 households.

“We have only been paying those who have gone back to their farms,” Ndolo said. The government would also provide the IDPs with food aid for the next six months until the harvest season, he said.

Rebuilding efforts

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has started rebuilding houses for returnees in parts of the north Rift at $1,000 per two-bedroom house, according to the secretary-general, Abbas Gullet.

So far, 10 houses have been reconstructed by the KRCS in the Matharu area of the Rift Valley with plans for another 1,000.

“The houses were built from scratch by the two communities [the Kikuyu and Kalenjin], promoting good relations between the two,” Anthony Mwangi, the KRCS public relations manager, said.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Monica Mumbi talking about the plight of IDPs at Naivasha

In answer to complaints about lack of medical facilities, Mwangi said each IDP camp had a mobile clinic; those that did not provided clear instructions on where IDPs could seek treatment. Psycho-social counselling services were also available, he said.

Education a factor

According to an update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), uncertainties over access to education in areas of return had contributed to IDPs’ reluctance to leave the camps.

In Eldoret, children were being left behind in schools by parents who felt their education would suffer if they moved on. Similarly, parents in the Nakuru showground camp were reluctant to move because they did not want their children to leave the schools they were attending, OCHA stated.

The lack of teachers was also a problem.

Meanwhile, KRCS, World Food Programme and other partners continued to provide food aid to 180,000 IDPs in camps and areas of return in parts of Kenya affected by the violence.

KRCS was also providing farming tools and seeds to returnees.

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Mount Elgon, Kenya: A Terrorized Population in Desperate Need of Assistance

Posted on 19 June 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

BRUSSELS/NAIROBI – June 17 – The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling for an immediate increase in assistance for the people of Mount Elgon in western Kenya, and an end to the indiscriminate violence they have endured for almost two years.

Since August 2006, the civilian population of Mount Elgon has been trapped in the violent conflict between the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia, which took up arms over a land allocation scheme it considers unfair, and the Kenyan authorities. Tens of thousands have been displaced. Many have lived through atrocities, mutilation, and loss.

Today they continue to struggle to cope. In an overall environment of insecurity, people lack access to basic services, clothing, sufficient food, shelter and blankets. Many dwell in poor shelters where they are exposed to the cold nights of the highlands, and depend on the little assistance available and what help from local communities they receive to survive.

MSF has been providing medical and humanitarian relief to the people living in the Mount Elgon district since April 2007. During this time, the organization has repeatedly sought to draw attention to the violent crisis. Faced with a population that is traumatized from violence of the past years, coupled with humanitarian needs that remain unfulfilled, MSF now feels compelled to speak out publicly.

“Medical aid alone cannot answer the numerous needs of the people in Mount Elgon,” says MSF Head of Mission, Rémi Carrier. “They require protection from violence,increased assistance, and more attention needs to be paid to their plight.”

Throughout time, the authorities’ main response to the unrest has been to meet violence with violence, culminating in the joint police-military operation which was launched on March 9, 2008. During the course of this operation, the conflict has intensified, with civilians enduring attacks, torture and degrading treatment.

“Since the beginning of our activities, our medical teams in Mount Elgon have seen and treated victims of violent trauma, especially from last summer onwards. But it really peaked after the launch of the operation, with more than 250 injured people treated in the month that followed,” explained Carrier. “These victims, mostly adult men, had been injured while being screened for alleged involvement in the militia. For civilians already traumatized, repeatedly displaced and radically impoverished for almost two years now, this has only reinforced their trauma.”

Meanwhile, people continue to fear for violence from the SLDF, too. One woman attacked mid-April and seen by MSF explained : “We have been attacked by four young men on the road. They beat us with pangas [machetes] and told us to lie down on the ground. One man died and I was unconscious. While they were beating us, they said: Tell them that the militia men are still alive.”

Today, as some people return home, the coping mechanisms of the residents and the displaced are stretched to their limit. MSF is calling for an immediate increase in assistance and protection from violence for these people, in order to allow them to restart their lives. As long as violence is met with more violence, with no attempt to address the root causes of the conflict, the situation is unlikely to improve substantially and the suffering will continue.

MSF is one of the very few humanitarian organizations providing assistance to the people affected by the conflict in Mount Elgon. Dealing with the consequences of the violence against civilians, MSF activities since April 2007 focus primarily on providing free medical care through support to primary health care structures, immunization, and mobile clinics in more remote areas. MSF has also established a hospital referral system for medical emergencies and distributed clothes and blankets.

More information on the crisis in Mount Elgon and stories from affected people can be found in an MSF report titled “Mount Elgon : Does anybody care?”, from May 2008.

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Heavy Rain Displaces Thousands at Kenya’s Coast

Posted on 17 June 2008. Filed under: Environment, Humanitarian |

Photo: UN
The floods have displaced at least 2,000 families

TANA, 17 June 2008 (IRIN) – Thousands of people have been displaced in the Tana Delta District on the Kenyan coast following heavy rain over the past few days, according to a senior official with the provincial administration.

“The floods have also submerged crops and the situation could get worse if the River Tana bursts its banks,” District Commissioner Charles Monari said on 16 June.

At least 2,000 families have been forced to abandon their homes and farms for higher ground to avoid being marooned by the flood waters, Monari said.

The worst hit areas included Mnazini, Tarassa, Konamasa and Chara, with some 2,000 families affected in the latter two places.

Overflowing pit latrines were posing a risk of waterborne diseases, he said.

The floods have also hit road transport, stranding several trucks belonging to the Kenya Red Cross which were taking relief supplies to the affected families.

Public transport from the district to parts of the neighbouring district of Lamu and North Eastern Province had also been cut.

The Ministry of Special Programmes has sent a team to the area to assess the situation.

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Kenya’s IDPs in Central Reluctant to Return to Rift Valley

Posted on 27 May 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Waweru Mugo/IRIN
Samuel Ngumo Kamau and wife, Teresia Muthoni, and their three-week old baby

RURING’U, 23 May 2008 (IRIN) – Samuel Ngumo Kamau cannot dispel the images of burning houses and Kenyans killing each other from his mind – a key factor in his decision not to return to his home of nearly four decades in Burnt Forest area in Rift Valley Province.

Kamau, a father of 10, who hails from Kamuyu Farm in Burnt Forest, has little trust in the government, which he accuses of “watching and doing nothing” while armed gangs violently ejected him and thousands more from their rich agricultural lands soon after presidential election results were announced in December 2007.

Having experienced the same tortuous treatment every election year since 1992 when the region repeatedly bore the brunt of tribal violence, he feels “enough is enough”.

“In 1992, they [tribal warriors] burnt down mine and my neighbours’ houses, killed and injured many people and stole our livestock and property,” Kamau told IRIN. “We fled and later returned but the same community was at it again in 1997 and 2002.”

If he had his way, Kamau says, he would rather the government compensate him with an alternative piece of land away from the violence-prone area. In early May, the government launched an ambitious programme to resettle up to 158,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been living in camps since the violence erupted.

Kamau lives at an IDP camp in Ruring’u Stadium in Nyeri, the main town in Central Province. He is one of thousands of IDPs who have sought refuge in their so-called ancestral homeland in Central.

Claims of partiality

Security personnel, including regular and administration police and the local chief, Kamau says, failed to offer his community protection, siding with the aggressors instead. Without any options, thousands set off on a long journey to nowhere.

“We sought shelter in the school compound following an orgy of killings and plunder the night the [election] results were announced,” he said. “The following day, hundreds of youths armed with bows, arrows and machetes, and I think guns, followed us there … the police who turned up said they could do little for us. Indeed, some openly told us to leave as the mob shared livestock and other property we had salvaged.”

Asked whether he would return home now since the government’s launch of Operation Rudi Nyumbani (Operation Return Home), Kamau said: “Go back where? I do not feel like going back to Burnt Forest. Only death awaits us there.”

Photo: Waweru Mugo/IRIN
Relief food being distributed at the Ruring’u stadium in Nyeri

His view was shared by many IDPs at the Ruring’u camp. With reports of violence and even deaths among returnees, many, like Kamau, are digging in, urging the government to resolve their security concerns and resettle them elsewhere.

Samuel Mugoya, chairman of the Ruring’u IDP camp, said: “When I tried going back to my farm in Solai [Nakuru District] in March, a gang of six armed men invaded my home and I was lucky to escape. I do not think there will be much change in the hostilities. I can forfeit my one acre in Solai in exchange for government land elsewhere so that my wife and children will not risk death at the hands of tribal militias.”

With at least 350,000 displaced at the height of the post-election violence, and more than 1,200 killed, Mugoya is urging the government to give all IDPs start-up capital and construction material, seeds and farm implements, besides compensation for losses incurred in the chaos.

His biggest fear is that the worst is not yet over and people who return home, especially in the Rift Valley, risk tribal-related attacks from “host” communities.


The deputy Central Provincial Commissioner, Wenslas Ong’ayo, however, ruled out any government acquisition of IDP land in exchange for alternative land in “safe havens”.

Speaking in Nyeri, Ong’ayo said: “We haven’t reached that level; we do not want to Balkanise this country by resettling particular communities only in certain places. IDPs must beware of conmen going round purporting to represent government and registering people for alternative resettlement in Laikipia District.”

The Kenya Red Cross Central region’s relief field officer, Martin Muteru, said as at 13 May, the region was hosting at least 83,000 IDPs, most of whom were living with friends and relatives. Others are in camps in Ruring’u, Ol Kalou, Ndunyu Njeru, Nyaituga, Ndundori and Kirathimo.

Muteru said the resettlement programme was voluntary. However, there have been claims of forced returns. “A majority of IDPs in the region are not ready to go back at all to their farms in the Rift Valley. They wish to dispose of their land and suggest the government acquires their property [land] and in turn settles them elsewhere,” he said.

Photo: Waweru Mugo/IRIN
Sharing distributed food at the Ruring’u IDP camp

Muteru also called for dialogue between the various communities to reassure IDPs returning home of their security. However, said Kamau: “I don’t think it will be possible for us to forgive one another … how do I react when I come across someone herding my goats or milking my cows?”

Faced with a looming food crisis, the government is keen to have the IDPs return home and resume nation-building, especially in the Rift Valley, the country’s bread basket. A large number of IDPs across the country lived in the Rift Valley, the largest province.

Voluntary resettlement

Ong’ayo said the government wanted IDPs to return home “and live a fruitful life; however, we are not forcing people to go back”.

The government is helping those returning home by providing food and non-food items.

While saying that those keen to return would get help, Ong’ayo was non-committal regarding full compensation for victims of violence.

However, reactions to the government’s position have been mixed. Some IDPs feel that once they leave the camps for their homes, they may not receive any compensation; hence many are reluctant to leave.

“Compensation will be a token, something to start you off … the government will also provide shelter, items like utensils, but not necessarily equivalent to what was lost,” Ong’ayo told IRIN.

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HIV/AIDS: The Little Kenyan Village That Could

Posted on 23 May 2008. Filed under: Humanitarian, Public Health |

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
Two-and-a-half year old Tito, the Nyumbani village’s youngest resident, with his grandmother outside their home.

KITUI , 22 May 2008 (PlusNews) – The word ‘nyumbani’ means home in Swahili, and that is exactly what a pilot village in the eastern Kenyan district of Kitui is trying to provide for two generations devastated by the AIDS pandemic.

More than 250 orphans and 29 elderly people, all of whom have lost parents and children to AIDS-related illnesses live in the village. The children are placed under the guardianship of a grandparent – not necessarily their own – who is responsible for creating an atmosphere as close to a normal home environment as possible.

Most non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dealing with orphans and vulnerable children believe that placing children in extended family units in the communities they have lived in since birth is preferable to placing them in the unnatural environment of an institution, but many families are unable to cope with the additional mouths to feed and the orphans often end up homeless.

“Many of the children here were destitute, roaming the villages, begging or scavenging for food once their parents died,” said Sister Mary Owens, co-founder of Nyumbani Village.

“The village is halfway between an institution and the community. We try as much as possible to simulate normal village life, with grandparents and the children forming blended families.”

The village also tries to ensure that the children are brought up in the local Kamba tradition, and there is a separate house to accommodate older boys who have gone through the circumcision ritual.

The village was opened in 2005 on 1,000 acres of land donated by the government of Kenya to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kitui. Its youngest resident is two-and-a-half year old Tito, and its oldest is Monica, who is well into her nineties.

“Being with the children keeps me feeling young,” said Malonza Malembwa, one of two resident grandfathers. He does not know his age, but believes he is well over eighty, having been born around the time of “the great famine” in 1920. Malembwa has eight boys in his care: four are his biological grandchildren and the other four were placed with him after he came to the village.

''Being with the children keeps me feeling young''

“When my daughter and son died, I couldn’t afford to feed the grandchildren, so the Catholic Church took them in and fed them; when the village opened we all came here,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “Before we got here my grandsons and I were casual labourers on building sites, but now they are all in school.”

Pressing need

Although the HIV prevalence rate of 3.9 percent in Kitui is lower than the national average of 5 percent, the risk factors for HIV are high. Migratory labour is common in eastern Kenya’s arid climate, and men are often away from home for weeks at a time, during which they may have several sexual partners, heightening the risk of HIV transmission to their wives when they return. Poverty and food shortages also sometimes drive women into commercial sex work.

Competition for a place in the Nyumbani village is also high (the waiting list is currently 130), so the criteria for entry are strictly enforced.

“The children must be double orphans [they have lost both parents] with no extended family; they must be destitute and the grandparent must also be destitute,” Owens said. “We use a committee that includes a social worker, community leaders and religious leaders to help us make the choice and ensure only those who really have no other option are taken in.”

The younger children attend a primary school in the village, while older ones go to secondary boarding schools in the district. Extra-curricular activities in the village include HIV education and sessions on sexuality and relationships, and teenagers are trained in carpentry, dress-making and other trades.

A clinic in the village, which is also open to people from the neighbouring community, treats minor illnesses, but more serious cases are referred to Kitui District Hospital.

Towards sustainability

Nyumbani has livestock and grows its own food, using drip irrigation powered by solar panels. Solar electricity is also used to light the streets, and plans are underway to use solar power for lighting homes. The village uses water-saving eco-toilets and recycles bath water for watering the farm’s fruits and vegetables.

“We aim to be fully self-sustaining within 10 years,” Owens said. “We grow organic food that feeds the families; we sell the surplus to organic food shops in Nairobi.”

''I never thought I could sit around most of the day without really working hard, but now my job is caring for the children''

The village is also piloting the growth of 50 acres of jatropha oil – a vegetable oil used in the production of biofuel – as well as an agro-forestry scheme to produce timber and charcoal for cooking and selling. Most of the farm work is done by casual labourers from the neighbouring community.

“I never thought I could sit around most of the day without really working hard,” said Janet Kithika, one of the grandmothers. “But now my job is to care for the children, which is tiring but also rewarding.” She is raising 11 children, the largest number of any grandparent at Nyumbani.

A challenging start

Helping grandparents to discipline and manage sometimes rebellious adolescent children has been a particular challenge, Owens said. “Relocating from their homes is sometimes difficult, as is adapting to the new village setting.” At least three grandparents have voluntarily left the village since it started, unable to cope with the responsibility; a few of the older children have also left.

The village has an on-site counsellor and a several social workers to help people solve the up and downs of daily life. “We are experiencing some teething problems, but we are learning on the job; however hard you prepare, there are things you cannot anticipate,” Owens said.

New houses are being built and at least 150 new orphans and 15 grandparents are expected to move in during the next year. Future plans include building a voluntary counselling and HIV testing centre for the village and neighbouring community, as well as starting a community-based outreach programme to provide medical and social support to children in the community infected or affected by HIV.

Ultimately, Owens’ vision is to replicate Nyumbani village across Kenya, where more than one million Kenyan children have lost at least one parent to HIV.

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Kenya’s Mt. Elgon: Guns recovered, SLDF Militiamen Surrender After Leader’s Killing

Posted on 20 May 2008. Filed under: Food Security, Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A joint operation with army and police officers has been deployed in Mt Elgon since March

NAIROBI, 19 May 2008 (IRIN) – Kenyan security officers have recovered more guns and witnessed “several” militiamen surrendering after the killing of a militia leader in the western Mt Elgon district, a police official told IRIN on 19 May.

“The killing of the militia leader was unfortunate; we would have been pleased to arrest him and have him face the due process of the law – prosecution and sentencing – but as a result of the death we have had many of his supporters surrendering and we have recovered several guns,” Eric Kiraithe, police spokesman, said from Mt Elgon, where he is leading a team of senior security officers to assess the situation.

Security officers – comprising the army and police – were deployed in the district in March, under “Operation Okoa Maisha” (Operation Save Lives), to quell an insurgency by the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia group claiming to be fighting for the land rights of the Sabaot community.

SLDF was formed in 2006 to seek redress for alleged injustices during land distribution in a settlement scheme known as Chebyuk, with the conflict pitting two main clans of the Sabaot – Mosop (also known as Ndorobo) and Soy – against each other. The SLDF has been blamed for the deaths of at least 600 civilians since the start of its insurgency.

SLDF leader Wycliffe Komon Matakwei was reportedly killed with 12 other militiamen on 16 May during an ambush by security officers in Kopsiro division of Mt Elgon.

“From my observation, most of the members of the public are happy with the progress we have made so far; the death of the militia leader comes as a relief to the people he has been terrorising,” Kiraithe said.

Kiraithe dismissed claims of mis-identification, saying the security officers had gone through due process and all indications were that Matakwei had been positively identified.

“What is left is a forensic examination, which we are planning to conduct; otherwise the identification process carried out so far indicates that the body is Matakwei,” Kiraithe said.

Allegations of rights violations

Matakwei’s death occurred two days after the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released a report accusing the military of committing serious human rights violations during their operation in Mt Elgon. The police denied the allegations.

In the report, The Mountain of Terror, the commission called for an investigation into allegations of torture committed by security forces in Mt Elgon district, saying the military should stop the excesses of the security forces deployed in the area.

The commission said it had written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urging her to recommend to the UN Security Council the suspension of Kenya’s armed forces in any ongoing or future UN peacekeeping missions “on account of the violations”.

Denying the commission’s allegations, Kiraithe said the police had evidence of acts of torture committed by SLDF militiamen.

“So far, since the military operation started in the district, there has been only one case of murder reported,” Kiraithe told IRIN. “The operation will continue because we are determined to rid the district of this criminal gang.”

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Claims of Torture by Army & Militia, as Food Shortages Grip Mt Elgon

Posted on 20 May 2008. Filed under: Food Security, Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Displaced people from Mt Elgon area receiving food aid in Bungoma

NAIROBI, 16 May 2008 (IRIN) – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called for an investigation into allegations of torture committed by security forces deployed in the clash-torn Mt Elgon district in western Kenya.

“In seeking to return sanity to the area as a result of the atrocities being committed in the area, the military should stop the excesses of the security forces deployed therein,” the commission said on 15 May when it launched a report, The Mountain of Terror, which highlights some of the atrocities allegedly committed by the security forces and a militia group that has been active in the area since 2006.

The commission said it had written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urging her to recommend to the UN Security Council the suspension of Kenya’s armed forces in any ongoing or future UN peacekeeping missions “on account of the violations”.

However, the police denied the commission’s allegations of torture by security officials. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the police, instead, had evidence of acts of torture committed by Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militiamen but these would only be released once the investigations were complete.

“We have details of the atrocities committed by this criminal gang but, for the security of the victims, we cannot release them to the press because the security operation is ongoing and investigations are not complete,” Kiraithe said.

“So far, since the military operation started in the district, there has been only one case of murder reported,” Kiraithe told IRIN. “The operation will continue because we are determined to rid the district of this criminal gang.”

Land rights

The government deployed security forces – comprising the army and police – to Mt Elgon in March to quell an insurgency by the SLDF, which claims to be defending the land rights of the dominant Sabaot community in the district.

SLDF was formed to seek redress for alleged injustices during land distribution in the Chebyuk settlement scheme, with the conflict pitting two main clans of the Sabaot – Mosop (also known as Ndorobo) and Soy – against each other.

“The army intervention is proving to be counterproductive since it has actually participated in gross human rights violations in the area,” KNCHR said. “Sources told the commission that the military torture members of the Sabaot community to death and those who survive are taken to the police station. Those who die are taken to Kamarang hill in Mt Elgon where it is alleged that they are buried en masse.”

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The army and police were deployed to Mt Elgon area in March to quell an insurgency


The commission said the nature of the injuries inflicted on suspected militiamen included sexual violence to genitals; being forced to torture each other (pulling each others’ genitals and whipping each other); forced to witness torture by the military; food and sleep deprivation; broken arms and legs; submerging in sewage; hanging upside down from a moving helicopter; forced to crawl in razor wire; deep lacerations resulting from whip lashes; bullet wounds; forced to swallow sand; and powdered pepper inserted into women’s vaginas.

The commission said it was of the view that the use of force in the district had not elicited positive results and might have served to worsen the security situation.

“KNCHR further proposes that the government seeks to reach out to the militia in an effort to stop further bloodshed in the area,” the commission said. “However, KNCHR believes there should be no amnesty for perpetrators of gross violations of human rights.”

It also proposed that the government should come up with an acceptable formula of sharing out land between the Mosop (Ndorobo) and Soy, the two dominant clans of the Sabaot, “as opposed to an imposed formula that leads to fresh clashes”.

The SLDF was formed in 2005 in a bid to resist government efforts to evict squatters from the Chebyuk settlement scheme in the district. KNCHR said the militia had, since 2006, been accused of killing at least 600 people and terrorising the community through physical assaults, threats and atrocities such as murder, torture, rape, theft and destruction of property. An estimated 66,000 people have been displaced over an 18-month period.

Food shortages

Meanwhile, many residents of the district are facing food shortages because of the military operation.

“Food availability, for many residents, is a problem given the ongoing military operation, which has an impact on the flow of food in markets as well as access to markets by both the locals and the traders,” Anthony Mwangi, the public relations manager of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), told IRIN.

However, Mwangi said food distribution by KRCS was ongoing, targeting thousands of people. The society was distributing maize, beans, cooking oil and soap, he said.

“Both the displaced and those still in their homes are facing food shortages; but we are trying our best to intervene by distributing food, especially to the vulnerable,” Col Yulu, the regional disaster preparedness and response officer for the KRCS, said.


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Compensation, Fear of Attacks Keeping Kenyan IDPs in Rift Valley Camps

Posted on 2 May 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
A young boy drinks rain water at the displaced camp at Eldoret. April 2008. The heavy downpour brings a risk of waterborne diseases that can hit the camp.

ELDORET, 1 May 2008 (IRIN) – Along the Nakuru-Eldoret road, the charred remains of homes and businesses scar the picturesque landscape of Kenya’s Rift Valley province and serve as a reminder of two months of violence that rocked the nation early this year.

The calm that is typical of most rural settings belies the suffering experienced by thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) since fleeing their homes in January and February.

“We are starting the third month of living in tents yet I don’t see myself leaving soon because I am afraid nothing has changed out there,” Rosemary Kuria, an IDP at a camp in Eldoret, told IRIN.

Fear of attacks should they return home and the hope of receiving compensation from the government seem to be two key issues for most IDPs, and contribute to their seeming reluctance to return home even after the formation of a coalition government a month ago, which was to have marked the end of their displacement.

Several IDPs told IRIN that although a political solution had been found, peace and reconciliation had yet to take root, especially in the Rift Valley which, with neighbouring Nyanza province, bore the brunt of the violence. Analysts and political observers say there is more to the violence experienced in the Rift Valley, with many citing irregular land allocation and distribution as well as other “social injustices” that date back to independence in 1963.

More on Kenya’s IDPs
In-Depth: Kenya’s post election crisis
Rosemary Kuria: “These children belong here, where else can I take them?”
IDPs remain cautious as leaders preach peace
Reconciliation key to returns
Agencies appeal for funds as new government named
Security improves in Mt Elgon but fear remains
Talks deadlock could slow IDP returns – officials
Kenya IDPs slideshow
“Last year we had plans…” (audio slideshow)

At least 350,000 were displaced at the height of the violence, which also claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people. Up to 150,000 of those displaced remain in camps in the Rift Valley. Western and Nyanza provinces have fewer than 5,000 IDPs in camps but, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), tens of thousands of families referred to as “relocatees”, who returned to so-called “ancestral lands” from Central Province and Nairobi.

Political solutions

While thousands of IDPs continue to live in difficult conditions in camps, a team of negotiators from two political parties forming the coalition government – the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement – is discussing long-term issues brought to the fore by the post-election crisis.

The negotiators, the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee, have agreed on the formation and composition of a commission of inquiry, a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and a National Ethnic and Race Relations Commission.

On 29 April, the team reviewed a draft statement of principles on long-term issues and solutions. This covered legal and institutional reform; poverty, inequity and regional imbalances; unemployment, particularly among the youth; national cohesion and unity; land reform; and transparency, accountability and impunity.

Oliver Ayieko, an operations data assistant of the KRCS at a camp in Burnt Forest, 40km northwest of Eldoret town, said the number of IDPs in several camps in the area kept fluctuating as some tried to return home and others sought refuge with friends and relatives.

“Those who had been living with relatives have also come into the camps as the food reserves of those they were staying with started dwindling,” Ayieko said.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Burnt Forest area had some 7,799 IDPs at 14 April, with the whole North Rift region hosting 48,670 IDPs, 14,000 of whom are in the Eldoret showground.

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
A woman prepares a meal outside her tent in Eldoret displaced camp

“Resettlement of IDPs is the main issue right now,” Mercy Manyala, a humanitarian affairs officer for OCHA, based in Eldoret, told IRIN. “Peace meetings are being held across the region, led by the district administration officials. For their part, the IDPs are concerned about the resettlement package they would receive if they were to return to their homes.”

Eldoret IDPs told IRIN that top on their list of expectations was compensation for property lost or destroyed during the violence and an assurance that their property would be safe once they resettle.

“First we need the police to be impartial and not to be from one tribe; during the violence there were instances when some of the police officers watched as our property was destroyed; we need an assurance that this won’t happen again,” Samson Wamariana, an IDP, said.


Sydney Kungu, the Red Cross camp manager at the showground, said registration of new IDPs in the camp had been put on hold.

He said the focus was now on resettlement and that arrangements were under way to move at least 1,400 IDPs to a “satellite” camp in Yamumbi – on the outskirts of Eldoret – from where they could have access to their homes and farms.

However, Gabriel Kamau, an IDP, said: “We are told that we now have peace and that we should return home but what are we going back to? The government says there is peace but I have no house and no money to restart life; everything I worked for in a lifetime vanished in a day, then you tell me to go back?

“For me, life is more important, but if security improves, which it hasn’t, the next issue would be: can the government give me some money to buy a cow, maybe some goats and some chickens and help provide building materials for me to put up a home for my family to enable me to build my life again?”

For Peter Ng’ang’a, a former businessman, security, not compensation, was the priority.

Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
A group of IDPs at Burnt Forest, 40km northwest of Eldoret town

“I was displaced from Timboroa during the 1992 elections, I then moved to Kapsabet [another town in the Rift Valley] and set up house about 200m from a police station,” he said. “When the violence erupted, the police could do nothing to help protect my property; I ran to the police seeking their help but they seemed overwhelmed, they fired in the air until they ran out of bullets and the mob just overran my property, looting what they could and destroying what they could not carry.

“It seems those doing the burning and destruction of property are not afraid of the police; if the government builds a home for me and helps me start my life, what is there to prevent the person who torched my property in the past from doing it again?” he asked.

Regarding the differences among members of parliament from Rift Valley – one group advocating the immediate resettlement of IDPs and another saying underlying issues should be addressed first – Ng’ang’a said only the IDPs knew the agony of being displaced.

“If your house is on fire and the person who comes to your rescue tells you, let me think about what caused the fire, won’t you end up suffering higher degree burns as this goes on? This is what the politicians are doing about this issue of displacement,” Ng’ang’a said.


Reconciliation among the communities that fought each another in the Rift Valley was another concern.

“Even if the army brought 1,000 to come and guard my village and I am not at peace with my neighbour, nothing will change,” Gideon Mwangi said. “My neighbours and their children are the ones who stole the property I had in my shop and on the farm; now that the politicians have agreed to share power, can they come and reconcile me with my neighbours? I voted for these politicians yet I am the one who is displaced.”

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on a trip to Rift Valley to help the resettlement of IDPs

“If your house is on fire and the person who comes to your rescue tells you, let me think about what caused the fire, won’t you end up suffering higher degree burns as this goes on? This is what the politicians are doing about this issue of displacement.”

Peter Ng’ang’a, a displaced former businessman

Mwangi said the issue of IDPs seeking out the “host communities” for reconciliation was impractical. He said the peace seems to have only been between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga – the local communities had yet to agree to peacefully co-exist.

“It is like a patient in hospital going to visit a healthy person out there; it should be the people who chased us out of our homes coming to seek our forgiveness, not the other way round,” he said.

Land reform

In response to IDPs’ concerns, Christopher Kipruto, a Kalenjin and resident of Eldoret North Constituency, said unless the government addressed land reform, peaceful co-existence was unlikely.

He said many Kalenjin people were angry that the election was “stolen” the same way the land in the province had been “stolen” and given to settlers from Central Province.

If the government was committed to ensuring the right of every Kenyan to own land and property anywhere in the country, “it should give Kalenjins and Luos land in Central Province so that we can have a mixed blend of people in all provinces.

“The other issue that is rarely addressed is the fate of non-Kikuyus affected by the crisis. It is a fact that many Kalenjins and Luos were killed but nobody has cared to document this; some people are still missing after the police deployed more officers to the province; we are wondering when this will be brought to light,” he said.

Another Eldoret resident, who requested anonymity, said Kalenjins were not opposed to the return of IDPs to their homes, only that whatever assistance they got should also be extended to them.

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
A man runs for cover from the heavy downpour at the internally displaced camp in Eldoret showground

“The fact that not many Kalenjins are in camps should not be taken to mean they were not affected; those who supported PNU had their homes burnt and property looted; many have not yet planted yet no one is thinking about assistance for them,” the resident said. “Farming, the mainstay of communities in this province, has suffered. If only the IDPs get help, there will be conflict when they harvest as many people will starve while the IDPs will have planted maize and other crops.”

Kibaki, Odinga and members of parliament from the region toured the province between 24-26 April to preach peace and reconciliation. IDPs remained cautious over plans to resettle them soon.

“Reconciliation and forgiveness is crucial to our return,” Ng’ang’a said. “But it must have the support of all politicians and all communities to be a reality. There is a Kikuyu proverb that translates to ‘whoever searches for another’s errors will definitely get them’. The Kalenjin and the Kikuyus are in this together, let us not search for each other’s errors, let us forgive and reconcile each other instead.”

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Kenya IDPs: Rosemary Kuria: “These children belong here, where else can I take them?”

Posted on 30 April 2008. Filed under: Governance, Humanitarian, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

ELDORET, 28 April 2008 (IRIN) – Rosemary Kuria, 40, has managed to remain cheerful and energetic, despite camping with at least 14,000 other internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the showground in Eldoret, in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. Kuria, a mother of three girls, is optimistic that the country’s leadership will soon find a solution to the hundreds of thousands of IDPs who fled their homes in January and February following violence sparked by disputed presidential elections.

Despite the fact that Kuria is Kikuyu, an ethnic group considered to have its ancestral roots in Central Province, she knows no home apart from the Rift Valley as her parents had settled in Cherangany, in the Rift Valley, when she was born. She spoke to IRIN on 24 April outside her tent:

“Being cheerful and optimistic is what keeps me going at this camp because if I think about how life was before displacement, I would not be able to go on.

“Being displaced is especially sad for me because all my roots are in this province; my parents live near Kitale [town] and, although I am single, the father of my children is a Marakwet [one of the Kalenjin ethnic groups dominant in Rift Valley]. Even if I was to go to Central [Province] would my children belong there? They have Kalenjin names; they belong here, where else can I take them? The man abandoned me as soon as tension increased a few months before the general elections. I hear he is now living among his people. I cannot even go looking for him to seek his help in raising the children because I dare not venture outside the showground on my own

“I came to this camp when my youngest daughter didn’t even know how to take porridge; now, nearing six months old, she is thriving on the soya blend we receive. My first-born is a Form I student at a provincial secondary school, she is due to begin the second term in less than two weeks yet I’m still displaced. Where will I find the money to send her back to school?

“Looking back, I can say we really did not understand what groups of Kalenjin youths meant when they told us we’d go ‘Othaya Express’. I now realise they meant that we, the Kikuyus, would have to leave Rift Valley and head for Othaya [in Central Province, also home to President Mwai Kibaki].

“When the violence broke out, I hurriedly left my rental house with my little girl and only a paper bag containing baby clothes. I didn’t have time to get some clothes for myself or my other daughters, who later joined me at a Catholic church in Langas [a slum in Eldoret town] where we first sought refuge.

“Life as an IDP has been hard for me and my children. Previously, I rarely fell ill, but in just two months I have caught pneumonia and have colds all the time. My daughters too have caught pneumonia but we have all received treatment since arriving at the IDP camp.

“With the visit [on 24 April] of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to Rift Valley in general, and our camp in particular, I have hope that our displacement will soon be a thing of the past. When Kibaki saw one of the tents in this camp – it didn’t have a ground sheeting or mattresses – he almost shed tears. This makes me think that he now appreciates the suffering we are going through. When he addressed us, he promised that our problems would be sorted out as soon as possible. Even the prime minister saw the deplorable conditions we live in.

“I would like to leave this camp and go back to my home but what am I going back to? I have no money, all my property was burned before the house I rented for Ksh1,200 [US$19] a month was burned. We have been told that the first to be compensated would be IDPs who owned property; they have even filled in the forms, but what about us? We have been told we’ll get forms to fill in for the household goods that we lost but this has yet to happen. We are now about three months in the IDP camps – will the authorities really address our plight?

“I would like to be helped to rent another house in Langas and, hopefully, be able to resume my job as a fuel pump assistant at a petrol station because staying here is not a solution.”

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