Refugees/ IDPs

Draft Policy offers new hope for Kenya IDPs

Posted on 19 March 2010. Filed under: Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
A view of the Eldoret IDP camp after the post election violence (file photo)

NAIROBI, 19 March 2010 (IRIN) – Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kenya are set to enjoy greater protection under a national policy that also aims to prevent future displacement and to fulfil the country’s obligations under international IDP law, say analysts.

The draft policy, unveiled in Nairobi on 17 March, broadens the definition to cover displacement due to political and resource-based conflict and natural disasters, as well as development projects that force people from their homes without proper relocation.

The draft policy is a departure from the current approach where “IDP issues are dealt with [on an ad hoc basis], like disasters, without addressing the root causes”, Simon Konzolo, a programme officer with Refugee Consortium of Kenya, told IRIN.

“If there is displacement, people should be protected, not have a situation where people are being pushed back to places they feel are still not safe. They will stay there for a short time, and run away again. They should be consulted,” said Konzolo.

History and hate

The policy, which emphasizes the criminality of arbitrary displacement, also calls for laws to address historical injustices, such as the national land policy 2009. Land is often at the root of conflict and subsequent displacement.

According to experts, the IDP policy will allow for the review of existing laws to deal with impunity.

“This is by making sure [displacement] perpetrators are made to account… If you make hate statements that might pit this community against the other that action is taken immediately,” said the deputy director of mitigation and resettlement in the Ministry of State for Special Programmes (MOSSP), Michael Musembei.

The policy also seeks durable solutions for IDPs. “If they were farmers, you assist them to go back to farming. It [the policy] is talking of giving them opportunities,” said Musembei.

Joined-up legislation

According to Fatuma Ibrahim Ali, a commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the response to the post-election IDP situation was fragmented. “There was a lot of corruption because of the loopholes, the sick in the fields were not accessing hospitals, and women had no reproductive health services,” she said.

The draft policy, through its institutional framework, gives clear roles to stakeholders; it further proposes the creation of an IDP fund, which experts hope will increase accountability as there will be one kitty from which evolving IDP needs can promptly be met.

“The policy’s success will depend on its harmonization with other relevant legislation,” said Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, an analyst with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

“It cannot be used as a stand-alone document; it has to be harmonized with other legislation, such as government ratification of the AU [African Union] policy, to be effective. There is a need for the government to also put in place a new constitution without delay,” Sheekh said.

A referendum on a new Kenyan constitution is scheduled for later this year.

The draft IDP policy, which will be presented before cabinet later this month, borrows heavily from the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa that obliges governments to recognize IDP vulnerabilities and need for support.

Still vulnerable

Two years after the post-election violence, tens of thousands of displaced Kenyans remain in squalid conditions in 19 integrated camps, according to MOSSP. The Mawingo camp in Nyahururu, Rift Valley Province, is the most congested with more than 3,000 households.

Former IDP households resettled on group land bought by pooling their compensation tokens of at least 10,000 shillings (about US$133) are not faring any better, according to Stephen Mbugua, an IDP leader from Maai Mahiu, in Rift Valley Province.

“The problems we have are the lack of health facilities… The other day a child died awaiting treatment. Mobile hospitals are needed,” Mbugua, who is in charge of about 1,000 people settled on 14ha of land, told IRIN.

Mbugua is aware of the draft IDP policy and expressed cautious optimism. “If this policy passes [into law] it may lessen our problems. The government will have much better knowledge of how to assist us.”

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Kenya Threatened by New Urban Disaster

Posted on 24 September 2009. Filed under: Governance, Lifestyle, Refugees/ IDPs |

Rapid urbanization is changing the face of poverty in Kenya

“If the government does not acknowledge this crisis, it will get even worse. Failure to address this now will leave Kenya paying for generations to come.”

Philippa Crosland Taylor Head of Oxfam GB, Kenya

Kenya is facing a new urban timebomb, with millions of Nairobi residents suffering a daily struggle for food and water as the divide between rich and poor widens, international aid agency Oxfam warned in a new report today. A combination of falling household income, rising prices, and poor governance is making life a misery for the poor majority in Kenya’s capital, the report on ‘Urban Poverty and Vulnerability in Kenya’ said.

Rapid urbanization is changing the face of poverty in Kenya. Nairobi’s population is set to nearly double to almost six million by 2025, and 60% of residents live in slums with no or limited access to even the most basic services such as clean water, sanitation, housing, education and healthcare. Whereas the starkest poverty has previously been found in remote rural areas, within the next ten years half of all poor Kenyans will be in towns and cities.

“An increasingly disenfranchised and poverty-stricken urban underclass is set to be the country’s defining crisis over the next decade, unless the Kenyan government and international donors act urgently to address it. Nairobi is fast becoming a divided society where the gap between rich and poor is now similar to the levels of inequality in Johannesburg at the end of apartheid. It is a city of a small minority of ‘haves’ and millions of ‘have nothings’,” said Philippa Crosland Taylor, head of Oxfam GB in Kenya.

Children in Nairobi slums are now some of the least healthy in the country, the report found. In some parts of the city, infant mortality rates are double those of poor rural areas, and half of young children suffer from acute respiratory infections and stunted growth. Acute child malnutrition is a growing concern.

The urban crisis has intensified over the past year, with people now earning less but having to pay more to survive. Household incomes have fallen due to the global economic crisis, with casual and long-term work harder to find as companies scale down. Meanwhile, the price of staple foods such as maize has more than doubled in the past year, with 90% of poor families forced to reduce the amount of food they eat as a result.

With drought devastating much of Kenya, the water crisis in Nairobi is one of the most severe in the country. Cholera cases have recently been reported and are expected to increase as almost 90% of slum dwellers have no piped clean water. Forced to buy from commercial street vendors, the poorest people often have to pay the highest prices – the report found that some poor communities pay eight times as much for water as wealthier communities in the same city.

Oxfam said the Kenyan government has repeatedly ignored the growing magnitude of the urban crisis, and urged it to invest more funds and resources in improving life for the most vulnerable residents of Nairobi’s slums. Projects that improve access to clean water and sanitation, and boost people’s income, are most urgently needed. International donors, who have tended to focus exclusively on rural poverty, also need to recognize the scale of the urban problem, the agency said.

“Just a few miles away from the country’s parliament and State House, poor families are living in breathtaking poverty, scouring the streets for scraps of food and queuing for hours for water they can barely afford. If the government does not acknowledge this crisis, it will get even worse. Failure to address this now will leave Kenya paying for generations to come,” said Crosland-Taylor.

The report warned that the rising urban inequality is creating a huge underclass with serious consequences for the country’s security and social fabric. The struggle to survive has forced some of the most vulnerable people into crime and high-risk occupations such as prostitution. Frustrated youth are increasingly turning to violence, and with Kenya still extremely politically volatile following the 2007/08 post-election violence, the risk of ethnically-linked clashes in Nairobi’s slums is being exacerbated by the growing resentment over inequality and desperate living conditions.

“Having enough food to eat and clean, safe water is one of the most basic human rights, yet in Nairobi it is increasingly only for the rich minority. Nairobi is one of the biggest and most prestigious cities in East Africa, yet it is crumbling before our eyes,” said Crosland-Taylor.

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After 50 Years, Land They Can Call Their Own

Posted on 8 July 2009. Filed under: Agriculture, Food Security, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Wilfred Muchire/IRIN
A view of the land that the government recently allocated thousands of people in Central Province

NYERI, 6 July 2009 (IRIN) – After a 50-year wait, thousands of Kenyans in Central Province have received the most coveted asset in the country – a piece of land.

The move is not only good news for those allocated the land but for the country as a whole as the move will boost food security when the recipients start farming wheat, beans, maize and livestock on the 6,070ha.

The 2,900 families have started tilling their land as the government formalizes the settlement, which was part of more than 28,327ha of land initially used for cattle farming, as well as a private game sanctuary owned by an investor.

The government paid the investor US$16.5 million for the land, between Mt Kenya and Aberdare National parks near Central Province’s boundary with Rift Valley Province.

Most of the recipients had, since independence in 1963, been living on government land within Mt Kenya forest and Aberdare Ranges until 1989 when the authorities evicted them for encroaching on water catchment areas.

Since they had nowhere else to go, they camped on road reserves adjacent to the forests where they lived in deplorable conditions.

Demarcation

They are among thousands of Kenyans who failed to secure land when demarcation took place in the late 1950s before independence. This was because they had sold off their land, had worked away from home when demarcation took place, or were so poor that they did not have any land when demarcation began.

After they were evicted from the forests in 1989, most settled in areas adjacent to the two major water towers (Mt Kenya and Aberdare National Parks) in areas such as Chehe, Hombe, Kagochi and Ragati near Mt Kenya and Zaina, Kabage and Gakanga in Aberdare Ranges.

Japhter Kiplimo Rugut, the Central Province commissioner, who has been overseeing the resettlement, said the settlement scheme involved farmers living on designated sites and farming elsewhere.

Under this model, being tested for the first time but set to be rolled out in other areas where there are squatters, the allocated land entailed 0.2ha for each farmer to set up a homestead and another 1.6ha on which to farm.

“People will be living in one area and farming elsewhere in this new planned settlement scheme,” Rugut told IRIN. “The government will be carrying out a similar exercise in Kibwezi area of lower Eastern Province and in parts of Coast Province where there are landless people waiting to be given land.”


Photo: Wilfred Muchire/IRIN
Mary Wambui outside her hut; she is one of the thousands of beneficiaries of government land

Food security

Rugut said the move was expected to boost the region’s food security as the government had, for years, been feeding the families.

“We have been giving relief supplies to the more than 2,900 families who have been given land,” he said. “They did not have anywhere to farm and solely relied on the government supplies, which will be a thing of the past once they settle in their farms.”

The government has set aside more than $1.2 million to set up various amenities in the area, including water, electricity, health and education facilities.

James Mwangi, 75, one of the recipients, said he hoped to enjoy the fruits of his land despite his advanced age.

“I have been landless throughout my life and I can only thank God and the government for eventually giving me a piece of land; we have suffered for decades,” Mwangi said.

Another recipient, Mary Wambui, was optimistic that despite the failing rains, she would harvest her own crop after years of depending on relief supplies.

“The last time I harvested my crops was in 1989 before we were evicted from Mt Kenya forest; for the last 20 years, we have been surviving on government and Red Cross supplies and occasionally [some] from well-wishers,” she said.

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Kenya Govt Violated Guiding Principles in IDP Resettlement

Posted on 16 October 2008. Filed under: Governance, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
An IDP puts up a shelter in a camp near the town of Eldoret in Rift Valley province: Human rights activists say the Kenya government has no specific law on internal displacement

NAIROBI, 16 October 2008 (IRIN) – Kenyan officials “violated with impunity” the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement during an operation to resettle people displaced by post-election violence early this year, human rights activists have said.

“Kenya has no specific policy on internal displacement; it has no domestic law on protection and resettlement of IDPs [internally displaced persons],” Ndungu Wainaina, executive director for the International Centre for Conflict and Policy, a Kenyan non-governmental think-tank “committed to transitional justice”, told IRIN.

He said the Guiding Principles were mostly applied ad-hoc during Operation Rudi Nyumbani [Return Home], launched by the government in May to resettle hundreds of thousands of IDPs mainly in the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces.

Wainaina said Kenya was yet to apply the protocols it signed under the Great Lakes Process – a set of 10 agreed upon by countries in the Horn, East and Central Africa which, among other issues, provide for the protection and assistance to IDPs as well as the property rights of returning persons.

Rebuttal

''We want to celebrate Christmas this year with all the displaced having left the camps''

However, Ali Mohamed, permanent secretary in the ministry charged with handling of IDP affairs, the Ministry of State for Special Programmes, said on 15 October that the government “applied every letter and spirit” of the Guiding Principles during the recent resettlement of IDPs in the country.

“The rights of the displaced are provided for in other laws in place, such as those on human rights,” Mohamed said. “The Guiding Principles have been crucial in our activities; we have been practising and using them in areas such as the rights of IDPs to their property, to safe and voluntary return.”

Contrary to claims by human rights activists that some IDPs were forced out of camps, Mohamed said the government ensured that the displaced left the camps voluntarily.

“The Guiding Principles emphasise the right to protection and shelter and this has been our stand; we want to celebrate Christmas this year with all the displaced having left the camps,” he said.

“Up until now, the government has been fully cognisant of the UN’s Guiding Principles and has circulated them among its human rights agencies, law enforcement agencies as well as other partners involved in the resettlement of IDPs… For instance, a copy of the Guiding Principles is available in every district commissioner’s office in Rift Valley Province.”

Mohamed added that all district commissioners as well as senior government officials in the provincial authority had undergone training on the application of the Guiding Principles.

Swahili version

The government and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Kenya) launched on 15 October the Swahili version of the Guiding Principles.

The principles – first set out in 1998 – underscore the rights of IDPs as they are not protected under the Refugee Convention. Since their launch, several governments have developed laws and policies on internal displacement based on the Guiding Principles.

In 2007, the UN estimated the number of people displaced within their countries by armed conflicts and violence to be more than 26 million, with Africa hosting almost half of them – 12.7 million – and generating nearly half of the world’s newly displaced (1.6 million).

Mohamed said: “There are attempts, at the regional level, to domesticate the protocols of the Great Lakes Process. Once this is done, then Kenya will domesticate these protocols,” Mohamed said.

Human rights commission

Fatma Ibrahim, a commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, said although the government had greatly helped the IDPs who fled their homes in January and February, “Operation Rudi Nyumbani” left a lot to be desired.

“In our own assessment, we do agree that, yes, the government has done some good work in providing food, medical aid and financial assistance to some of the displaced, but in terms of their resettlement, we feel that the poor involvement of the IDPs in a substantive way weakens the application of the UN’s Guiding Principles.”

She said gaps remained in the dissemination of information to IDPs on their rights, which the Guiding Principles specify.

“They IDPs feel they were not adequately consulted on the resettlement process; those remaining in camps are not clear about their entitlement; there seems to be insufficient information to the IDPs on what is available and what they are entitled to; our assessment found that there was little information-sharing in this regard.”

Ibrahim said the government had used only public rallies, known as `barazas’, to inform the IDPs of their rights.

“This way of disseminating information is weak, the heavy-handedness from the provincial authorities in some instances, such as giving deadlines for the displaced to leave camps, and the lack of substantive participation of the IDPs in the process, were in violation of the Guiding Principles,” she said.

She said the government should adhere to the standards provided for in the Guiding Principles and in international humanitarian law in the resettlement of IDPs.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Aeneas Chuma, the UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator shakes hands with an IDP during a tour of Rift Valley

“When the government closes a camp yet some IDPs remain at the camp or gives a three-day deadline for the IDPs to leave the camp, the question is, why close the camps? Doesn’t this mean the displaced are being forced out of these camps?” Ibrahim said.

UN humanitarian coordinator

Aeneas Chuma, the Kenya UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said on 15 October that displacement does not end with the return home of the displaced. It ends “when particular needs and vulnerabilities linked to the displacement are resolved, and not always with return”.

Chuma said: “For these people [IDPs] and for those who have not yet returned, continued assistance and support is required to find durable solutions.”

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Floods Displace thousands in Mandera NEP

Posted on 16 October 2008. Filed under: Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Richard Lough/IRIN
Thousands of people displaced by flash floods following heavy rains in Mandera are in need of medical assistance to prevent an outbreak of water-borne disease, an official of the Kenya Red Cross Society said

MANDERA, 16 October 2008 (IRIN) – More than 10,000 people have been displaced by flash floods following heavy rains that pounded Mandera in north-eastern Kenya and southern parts of Somalia this week, aid agencies said.

Kenya Red Cross Communications Officer Titus Mung’ou said that food and non-food items had been provided to families from an estimated 1,500 households that were displaced by the water that has been flowing across Mandera district in the past two days.

“We have a team on the ground; they have assessed the situation and established that at least 10,000 [people] have been uprooted from their homes, 426 toilets destroyed, and three schools are not accessible; they are flooded,” Mung’ou said in an interview with IRIN.

He added that the affected families are in need of urgent medical assistance to prevent an outbreak of water-borne disease, and that food supplies are running short.

“We require at least 10,000 tonnes of food, but at the moment only 1,300 tonnes of rice are available for those who are homeless and are camping some four kilometres away from the town,” Mung’ou appealed.

Heavy rains pounded Mandera district late on 14 October after months of severe drought causing heavy floods that displaced dozens of families and massive destruction of houses and business premises. It is feared that two people drowned.

Local residents and leaders said that more than 200 families from Bulla Mpya, Jamhuri and Boys Town villages were displaced overnight. The government has deployed a team of army personnel to help assist those displaced.

The floods have forced more than 300 students at Mandera secondary school to leave the premises. They have been relocated to a nearby primary school; some are thought to have lost their belongings.

Abdullahi Hussein, an elder who spoke to IRIN, said that more than 100 small kiosks – largely operated by women – were swept away by the floods taking with them vital stocks and cooking utensils.

“Owners of small kiosks that are lined across the stream are the hardest hit. They have all lost their goods, personal items, and are all out of business.”

Hussein added that most of the families have now gone to stay with relatives, but that they now urgently need water, shelter and food, and require help to be resettled and to restart their businesses.

He condemned the government for reacting too slowly to the disaster.


Photo: Melvin Chibole/ActionAid
After a long period of drought in Mandera, thousands of people were displaced by flash floods following heavy rains in the region this week

“These people were displaced last night and this morning. They are yet to be assisted and only a few have [received] food. They need more assistance,” he stressed.

Dahabo Daud, from Mandera Women for Peace, said many families have been deprived a source of income, and added that it was painful that the tragedy has hit the district after months of severe drought.

Ismail Adam, a local farmers’ representative in Mandera, said that all farms in Lamagala and Sufti areas were destroyed, and expressed fears that residents will be unable to harvest essential crops that support almost half the local population.

“We were very happy when it started to rain last night, but our joy has now become a moment of mourning; we have lost two people, all [farm] houses have been damaged, and we need food relief.”

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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.”

Camps

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’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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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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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.

(END/2008)

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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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Post-Violence Sex Work Boom in Kenya

Posted on 11 July 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, Lifestyle, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/IRIN
Desperation limits your options

MOMBASA, 9 July 2008 (PlusNews) – Like thousands of other Kenyans, Susan Wairimu, 17, was displaced from her home in the Rift Valley Province’s Molo district during the violence that followed a disputed presidential election in December 2007 and sought shelter in the nearby town of Nakuru.

A cousin living in the coastal town of Mombasa offered to accommodate her until the violence ended, offering an escape from the single tent she shared with her parents at the displaced persons camp in Nakuru.

“I had no idea of the kind of work my cousin used to do in the beginning; I came to know some few days after my arrival, when she told me she operates as a call girl from the beaches.”

Kenya’s coast is one of its most popular tourist destinations: an estimated two million tourists visited Kenya in 2007, many of them heading for the Indian Ocean towns of Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu, where commercial sex work is one of the main ways many women earn money.

Before long Wairimu was introduced to the business of selling sex. “We now have the skills and have learnt that the amount of money a man parts with will determine the kind of pleasure we will offer him. For example, making love without a condom will cost a client more money than using one,” she said.

“The killing in my village taught me a lesson and prepared me for a tough life, and now I do not fear death any more,” she added. “I do not fear HIV and I believe that you will die when your day arrives, and the disease will not determine, but only God.”

Wairimu accepts as little as 300 Kenya shillings (US$4.50) for an entire night, sometimes with two men.

Locals at the coast say sex workers in the region traditionally used to target wealthy foreign tourists, usually from Europe. Today, a fall in tourist numbers after the post-election violence and an increased number of sex workers means every man, old or young, black or white, is seen as a potential customer.

Wairimu is one of an estimated two hundred girls between 15 and 18 years of age who are now engaged in full-time sex work along Kenya’s coast, according to Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI), a local non-governmental organisation that sensitises sex workers to the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

Increase in child sex trade

Child sex work is not uncommon along the coast; a 2006 study by the government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that up to 30 percent of teenagers in some coastal areas were involved in casual sex for cash.

Agnetta Mirikau, a child protection specialist with UNICEF Kenya, told IRIN/PlusNews that the organisation had received reports of an increase in the child sex trade since the election.

SOLWODI’s field coordinator in Mombasa, Grace Odembo, told IRIN/PlusNews that most of the girls who resorted to sex work were high school drop-outs, which would make it difficult for them to find formal employment.

“The girls have opted to sell their bodies in order to get money for survival,” Odembo said. “We try as much as we can … to convince them out of [sex work].”

The 2006 study also found that 35.5 percent of all sex acts involving children and tourists took place without condoms, putting the girls at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The HIV prevalence in Kenya’s Coast Province is 5.9 percent, higher than the national average of 5.1 percent.

SOLWODI runs counselling, return-to-school programmes and vocational skills training for girls who wish to get out of the trade. Since its formation in 1997, the organisation has managed to get 5,000 girls and women to leave the sex industry.

''The girls have opted to sell their bodies in order to get money for survival … We try as much as we can to convince them out of [sex work].''

Hoteliers often turn a blind eye to residents bringing underage girls into their rooms, but some have a more strict policy regarding commercial sex on their premises.

“We never accommodate any visitors who try to check into our hotels with young-looking girls until we get some required details about the girl,” Mohammed Hersi, general manager of the Mombasa’s Sarova White Sands Beach Hotel, told IRIN/PlusNews. “[We usually] establish who the girls are, what they are up to and, most important, their ages.”

SOLWODI also trains hotels to implement an existing code of conduct to prevent sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector, but by late 2007, only 20 hotels had signed the code of conduct.

The deputy mayor of Mombasa, John Mcharo, said keeping the girls off the streets was difficult. “Yes, we can arrest the girls but only charge them with loitering, just like we’ve done before, but this can’t stop the girls from finding their way back to the streets and beaches as soon as they come out of our custody.”

Girls at the beach generally wear bathing suits, so it is difficult to distinguish between sex workers trawling the beach for customers and girls who are simply enjoying a day at the beach.

Local law enforcement officers and religious leaders have called on the government to do more to stop underage girls selling sex in the area. “The government has to come up with a special programme that can get the girls not only off the beaches but off the streets,” said Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa, organising secretary of the council of Imams and preachers of Kenya.

He added that his organisation frequently held workshops to urge underage girls to quit the trade, and provided them with spiritual guidance.

The government has a children’s department in every district, which is responsible for the protection of children from exploitation and abuse. According to Patrick Wafula, of the Mombasa police department, much of the work of the department’s special tourism unit consists of arresting the perpetrators of child sex abuse and exploitation.

“We usually carry out raids in areas we suspect to be meeting points for the girls and their potential clients,” he said.

The government also recently expanded the child protection units at police stations, adding children’s officers and improving judicial services, so that they are now better prepared to handle children’s issues.

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Kenya IDPs Hold Out for Better Compensation

Posted on 8 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
IDPs are choosing to remain in the camps in the hope of a better government compensation package

NAKURU, 7 July 2008 (IRIN) – Jane Wanjiru Maina, a mother of seven, is tired of living in an internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp in the show grounds of Nakuru, in the Rift Valley.

“The tents are now starting to leak and I can see a possibility of spending the [Christmas] holidays here,” said Maina, who also has three grandchildren under her care in the camp. She lost property worth 485,000 shillings (US$8,000) during a wave of violence that followed December’s presidential election.

“Although I would really like to leave so that I can take care of my family like I used to before, I have to stay on until the government comes up with a better compensation package,” she said.

Each resettled IDP household is receiving 10,000 shillings ($166) in family assistance funds. The IDPs also take home a one-month food ration along with a kitchen kit.

“If I leave this place with 10,000 shillings, will my grandchildren ever learn to read and write?” she asked. “We are not landowners so why should we have to go back to receive compensation?” The resettlement funds are paid out in areas of return.

Most of the former IDPs who have returned to their places of origin are landowning farmers, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Many of those still living in camps are agricultural workers, who do not own land, or business people.


Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Jane Wanjiru Maina, an IDP living at the Nakuru show ground camp

At least 68,519 IDPs were still in 101 camps as of 1 July, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS).

Another IDP among the 14,000 living in the Nakuru show grounds said he preferred to stay there to be in a better position to lobby for more support.

“Why should I get the same amount of money as someone who is going back to his farm?” Samuel Mbote asked. “Even if you are moved [from the camp] with the tent, where will you pitch it?”

More time

The IDPs in the showground camp and the Afraha stadium camp, also in Nakuru, had been expected to start returning home on 1 July.

However, they asked for more time to allow them to bury an IDP killed during a demonstration.

According to the director of resettlements at the Ministry of Special Programmes, Wilfred Ndolo, discussions were ongoing to find a long-term solution for such IDPs. “They will probably get interest-free loans,” he said.

He added that there were plans to provide an extra 25,000 shillings ($416) for shelter support. “We have the money but we still do not have the data of those who lost their houses.”

At least 36 million shillings ($600,000) has been paid out in shelter support to 3,600 households, he said.

Meanwhile, the IDPs who remained in the camps were still receiving assistance. “They have food, water and electricity,” Anthony Mwangi, the KRCS public relations manager, said.


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Food being distributed at the Nakuru IDP camp

“Nobody is being forced to leave the camp. They don’t want to go back with no [shelter] structures,” he said. The KRCS has built 10 houses for returnees in the Matharu area of the Rift Valley with plans for the construction of another 1,000 units depending on funding.

Transport problems had also delayed IDP returns at the Kedong camp in Naivasha, he said.

The Red Cross official said there was a need for further efforts to foster reconciliation. IDPs who had been resettled in Surgow, in Eldoret North District, from a camp in Eldoret had to be returned to the camp after receiving a hostile reception.

According to OCHA, about 100,000 people have left IDP camps for 134 “transit sites” near their home areas. The OCHA report said sanitation facilities in some sites was below standard, with residents defecating in the open, leading to a risk of disease.

Cases of malnutrition have also been detected among IDPs in “host” communities not targeted by food aid, according to OCHA.

The resettlement of IDPs began on 5 May in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province under a government campaign, Operation Rudi Nyumbani (Go Back Home). So far, at least 210,000 IDPs have left the camps, including those in transit sites, Ndolo said.

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Kenya IDPs: Nicholas Nyanumba: “We voted but our leaders are not helping us”

Posted on 3 July 2008. Filed under: Governance, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Nicholas Nyanumba believes the government’s compensation plan is inadequate

NAKURU, 2 July 2008 (IRIN) – Nicholas Nyanumba is one of 12,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in a temporary camp set up in the show grounds of the Rift Valley town of Nakuru.

Nyanumba was displaced when fighting broke out in his hometown after the disputed presidential election in December 2007. The former resident of the Kisimaa area in Nakuru talked to IRIN about his experiences and why he is resisting government pressure for IDPs to return home.

“All that we owned was burnt; we have no businesses or property to return to. We are now being fed as we have nothing, even the clothes we are wearing do not belong to us.

“At night we look for a place for the children to sleep as they cannot fit in our tent; already we are three families sharing a tent.

“We are being offered 10,000 shillings [US$150] to restart our lives – this money is too little.

“What can you do with the money? Do you pay rent, buy a mattress or what? If you are sick, who will take care of you? It’s like leaving a newborn child on the road for a Good Samaritan to help; if there’s heavy rain … well.

“Instead, the money being spent investigating the post-election violence should be used to help us. We should deal with the present not the past.

“Being asked to leave the camps right now is like leaving hospital when you are unwell and being told to go buy medicine only to find you cannot afford it. Then, you cannot go back to the hospital to ask for a cheaper prescription.

“We are being told there is no security out there. Most of the police posts are far [away]. Here, we sleep in peace. An old injury just needs to be poked a bit and the pain becomes fresh again.

“The camp is not like a school where you know there is a place to go back to when the term ends.

“Why aren’t those who went to Uganda as refugees being forced to return home? Why were those Kenyans who were attacked in South Africa told they would be compensated for their businesses?

“We are not refusing to leave the camps; we are just saying that if we are compensated for our lost property, they won’t see us here.

“We voted but our leaders are not helping us. If you keep lying to a child, the child ends up hating you.

“That is why I cannot fill in the form saying that I am going back.”

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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