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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Off the Streets in Molo and into School

Posted on 27 February 2009. Filed under: Education, Insecurity |

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
Children at the Molo Street Children Project: The poject rehabilitates former street-children and was involved in re-uniting children who lost contact with their parents during the 2008 post-election violence

MOLO, 24 February 2009 (IRIN) – When Sonia Donnan, originally from Jamaica, accompanied her husband to work in Kenya in 2003, she never imagined she would end up looking after street-children in Molo town, Rift Valley Province.

“A short while into my stay in Molo, I realised there were children living by themselves in parts of the town, with some looking after other children,” Donnan said. “I thought of establishing a day-care centre at the local church to help [them].”

Funded by family, friends and well-wishers, she and her husband, Chris Donnan, teamed up with Molo Happy Church to set up a day-care centre for the children.

The Molo Street Children Project began with a small house near the church. By 2004, 10 children were attending school and one a training centre.

Election fallout

In early 2008, Donnan was forced to close the facility as post-election violence swept across the province.

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
The Molo Street Children Project acquired 1.05ha on the outskirts of Molo and rehabilitated a building on the site. It now caters for about 90 children, most of whom have been placed in nearby schools

“We kept track of the children; three were boys whose father was an alcoholic and we tried to urge them to stay at home but they went without food for days,” she said.

“At one time, following a heavy downpour, the boys spent three nights on their feet as their home was flooded and their father just slept in the water; I began looking into ways of helping these children despite the tension that still prevailed in the area.”

Around April 2008, as things calmed down across the province and government and aid agencies sought to resettle hundreds of thousands of displaced, Donnan started looking for a more permanent home for the children.

The project acquired 1.05ha on the outskirts of Molo and rehabilitated a building on the site. It now caters for about 90 children, most of whom have been placed in nearby schools.

“Not all the children we deal with are without homes,” Richard Njoroge, a social worker on the project, said. “Due to ethnic violence experienced in 1992, 1997, 2002 and again in 2007 [election years], a lot of parents have found it convenient to rent houses for their children in Molo town where they feel it is safer. We try to draw such children into our centre so they can spend their days here instead of on the streets.”

Building families

''At one time, following a heavy downpour, the boys spent three nights on their feet as their home was flooded and their father just slept in the water''

Besides efforts to rehabilitate street-children, the centre also provides lunch to those living on their own and was involved in re-uniting children who lost contact with their parents during the post-election violence.

“We believe a child is best kept in a home set-up; we try to put those with nowhere to go or with parents who are [incapacitated] with other relatives so they only have to come to the centre during the day,” Njoroge said.

According to Abdi Sheikh Yusuf, the Rift Valley provincial children’s officer, up to 700 unaccompanied minors were registered after the post-election violence – 500 from Molo area.

“Because of Molo’s history of high volatility, parents put their children in rented premises during times of tension but later reclaim them when things calm down; currently there are up to 200 such children in Molo,” he said.

“Our aim is to give an education to each child in a bid to get them out of the cycle of poverty,” Donnan said. “The little we are doing will go a long way in reducing the number of children on our streets.”

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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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Mt. Elgon Conflict: Battle for Land Fought Over Women’s Bodies

Posted on 20 December 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, Public Health |

Photo: Georgina Cranston/IRIN
“They took us to the forest and raped me for days, taking it in turns”

KITALE, 17 December 2008 (PlusNews) – Margaret Sichei*, 37, discovered she was HIV positive during a routine antenatal check-up. The pregnancy, as well as the HIV infection, was the product of a gang rape deep in the forests of Mount Elgon in western Kenya, perpetrated by members of a self-styled militia calling themselves the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SDLF).

She talked about her ordeal while waiting to pick up her supply of antiretroviral (ARV)drugs at the district hospital in the town of Kitale, near Mount Elgon, where she tested positive two years ago.

“I had just prepared supper for my family and we were seated in our house. Suddenly the dogs of our neighbour started barking viciously; we heard footsteps, and before we could even realise anything, our door was kicked open by men in huge boots, and carrying all manner of weapons.

“They accused my husband of being a traitor, and they dragged the two of us out of the house. They then took us to the forest and raped me for days, taking it in turns and saying that I would pay the price on behalf of my husband, forgetting that they had already killed him. He was beheaded as I watched, and they buried him,” said Sichei, tears rolling down her face.

She eventually escaped while pretending to fetch firewood to make food for her captors and fled to the nearby town of Bungoma, only returning to her home after the army had flushed the militia out of the area.

The SDLF began their insurgency in 2006 in response to alleged injustices committed during a land distribution scheme. Some of the area’s residents initially supported them in the belief that they were fighting to reclaim land belonging to them, but before long they started paying the price.

In a report released in July 2008, Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog, estimated that the SLDF had killed more than 600 people and kidnapped, tortured and raped many more.

Lillian Kirei, 20, also contracted HIV after first being raped by militia members and then later by members of the Kenyan security forces sent to Mount Elgon in March 2008 to quell the insurgency. Her 45-year-old mother was also raped but did not survive the ordeal.

“We were three girls and we were coming from the market in the evening when the militia abducted us,” she told IRIN/PlusNews. “One of us who tried to scream was beaten senseless and raped with leaves stuffed in her mouth. We are all HIV positive now.

“When the army came, I went through the same ordeal. I do not know for sure where I contacted the virus but I now take ARVs, and whoever gave me the virus is for God to punish,” she said.

''At the time you do things that haunt you later in life. I am now HIV positive, yet at that time we thought it was cool to rape women''

Erick Wanyama, a clinical officer at the hospital in Kitale, noted that many women who had experienced similar ordeals were now HIV positive. “There are some who are dying silently due to the stigma associated with rape and HIV – it is a double blow to women and girls,” he said.

According to Dr. Charles Onudi, medical officer for Kenya’s Western Province, out of 100 pregnant women and girls from the Mount Elgon region who said they had been raped, 35 have so far tested positive for HIV.

He added that the actual number of women who had contracted HIV during the insurgency was probably much higher, but that most women were reluctant to admit they had been raped.

In its report, All the Men Have Gone, Human Rights Watch accused both the SLDF and the Kenyan army of committing war crimes and blatant human rights abuses. Medical charity, Médecins sans Frontières have made similar claims.

John Kirui*, a former militia member who is HIV positive, said he now regretted raping dozens of women and girls during the time he served in the rebel outfit.

“At the time you do things that haunt you later in life. I am now HIV positive, yet at that time we thought it was cool to rape women,” he said.

Read more:
Land dispute spawns violence, displacement
MSF highlights ‘forgotten crisis’ in Mt Elgon
Security improves in Mt Elgon but fear remains

Jane Kibiwott, 18, was raped for two days by a group of young men belonging to the SLDF; she and her four-month old baby are both HIV positive. “I can say he is twice unlucky,” she said, breast-feeding her son.

“First, he is a child of rape, and now he is HIV positive and being cared for by an equally positive mother. Cruel things happen at times, especially for us, the poor.”

*Not their real names

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Lake Victoria Islands: Kenyan Anger as Uganda Nets Island

Posted on 27 November 2008. Filed under: Environment, Governance, Insecurity |

Recently published on this weblog:Lake Victoria Potential Source of Regional Conflict

A boat by one of the Migingo islands on Lake Victoria

By Muliro Telewa
BBC News, Kisumu

Boats approaching the tiny Migingo Islands on Lake Victoria are greeted by the surprising sight of a Ugandan flag flying high above a collection of shiny tin shacks.

The three islands are located about two hours by motorboat from the Migori district of western Kenya.

According to officials from Uganda and Kenya, it takes at least nine hours by motorboat to reach the islands from Bugiri in Uganda.

The Migingo island is in our country. It is in Kenya
Fisherman Ojuku Onyonyi

The two countries have had several conflicts in the past over fishing activities on Lake Victoria.

Kenya has always considered the rocky Migingo islands to be part of its territory, and maps dating back to the mid 1950s show them to be in Kenyan territory.

But Uganda has recently laid claim to the smallest one, sparking a row between the two neighbours.

The one acre island has been home to about 1,000 people from the three East African countries, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Of the three islands, this is the most popular among the fishermen because of its flat, rocky beaches which make it easy to dock boats.

But Kenyan boats and fishermen are no longer allowed to land on the disputed island, which is guarded by armed Ugandan policemen.


In October, Uganda arrested 15 Kenyan fishermen and ordered about 800 others to leave the island.

Fisherman on Lake Victoria

The disputed island is prized by fishermen for its beaches

Now, the country’s flag flies prominently over the island, which acts as a landing port for fishermen on the lake.

“The Ugandans came with their flag and hoisted [it] in the Kenyan soil, something that has never happened anywhere in any part of this country,” Kenyan fisherman Ojuku Onyonyi said.

He blames a lapse on the part of the Kenyan security system for the dispute.

“The Migingo island is in our country. It is in Kenya,” he said.

The Ugandan security officers say they will only allow Kenyans back on to the island if they are led by Migori district commissioner Julius Kalonzo.

Earlier this month, Mr Kalonzo led a group of angry Kenyan fishermen to the island, where they were greeted by a Ugandan delegation.

The two groups held a four-hour meeting but failed to reach an agreement.

The two officials addressed the restless crowd of Kenyans which was threatening to pull down the Ugandan flag.

Cocked guns

“The Kenyan government has spoken to the Ugandan government and said that according to us, Migingo belongs to us,” Mr Kalonzo said.

Harmony means working as brothers and sisters
Mwanaisha Chikomeko
Head of the Ugandan delegation

His statement was greeted with loud cheers from the Kenyan fishermen.

In contrast, the head of the Ugandan delegation, Bugiri regional district commissioner, Mwanaisha Chikomeko, was heckled by the largely Kenyan crowd.

She suggested the formation of a joint beach management committee to oversee fishing on the island as the two countries resolved the dispute.

“The chairperson could be a Ugandan, the treasurer could be a Kenyan, the secretary can be a Ugandan, the vice-chair can be a Kenyan, the deputy treasurer should be a Kenyan,” she said.

“No!” the crowd shouted back.

“We’ve already said that harmony means working as brothers and sisters. Be it Ugandan is harassing Kenyan, or be it Kenyan is harassing Ugandan. We want it to stop immediately,” she said.

A Ugandan flag on one of the Migingo islands on Lake Victoria

The Ugandan flag continues to fly while surveyors investigate the boundary

The public meeting ended in disarray, and the two commissioners said the Ugandan flag would continue to fly over the island until the dispute was resolved.

Mr Onyonyi arrived at the meeting carrying a Kenyan flag with him, which he said he intended to hoist on the island.

But after the hostile gathering broke up, the fisherman was forced to surrender his flag to the Kenyan security forces who accompanied the district commissioner.

The other Kenyan fishermen grumbled but hopped into their boats and sailed off since the Ugandan security forces had cocked their guns to prove that they were still in charge.

Since then, the two countries have resolved to engage surveyors to draw up the boundaries and determine who the islands belong to.

A joint committee has also been formed to oversee activities on the island and prevent any conflict.

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Lake Victoria Potential Source of Regional Conflict

Posted on 23 November 2008. Filed under: Environment, Governance, Insecurity |

The so-called ‘scramble for fish’ in Lake Victoria is turning out to be a source of conflict between nations bordering the lake and could potentially threaten regional stability. In the past month alone there have been several incidents around the lake that have heightened tensions between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. It is now apparent that the main source of these incidents is the lack of a clearly delimited and demarcated border between the three countries sharing Lake Victoria.

Since 2003, a number of Kenyan fishermen have been arrested and their boats and equipment confiscated by either Tanzanian or Ugandan authorities for “illegally crossing the common borders.” The latest incident happened when about 400 Kenyan fishermen were kicked out of Migingo island by Ugandan authorities. Migingo is claimed by both Uganda and Kenya. This incident has exacerbated the already strained relations between the two countries. The Kenyan fishermen have appealed to their political leaders to intervene, some even threatening violence.

Besides the ‘scramble for fish,’ Uganda is also under suspicion of having entered into a secret agreement with Egypt to increase the outflow of the Nile waters.  Although Uganda is claiming that it is entitled to enter into bilateral talks with another country regarding Lake Victoria, Tanzania insists that such agreements would implicitly violate the rights of the other Nile Basin member states.

Initially, the contestation over the waters of Lake Victoria was mainly between Egypt and the main riparian states, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.  However, recently the contestation has become more localized, with the riparian states finding it difficult to share the lake due to increased exploitation of its resources and demands for more water from Egypt and Sudan.

These disputes can be located within the broader discourse of disputed borders in Africa and of exploitation of natural resources in the borderlands. Demarcation has never been clear on the Lake Victoria segment of the border between the three East African countries. The lake is the main source of livelihood for close to 30 million people who live around it, therefore undemarcated or poorly demarcated borders and ineffective management are bound to have a spillover effect on regional security.

Lake Victoria has attracted the attention of numerous explorers and environmentalists throughout history. The British explorer, John Hanning Speke was the first European to come into contact with the lake in 1858. He was overjoyed when he first laid his eyes on the majestic water body that seemed to be neverending. He renamed it Victoria after the British monarch and claimed to have located the source of the Great Nile.

Lake Victoria lies within an elevated plateau in the western part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and is about 68 000 square kilometers in size; making it the continent’s largest lake, the largest tropical lake in the world and the second widest freshwater lake in the world after Lake Superior in Canada. The Nile River-Lake Victoria basin falls within ten countries (Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC, Burundi and Eritrea) and therefore has a considerably high population density.

Egypt has always felt a strong sense of entitlement to the waters of the Nile, and on several occasions disregarded the other nine states with direct or indirect interests in the waters. Central to the problem are two colonial treaties determining Egypt’s interests in relation to the Nile’s waters. A 1929 treaty between Egypt and Britain essentially gave Egypt the right to veto any construction projects that would negatively affect the country’s interests. The 1959 treaty gives Egypt and to a lesser extent, Sudan, exclusive rights over the river’s use. The three main riparian states have over the years found these treaties unacceptable, and have contested them.

The building of the Nalubaale Power Station, also known as Owen Falls Dam, in 1956 was a result of an agreement between Egypt and the colonial British administration. The idea of a power station supplying electric power to Uganda and some parts of neighbouring Kenya seemed a good one at the time.  However, in recent years there has been a significant lowering of water levels on Lake Victoria. Several reports by independent hydrologists reveal that over-releases from Owen Falls are a primary cause of the severe drops in the lake’s water levels. In 2006, two environmentalists, Lori Pottinger of International Rivers and Frank Muramuzi of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists wrote to the World Bank, demanding speedy action regarding the Lake. The Bank had been one of the main proponents of the Owen Falls Extension Project in the 1990s, which led to further water releases from Lake Victoria for hydroelectric purposes.

A 2004 Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) Strategic Conflict Analysis document reported that changes in the lake’s capacity would have an adverse effect on poverty and economic marginalisation, which are already on the rise in the Lake Victoria region.

As far back as 2003 when the border incidents first started, there has been no real pledge by the three governments to deal with the issue. Following these incidents, an agreement between the governments of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya was reached to appoint surveyors to embark on a study to demarcate the shared Lake Victoria border. Initial findings stated that the demarcation exercise would require heavy funding. There has hitherto been no demarcation of that boundary. We can argue that the financial implications of demarcation have contributed to the slow demarcation process.

Commitment to demarcate should be the primary concern. Saving Lake Victoria requires a concerted effort from all the parties concerned. Unfortunately there is no single solution to the problem. Political will from the concerned states is required as well as a determination to address the environmental concerns. Equitable sharing of the waters should be a priority. Water is becoming a commodity, not only on the Nile River- Lake Victoria basin, but throughout the world, as a result of acute environmental changes, hence the need to consolidate efforts for sustainable environmental and socio-political solutions.

Namhla Matshanda, African Security Analysis Programme, ISS Tshwane (Pretoria)

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Hundreds Injured in Mandera Security Operation

Posted on 2 November 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity |

Photo: Melvin Chibole/ActionAid
Hundreds of people have been injured in an operation aimed at restoring calm in the mainly pastoralist northeastern region of Mandera

ISIOLO, 31 October 2008 (IRIN) – Hundreds of people have been injured in an operation aimed at restoring calm in the northeastern region of Mandera after a series of clan clashes left at least 20 people dead, a human rights activist has said.

“We are monitoring the situation; it is very serious. The security forces have tortured and beaten civilians… Innocent women and old men have not been spared,” Hassan Abdille, an officer with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights in the region, told IRIN.

At least 200 civilians have been admitted to the Elwak, Mandera, Wajir and Garissa hospitals in the past three days, Abdille said. The hospitals are in areas neighbouring Mandera.

Hundreds of people have also fled trading centres and grazing fields in the mainly pastoralist area – some to neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia to escape the security operation which is also aimed at recovering illicit weapons.

Teachers in Mandera said the operation had also affected preparations for the national examinations.

“Parents have fled with their children… The children are also traumatised after they saw their parents being beaten,” Mohamed Sheikh, the executive secretary of the Kenya National Union of Teachers in Mandera, said.


Provincial police officer Stephen Chelimo, however, denied claims that hundreds of people had been injured.

“Seven complaints of assault have been made at Elwak and Mandera police station; they will be investigated but we know that it is part of a campaign to stop the operation,” Chelimo said. “We shall continue [the operation] and the security team will remain in Mandera until peace is restored.”

At least 48 guns and more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition have been recovered so far.

Relief operations have also been affected, said Mohamud Issack Dualle, an official with a local NGO, the Mandera Rural Agency for Community Development and Assistance. Some of the agency’s staff have relocated to neighbouring towns.

“We have stopped our operations in Mandera Central [as] we cannot reach the operation areas… Most of the people that we support with food and water have fled,” Dualle, said.

Thousands of Mandera residents were affected by flooding, and clan clashes between the Murule and Garre clans, after a prolonged period of drought in the region.

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Post Poll Skirmishes : UN Honours Kenya GSU Police Officer

Posted on 24 October 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity |

Joseph Musyoka Nthenge employed negotiating skills to avert post presidential election violence

The United Nations in Kenya, on the occasion of UN Day on Oct. 24, has decided to award the 2008 “UN in Kenya Person of the Year” to Acting Senior Superintendent of Police, Joseph Musyoka Nthenge.

Speaking for the UN, the Acting Director General, Inga Klevby said: “Today the United Nations family in Kenya recognizes Supt. Nthenge for his contribution to peace through dialogue [after demonstrators took to the streets following the December 2007 presidential election]. He is indeed worthy of the title ‘Kenyan hero.'”

Klevby added that, “Within a 48 hour period, Nthenge employed dialogue and negotiations four times to extinguish possible violent flare-ups. In addition to being seen on TV persuading a mob away from their destructive behaviour, he convinced two other mobs in the city as well as dissuading a group of Members of Parliament (MPs) to call off a march to challenge the banning of public gathering inside the city’s largest park (Uhuru Park) by the police.”

Amidst the scenes of bloodshed and mayhem that marked Kenya’s dark days following presidential election, the image of peace and judiciousness practiced by Nthenge stands out. The policeman was seen reasoning with an angry mob of demonstrators, and successfully convincing them to stop the destruction and turn back. “Mnataka kuharibu Kenya kwa siku moja, nchi ambayo imetuchukuwa miaka arubaini kujenga” (Kiswahili, meaning ‘You want to destroy Kenya in a day, a country that has taken us 40 years to build?’), the officer asked the young men. This was a rare feat for paramilitary officers mostly known for violently dispersing demonstrators.

Seventeen years earlier, in 1991, Nthenge had used reason and words to effectively quell inter-communal violence in a part of the Rift Valley Province. But it happened away from the glare of TV cameras and lights. Fortunately, the 2007/8 encounter was captured by a TV crew recording the violence sweeping the city, and splashed on the television screens across the country. He became an instant national hero.

Nthenge was in charge of a unit of the paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) assigned to patrol a part of the city which was smoldering with tension and violence. On December 29, 2007, the unit encountered a mob of angry young men marching towards the city centre, protesting the delay in announcing the presidential results. They had already burnt some vehicles and were poised to burn down a petrol station when they encountered Nthenge.

Given the GSU’s reputation for ruthlessness in quelling riots and demonstrations, and the violent manner in which security forces had dispersed demonstrators in other parts of the city and country, what followed was totally unexpected — and now part of the folklore surrounding the Kenyan crisis.

After he was notified of the award by the UN, Nthenge said: “I am indeed honoured to be selected for this auspicious commendation on behalf of thousands of dedicated and selfless policemen and women who daily put their lives on the line for other Kenyans.”

He added that his guiding principal as a law enforcement officer is “to see the public as our customers and our role is to offer them service. People know their rights and we must respect these rights.”

Nthenge will be honoured at a special ceremony at 1 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the United Nations Complex, Gigiri.

This is the seventh time the UN Family in Kenya has collectively honoured an individual as part of its celebrations of UN Day, which is held every year on Oct. 24. “The United Nations in Kenya Person of the Year” is chosen based on their personal commitment towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

This year’s runner-up is Mary Makokha, the driving force behind the Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Program (REEP) in Butula, western Kenya. Beginning without any money or access to donors in 1997, REEP operated under a tree for two years. She also suffered threats of court action for acknowledging that AIDS was prevalent in Butula. Later, she was also excommunicated from the Catholic Church for encouraging the use of condoms. Many people in the community also took offence when she spoke out against widow/widower disinheritance.

Today REEP has 44 support groups of people living with HIV with nearly 5,500 members. REEP has grown from its modest beginning, to a beautiful complex called Firelight House, sponsored by the Firelight Foundation of the US, who recognised Makokha’s inspiring work. The organization has 15 staff in addition to over 1,000 community volunteers.

In a world affected by a complex web of issues — HIV/AIDS, poverty, negative cultural practices and beliefs — the commitment of people, like Makokha, are an example of how communities can change from the inside. Without developing home-grown solutions, the Millennium Development Goals will be much harder to achieve.

Commenting on Mary Makokha, Ms. Klevby said that the UN was also paying tribute to “the many men and women who work tirelessly in their various fields towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the country. We need role models such as Mary Makokha to help us focus on why achieving the MDGs is so important: it is because it will mean improvements in the daily lives of millions on Kenyans and people around the globe.

The MDGs are a set of achievable development targets, which all Member States of the United Nations have pledged to meet by 2015. Last year, the UN in Kenya honoured Abbas Gullet of the Kenya Red Cross Society as the 2007 “UN in Kenya Person of the Year.”

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Kenya Internally Displaced Struggle to Rebuild Their Lives

Posted on 2 October 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Children carry firewood at the Nakuru IDP camp in April: Camp closure has left thousands stranded at transit camps or yet to fully resettle on their farms

NAKURU, 30 September 2008 (IRIN) – The decision to close camps for Kenyans displaced by post-election violence was hasty and has left thousands in Rift Valley Province stranded at transit camps or yet to fully resettle on their farms, according to activists.

“Despite most of the displaced leaving the camps to go to their farms or to transit camps, we haven’t achieved the peace we wanted,” Mark Mwithaga, a member of the Nakuru District peace committee, said.

Nakuru, the Rift Valley provincial headquarters, is one area that bore the brunt of the violence.

“Hate, bitterness and disgruntlement have set in,” he told a UN delegation on 25 September.

In May, the government ordered the IDP camps closed upon the conclusion of Operation “Rudi Nyumbani” (Return Home) that targeted hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Rift Valley.

Two other operations, “Ujirani Mwema” (Good neighbourliness) and “Tujenge Pamoja” (Let’s Build Together) were subsequently started in an effort to reintegrate the displaced to their original homesteads or in new areas of resettlement.

At least 200,000 people in the province were affected by the violence, according to Hassan Noor Hassan, the Provincial Commissioner.

“We started ‘Ujirani Mwema’ after the displaced returned to their homes and this has, to some extent, gone well to cement and bond different communities together,” Hassan said.

“We are now in the reconstruction phase, which we are calling ‘Tujenge Pamoja’ under which we are encouraging the communities to rebuild their lives together; we want all the displaced to move out of camps into their homes.”

However, he acknowledged that many IDPs had remained in camps and some may possibly not be able to return to their homes or farms.

“Most of the IDPs remaining in camps do not own land,” Hassan explained. “The majority lived in urban areas where they rented houses. The situation has been compounded by the urban poor, some of whom have moved to camps in order to get help.”

Some of the IDPs, who received the government’s Ksh10,000 (US$150) resettlement aid, have pooled together to purchase land in areas other than their place of origin.

“We are encouraging those who can pool together to buy land and urging the UN and other charitable groups to help such people in putting up the infrastructure required – sanitation facilities, health services, education and other social needs,” Hassan said.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
IDPs dig a latrine in Nakuru

“The government is also looking at the issue of the displaced who had bank loans and could not service them during their displacement; we are looking at how to assist these people,” he added.

“Negative peace”

Peace activists say many of the IDPs were still traumatised and without assistance – a situation described by Samson Ndungu, a member of the Nakuru peace committee, as “negative peace”.

“As we walk around encouraging the communities to reconcile, we find that people are still traumatised; our task is like that of someone consoling the bereaved yet the body of their loved one is still in the morgue and the family is looking for means and ways of giving the dead a decent burial,” Ndungu told IRIN.

“This is because there has not been any serious follow-up by the government of those who left the camps.”

Many of the displaced and non-displaced communities also lacked civic education and were “not well informed about political issues or things like governance and land policy”.

Ndungu warned that unless the issues of land and political governance were addressed, the prevailing calm was deceptive. “All it needs is a spark and chaos will erupt, this time more explosive than what was experienced earlier in the year,” Ndungu said.

Political will

Aeneas Chuma, the UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator, called for political will to resolve the challenge of resettling the IDPs.

“Although peace and reconciliation are possible, there has to be political will and an inclusive approach in this process,” he said in Eldoret, another Rift Valley town adversely affected by the violence.

“Everybody has a role to play,” he added. “We also need to recognise efforts by the communities themselves to foster peace and healing; these traditional and local solutions to conflict resolution need to be recognised and to complement other efforts already in use.”

Wesley Chebii, the Uasin Gishu district coordinator of UN peace-building volunteers, said communities were warming to one another in areas like Burnt Forest and Sugoi, where volunteers were engaged in reconciliation activities.

“We have opted for on-the-ground coverage in Burnt Forest area and we are making inroads; the two main communities there are now willing to sit down and discuss what happened to chart the way forward.”


Humanitarian workers in the North Rift region, however, said thousands of the displaced were still housed in at least 140 transit camps.

“Although there has been a marked improvement in security in the areas of return, those in transit camps still require support,” an official of an NGO, who requested anonymity, said.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
The UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator, Aeneas Chuma, shakes hands with an IDP woman Nakuru

“We can say that return in safety and dignity [has been] partly achieved, but a lot still needs to be done to ensure that these people rebuild their lives.”

Peace and reconciliation efforts at community level were being hampered by a lack of willingness by displaced and non-displaced communities “to come to the dialogue table”, the official added.

“The main challenge for the government and UN agencies is that the IDP issue is still with us – their security, provision of social services in the transit camps [and] in areas of return, peace-building and helping people recover livelihoods,” Chuma said.

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Separated Kenyan Children Eking a Living in Rift Valley Town

Posted on 11 September 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Children in a crowded class at the Moto primary school in Molo town: Some returnees have left their children in the town due to a lack of schools in areas of return

NAIROBI, 10 September 2008 (IRIN) – Months after the Kenyan government began resettling hundreds of thousands of people displaced during clashes that followed the December elections, hundreds of children are living without their parents in harsh conditions in Rift Valley province.

“At least 1,123 children have been separated from their parents in Molo,” said Irene Mureithi, executive director of the Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK), a charitable organisation, established in 1955 to implement programmes aimed at protecting and promoting children’s rights.

Molo, a town 160km northwest of Nairobi, is the most affected. At least 490 boys and 633 girls, mainly younger than 12, live in rented rooms in the slum areas of the town.

“They are vulnerable to rape, sickness, child trafficking and other hazards while fending for themselves,” Mureithi added.

The Ministry of Special Programmes launched Operation Rudi Nyumbani (Return Home) on 5 May to resettle the more than 300,00 displaced people (IDPs) who had been sheltering in formal camps in various parts of the country. Now, only around 25,000 are living in IDP camps, but some 100,000 are in transit sites located near their places of origin.

During the post election violence hundreds of houses were torched, especially in Rift Valley Province.

Some of the returnees chose to leave their children behind in Molo because they felt it was still unsafe in their home areas. “They are saying that they do not want to expose their children to any risks when they go to the farms,” Mureithi said.

A lack of schools and teachers in the areas of return is also an issue. At least 200 of the children who are living apart from their parents in Molo are scheduled to sit their national primary and secondary examinations this year.

For people like Njuguna Migwi, a father of seven who lost his home to arsonists, shelter is still a problem.

“The tents [we now live in] are small, we have been forced to have different tents for the men, women and children,” Migwi told IRIN by phone from his farm near Molo. “If the people can get some decent shelter then they will be in a position to bring back their children and concentrate on farming.”

“Older children are being left behind to eke a living,” he said.

Some of the children have been left behind to guard family property that could not be transported immediately to the transit camps.

''The suffering the children have gone through in the last eight months is likely to manifest in Marasmus and Kwashiakor''

Many of the children are looking after younger siblings and have little access to services, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

There is inadequate food for the children. As a result, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed fears of malnutrition.

“The parents mainly send in potatoes and maize. This kind of food is not appropriate for the children,” Yusuf Abdi Sheikh, the Rift Valley Provincial Children’s Officer, told IRIN. Food supplies from parents are also unreliable.

“The suffering the children have gone through in the last eight months is likely to manifest in Marasmus and Kwashiakor,” Abdi said. “We are lobbying for supplies of Unimix and other nutritious foods for the children.”

Tough life

According to Molo resident, Peter Mwaniki, many of the children are now begging for food in the town.

“Those attending schools are relying on their classmates for clothes,” Mwaniki, a father of five, told IRIN. “There has also been an increase in the number of underage girls frequenting nightclubs in the town,” he said.

According to UNICEF, some of the children have had to take on menial jobs in order to afford their rent and food. The rent for the rooms has doubled to 300 shillings (US$5) a month this year.

“Girls, particularly, are susceptible to engaging in transactional sex in order to make ends meet. One of the IDPs interviewed confirmed that there was a high risk of teenage pregnancy among the teenage girls living in Molo,” UNICEF Child Protection Officer Catherine Kimotho told IRIN.

“Some parents or relatives visit their children once or twice a month while others have not visited their children for several months,” she added.

UNICEF is advocating for a comprehensive response to this issue, one that helps parents provide their children with food, clothing and other necessities.

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
IDPs at a church compound in Molo in February: During the post election violence hundreds of houses were torched

Those younger than five and adolescent girls have been identified by the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), UNICEF’s partner agency, as needing immediate emergency monitoring.

Mureithi of CWSK said the children are emotionally disturbed, withdrawn and affected. “It is strange that the parents have resigned themselves to the fact that the children can live alone,” she said. With the nearest farms located at least 30 km from Molo town travel costs are inhibitive for most of the parents.

“There is a need for more social workers to improve reunification as well as raise awareness on the risks posed by this situation,” Mureithi said. So far 178 children in 14 districts in the country have been reunited with their parents by CWSK, 231 cases are pending re-unification.

Aid agencies are helping parents visit their children and vice-versa to encourage family reunification. The NCCK is also involved in a ‘mentorship’ programme providing psycho-social support and recreation services for the children.

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) is focusing on reuniting unaccompanied children who do not know the whereabouts of their parents. At least 20 such cases exist in the Molo area according to KRCS tracing programme officer Nicholas Makutsa.

However, according to Abdi, “Very little is being done to assist the children in Molo.”

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Kenya Government Peace-making ‘a failure’

Posted on 4 September 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity |

The Kenyan government has failed to support vital peace-making efforts aimed at healing ethnic divisions in the country, following the country’s worst outbreak of violence since independence, says the international human rights organization, Minority Rights Group International (MRG)

In a new briefing paper, Kenya six months on: a new beginning or business as usual? MRG says six months after the power-sharing agreement between the opposition Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity, tens of thousands of Kenyans remain displaced, living in miserable conditions in transit camps, while ethnic tensions fester.

MRG’s Head of Policy and Communications, Ishbel Matheson, says, “From the outset, the new government seemed more interested in breaking up the highly visible IDP camps in major towns, rather than facilitating the sustainable return of these people.”

“Without a serious commitment to build bridges between these communities, then violence could easily erupt again.”

The clashes, which broke out after the disputed election results, left the country with its biggest IDP crisis ever. Over 400,000 were displaced, whilst 1,500 had been killed. MRG found peace-building efforts were patchy, poorly funded and lacked major government backing.

The biggest difficulties are in the Northern Rift Valley, where the violence carried out by Kalenjin ethnic militia, against the Kikuyus, was worst. But small communities, like the indigenous Ogiek hunter-gatherer group living close to the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, were also hard-hit.

Daniel Kobei, of the Ogiek Peoples’ Development Programme says, “Our people have received no help at all. Their houses were burnt to the ground. Tensions between the Kikuyu villages and the Ogiek are still high.”

MRG’s briefing paper also examines the new government’s record on its pledge to be more inclusive.

It finds that, despite the rhetoric, the government has yet to reach out to minority and indigenous communities – some of the most marginalized and poorest sections of Kenyan society.

“If Kenya is to have a new start”, says MRG’s Ishbel Matheson, “The coalition government must put aside the ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality of the past.”

MRG says that key reforms – such as the constitutional review and a truth and justice commission – will only be successful if minorities and indigenous peoples who have borne the brunt of exclusion and injustice, are fully involved in these processes.

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Kenya’s Post Poll Violence: Africa’s Elders Seize a Leading Role

Posted on 16 August 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a four-part special report, the key players tell what happened.

In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a special report, the key players tell what happened. In Eldoret, Kenya, the town most riven by violence earlier this year, local leaders in May discuss their differences. Chief mediator Kofi Annan is shown here on Jan. 22.

REBUILDING AFTER VIOLENCE: In January, one of Africa’s most stable democracies was violently ripping itself apart. How was it saved? In a special report, the key players tell what happened. In Eldoret, Kenya, the town most riven by violence earlier this year, local leaders in May discuss their differences. Chief mediator Kofi Annan is shown here on Jan. 22.

By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
NAIROBI, KENYA – Kenya’s peace talks have barely begun. But the atmosphere in the Orchid Room of the Serena Hotel is already toxic.

“You stole the election,” shouts William Ruto, a fiery, big-framed politician.

“We didn’t steal it,” shoots back the Kenyan government’s negotiating team leader, Martha Karua. She’s the Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” of Kenyan politics. She’s not giving an inch.

In fact, Ms. Karua will be the most intractable of those seated at the table over the coming days and weeks. “We won it fair and square.” says Karua.

But there’s another African woman present, an authority figure beyond reproach, who brusquely cuts Karua off: “If that is the case, then why the violence?”

Graça Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, presses the point home. “Why the swearing-in ceremony at the State House at night? You have to acknowledge that you have a problem.”

A problem, indeed.

One of Africa’s most stable democracies was ripping itself apart. In the month following Kenya’s closely contested presidential elections, more than 700 people had died in the ethnic-political conflict. The media were starting to compare the spreading violence to the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994.

Just days before the peace talks began, Ms. Machel had personally visited camps for refugees of the violence in the Rift Valley, where a church had been deliberately torched with some 30 women and children inside. After hearing one grandmother’s tale of tragedy, Machel and the woman hugged and cried, their foreheads touching.

So, when Machel addresses all the Kenyan negotiators on Jan. 29, her voice now rising with emotion, the room falls silent.

“Your country is bleeding,” she tells them. “You need to act.”

• • •

In the next five weeks, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a team of African statesmen and women, known as The Panel of Eminent African Personalities, they achieve what few thought was possible: a cessation of fighting and a power-sharing deal to put Kenya back together again.

Machel’s presence, along with Mr. Annan, and former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, would provide important ballast. Machel and Annan are part of The Elders, a dozen experienced leaders from around the world, set up in 2007 by Mr. Mandela and others to address global problems.

At a time when Kenya’s angry “young turks” were whipping up the emotions that fed violence, these African elders had the calming influence of a stern grandparent, in front of whom one doesn’t misbehave.

“I came in at a time when there was so much mistrust,” recalls Annan in an interview later. “The two blocks had dug in. One felt they had won the elections fair and square, the other maintained ‘you stole it.’ ”

“With that sort of attitude, getting them to come together, and getting them to begin to think of coming together, and … thinking in terms that we are all Kenyans and we are one Kenya, and we need to work together to put it back together, was not an easy task,” he says with a large dose of understatement.

Today, five months later, an uneasy alliance is holding. Even Annan predicted it would take at least a year to get a fully operational government of national unity, especially given the ugly underlying issues of class, ethnicity, and wealth which had set off the crisis. But the fact that Kenya has a government at all shows that international pressure and African-led mediation can work, say experts.

To understand how peace came to Kenya, the Monitor conducted interviews with many of the key Kenyan players on both mediation teams, along with the African statesmen who steered it toward success. This story is based on their memories of the events inside the negotiation room, along with Monitor reporting of the violence that continued to brew outside – a daily reminder to everyone in Kenya of the potential costs of failure.

By the time Annan and his team arrived on Jan. 22, it was not clear how much of Kenya would be left to save. Starting on Saturday evening Dec. 29, when President Mwai Kibaki was declared victor by the Electoral Commission of Kenya and sworn into office an hour later, violence had spread swiftly across areas where the opposition’s support was strongest.

Hardest hit was the Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket, where people of all ethnicities came to farm the lands that the white British colonialists had treasured. The violence was brutal, ethnic, and personal. Young men – urged on by inflammatory FM radio stations broadcasting in the Kalenjin language – rampaged from village to village, carrying iron rods, machetes, axes, and even bows with poisoned arrows. Their targets were members of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, President Kibaki’s ethnic group. Some were given warnings to leave, others were slaughtered in their homes – or in their church.

A gang of youths set ablaze the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church in Eldoret on Jan. 1. At least 30 people were inside, taking shelter from the tribal clashes. Kenya’s leading newspaper, the Daily Nation, reported that the country is on “the verge of a complete meltdown.”

Over the next three weeks the death toll would rise to 650.

Annan’s arrival doesn’t stop the violence right away. But the lifelong diplomat wastes little time. Within two days, he convinces the two sides to negotiate with each other with no preconditions. On the evening of Jan. 24, on national TV, millions of Kenyans see the two opponents, President Kibaki and Raila Odinga, shaking hands and sipping tea.

Over the next two days, as Kibaki and Mr. Odinga assemble their mediation teams, Annan and his team hop into Kenyan military helicopters and tour the Rift Valley’s worst affected areas to assess the humanitarian needs. A spasm of violence over the weekend – including 60 murders and the assassination of a newly elected ODM legislator Melitus Mugabe Were – prompts Annan to send the mediators home to calm their grieving communities.

• • •

For his part, Mr. Odinga, the opposition leader, chooses a team of four fiery politicians, led by William Ruto. Only one among them, James Orengo, is an attorney, but the other three represent a cross section of the opposition movement’s main power bases, mostly from the Rift Valley. While the ODM party had been confrontational on the streets, in the mediation board room, they would show a more professional side, referring to their counterparts as “my learned friend” or “the honorable gentleman.”

President Kibaki, on the other hand, loads his team with lawyers, chief among them his justice minister, Martha Karua. His team would defend the election results based on the Constitution, the rule of law.

The members of each team know their opponents intimately. The relations between these two sides are so entangled that one member of the president’s team, Mutula Kilonzo, would take time out from the peace talks to argue a civil case in court for one of the opposition team members, Sally Kosgei.

Together, these eight men and women were Kenya’s brightest and most ambitious. And over the next five weeks, their debates on arcane points of constitutional law would form the sophisticated counterpoint to the images of vicious street fighting that were redefining Kenya in the eyes of world.

This article has been republished with permission from the on-line edition of the Christian Science Monitor

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Insecurity Heightens Poverty in Northwest Kenya

Posted on 31 July 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, MDGs, Poverty |

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Residents often have to rely on police reservists and have organised local security to safeguard their livestock

LODWAR, 29 July 2008 (IRIN) – John Lochimoe used to own several heads of cattle that his grandfather left him, until raiders from the neighbouring Pokot District of northwestern Kenya took the animals.

“All the cows my grandfather left me have been stolen, driving me deeper into poverty,” he said. Today, Lochimoe, a single parent of two, who also cares for his mother and mother-in-law, can hardly cope thanks to the insecurity that has robbed him of his livelihood.

“At night the dogs bark all the time and people are always on the look-out. It seems as if the peace and reconciliation efforts do not work,” Lochimoe, a former teacher living in Oropoi village, Turkana North District, said.

Like Oropoi, many areas of the mainly arid northern Kenya experience resource-based conflicts, livestock theft and a lack of access to infrastructure such as roads, schools, communication and health facilities.

The situation has particularly affected the pastoralist communities that dominate the region. The major causes of conflict include cattle-rustling, proliferation of illicit arms, inadequate policing, and competition over control and access to natural resources, according to a report by the NGO Practical Action Eastern Africa report. The NGO implements peace programmes in northern Kenya.

“The pastoralists cannot access water and pasture because of the insecurity,” Turkana Central District Commissioner George Ayonga said. Residents rely on seasonal rivers and water pans, and rising fuel costs have also reduced access to motorised water schemes.

The insecurity, he added, had caused population displacement, especially in areas such as Lokori and Lomelo, south of the main town of Lodwar.

To cope, residents often have to rely on police reservists and have organised local security to safeguard their livestock. Boys, some as young as 14, carry guns while herding livestock.

According to a drought bulletin for Turkana, June was particularly bad for conflicts in all cross-border zones of Turkana North, Central and South districts.

The problem was attributed to resource-based battles after the failure of the long rains. The region borders Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and the areas of Baringo, Marsabit, Samburu and West Pokot in Kenya.

The bulletin recommended strengthening early warning and rapid response systems, in addition to holding peace meetings and encouraging dialogue.

Health issues

According to Sarah Wanaswa of the Oropoi dispensary, many cases of assault and gunshot wounds were reported during the months of peak conflict. “When there are no peace and reconciliation efforts, there are also many raids,” Wanaswa said. “We get targeted more when the herds move.”

Apart from insecurity, the region experiences other health problems. Low awareness of personal hygiene, she added, had also often led residents to suffer preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, skin and eye infections. The dispensary, which treats between seven and 10 people each day, relies on supplies flown in by the government and NGOs.

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
John Ichom, a teacher at a Catholic mission nursery school in the Kaeris area of the Turkana North district.

The other problem was low latrine coverage. “Most people use the ‘cat method’,” she said. “Those [residents] who are mobile see no value in erecting latrines which they will not use for long.

“Some say the soil is rocky and are therefore reluctant to dig latrines,” she said. “Waste disposal depends on personal knowledge.”

Wanaswa said community health workers were conducting outreach services. “We are educating the people on the consequences of not having a toilet.”

The dispensary at Oropoi also lacks HIV prevention services while most women deliver at home, seeking medical help only in case of complications. At the same time, the population movements had also contributed to low immunisation coverage of childhood diseases such as measles.


While enrolment in nursery and primary schools is high, transition to secondary education is low due to the tradition of early marriage for girls and boys dropping out of school to take care of livestock.

High enrolment in the lower classes is boosted by the school-feeding programmes. “For most children this is their main meal,” John Ichom, a teacher at a Catholic mission nursery school in the Kaeris area of the Turkana North district, said.

There are few boarding schools and in some, the classrooms double up as dormitories at night.

“It is as if we are not part of Kenya,” said a resident of the lack of infrastructure and rampant insecurity, which had also restricted access to key markets within and outside the region.

In a bid to develop the northern regions, the government has established a ministry of state for the development of northern Kenya and other arid lands.

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Kiambaa IDPs Still Afraid to Return Home

Posted on 31 July 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

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.

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Investigate “torture” in Mt Elgon Operation, Kenya Govt Urged

Posted on 29 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
People displaced by the conflict in Mt Elgon are slowly returning home. HRW says the government must investigate claims of torture

NAIROBI, 28 July 2008 (IRIN) – A public inquiry should be set up into “torture and war crimes” committed by the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) militia and the military in Mt Elgon District, human rights activists said.

“We need an independent civilian inspectorate of the police and military … to restore trust in the security forces,” Ben Rawlence of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Africa Division said in Nairobi at the launch of a report, All the Men Have Gone: War Crimes in Kenya’s Mt Elgon District.

The report documents two years of “abuses” by both the SLDF and security forces. The SLDF, it alleges, were responsible for killing at least 600 people, terrorising thousands and torturing hundreds since 2006.

The police, paramilitary and military, on the other hand, are alleged to have tortured hundreds of men detained in mass round-ups since March in response to the militia activities.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe refuted the claims, saying the Kenyan police had followed international practice while performing their duties in the district.

“We have done our own investigations [on the allegations] and will be releasing a comprehensive report in due course,” he told IRIN, describing the reports as “very inaccurate and far-fetched”.

Blaming both the SLDF and government security forces for serious human rights abuses, the report said: “The Kenyan government has a responsibility to promptly and impartially investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for these crimes.”

“This is not an acceptable way of dealing with an insurgency … It should be within the law,” Rawlence said. The 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 against each other.

At least 37 people have “disappeared” after being taken into custody by security forces, according to the human rights group, and residents had remained wary of retributions from SLDF militias.

“The military and the police have a responsibility to protect the people from any regrouping by the SLDF,” HRW said.

HRW’s Africa director, Georgette Gagnon, said the “successful” operation to tackle the rebellion in Mt Elgon had come at a terrible cost.

The group called on foreign governments providing military aid and other assistance to Kenyan security forces to review that support in light of the mounting evidence of torture.

“Right now there is calm in Mt Elgon; people are pleased with what the military is doing but not the impact of the first three weeks of the [military] intervention,” Job Bwonya, executive director of the Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, said.

“The government should also come up with a land policy to prevent further suffering of the people of Mt Elgon,” Tiger Wanyanja, a human rights activist, said.

Hassan Omar Hassan, a commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights called for a “stop to the strategy of intimidation of humanitarian groups” working in the district.

On 21 July, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières said its staff had been stopped at roadblocks and prevented by local authorities from providing medical assistance to civilians in the district.

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