The shame of Kenya’s IDP riddle
Posted Tuesday, July 24 2012 at 01:00
Mid last week, I received an invitation for the National IDPs Anniversary Day to be marked on the 18th of next month at the Likoni Catholic Church, which was home to the victims of the Likoni clashes of 1997.
The invite was from Eliatha Mate, a gentleman I met at the Coast and who is a living testimony of the hardships internally displaced persons endure, considering that he has been displaced more than once — and still hopes that one day, just one bright day, he will get justice.
Eliatha is a forgotten IDP, one of the hundreds of thousands in different parts of Kenya who no one cares about, no one thinks about and no one wants to talk about because “there are no records”.
Whenever the issue of IDPs comes up, what is starkly clear is lack of information about the hundreds of thousands who continue to live in deplorable conditions or languish in poverty after fleeing their homes and farms.
Many Kenyans think that the 2007/2008 post-election violence victims are the only IDPs, and even the government talks only about them as it sets deadlines for assisting them, then fails to meet the same because it is unaware of their various needs or whereabouts.
That lack of information complicates the search for a durable solution to the IDP problem, says Sandra Musoga, the senior programmes officer in charge of access to information at the regional office of Article 19, the international NGO which campaigns for freedom of expression and access to information.
“Government officials fail to understand how lack of information impacts the lives of the IDPs and increases their vulnerability,” says Sandra, who has been to different camps and towns to oversee programmes that focus on access to information for IDPs.
Just before the first multi-party elections in 1992, a breakout of what was then known as tribal clashes rendered many people homeless in Molo.
Resettling them then became every politician’s war cry, and before that could happen, the Likoni clashes happened in the run up to the 1997 elections. Many were displaced.
Granted, some of the victims were either employees or businesspeople in those areas and did not own land, but they fled to seek refuge in areas where they had no means of earning livelihoods.
In Nakuru’s Ndeffo area, there are IDPs who were displaced in 1992 and were never resettled.
They went to live with their relatives in other areas and were displaced again in 2007/2008.
Since they did not live in camps, they were not profiled and lost out on the government’s compensation plans.
In the informal settlements of Kisumu, there are groups of “integrated” IDPs who claim that their pleas have been ignored by the Ministry of Special Programmes and they have not received any sort of assistance.
Forced to flee the violence in parts of Rift Valley and Central Kenya, the IDPs in Kisumu were initially living in a camp in the town, but as the situation around the country normalised, the camp was disbanded and they were encouraged to go to their ancestral homes or shack up with relatives.
While IDPs from other areas received the start-up fund of Sh10,000 and later Sh25,000 for reconstruction, these integrated IDPs of Kisumu were assumed to have settled and received no financial assistance.
“Some of them did not receive any money because they did not have identity cards,” Kisumu East Senior District Commissioner Mabeya Mogaka says, adding that they were given the option of procuring IDs and then receiving payment.
The IDPs say businessmen from other parts of the country who lost property in the town received government funds, channelled through the District Treasury, and the DC confirms that, saying “the government works differently and started assisting the worst-affected”.