Kenya refugees fear renewed violence

Wednesday June 23 2010

A family folds their tent before receiving their payment of Sh35,000 at the Eldoret ASK Showground in early October, 2009. Some of the internal refugees expressed fears of renewed chaos in the post-election violence hotspots following inflammatory remarks by politicians in the ongoing referendum campaigns June 23, 2010. Photo/FILE

A family folds their tent before receiving their payment of Sh35,000 at the Eldoret ASK Showground in early October, 2009. Some of the internal refugees expressed fears of renewed chaos in the post-election violence hotspots following inflammatory remarks by politicians in the ongoing referendum campaigns June 23, 2010. Photo/FILE  

By LUCAS BARASA

Kenya internal refugees have expressed fears of renewed chaos in the post-election violence hotspots following inflammatory remarks by politicians in the ongoing referendum campaigns.

The worries, the Internally Displaced Persons said, have been worsened by the start of the International Criminal Court investigations into the 2007 violence and the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission process.

IDPs national chairman James Muchina and IDPs Network coordinator Kepha Mageni were, however, happy with the action being taken by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission on leaders accused of engaging in hate speech.

“There’s a lot of tension in areas that were adversely affected by the post election chaos. People are being intimidated and threatened. There’s also a lot of fear and negative ethnicity, a thing that is worrying,” Mr Mageni told a workshop on protection of IDPs organised by Kituo cha Sheria and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Nairobi Wednesday.

They said the threats were as a result of deliberate misinterpretation of the land clause in the proposed constitution and the fact that suspected perpetrators of post election violence were “still roaming around freely".

The IDPs officials named Mt Elgon, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kipkelion, Kuresoi and Kericho as the most affected by threats to violence and urged the government to beef up security.

Satellite camps

They regretted that most of security personnel deployed to the areas at the height of the chaos that left 1,133 people dead and 650,000 displaced had since been withdrawn.

Mr Muchina said the IDPs who had returned to their farms were contemplating returning to satellite camps for security reasons.

“Ethnicity, threats and rumours witnessed before the 2007 chaos have started emerging yet the government has done little to take security personnel closer to the people. When the ICC prosecutor came temperatures on the ground went up,” Mr Muchina said.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was in the country in May.

The IDPs further called on the government to carry out civic education and clarify claims by the NO camp that some communities will be evicted from their farms if the proposed constitution is passed.

Lawyer Paul Muite took issue with the government for failing to allocate enough money for resettlement of IDPs in this year’s budget.

He, however, called on IDPs to increase pressure on the government to address the issues affecting them.

He was hopeful that prosecution of key financiers of 2007 post election violence in the Hague would pave way for establishment of a local tribunal to deal with “small” fish.

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights commissioner Hassan Omar and a Centre for Human Rights and Governance official Kipseret Chepting regretted that some people were occupying houses and farms that belong to others especially in Nairobi and Rift Valley but the government was doing nothing to evict them.

Semblance of peace

Mr Omar said some IDPs had reported to his organisation threats of violence ahead of the August 4 referendum and indicated that they would rather not vote.

“They say they don’t want the referendum to interfere with semblance of peace they are enjoying,” Mr Omar said, adding that the government should ensure all Kenyans enjoyed their right to vote either Yes or No.

An assistant director in-charge of resettlement at the Ministry of Special Programmes, Mr Michael Nyamai, said 798 IDPs families out of 6,082 have been resettled.

“Others were allocated money by the government and relocated elsewhere,” Mr Nyamai said.

Some 2,140 families have also been returned from Uganda, Mr Nyamai said.

He blamed problems experienced in the resettlement programme to lack of legal constitutional framework for guidance in addressing issues affecting IDPs.

He said his Ministry also appeared to be reactive and crisis driven rather than proactive and lacked adequate finances and staff.