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MPs warn over rush to return refugees

Publication Date: 4/22/2008

Hope for a quick resettlement of internal refugees could be jolted today when MPs from the Rift Valley meet President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga with a recommendation to delay the move until the root causes of the January violence are established by the proposed Justice, Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Uprooted families camping at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru. Return to their farms could be delayed. Photo/FILE

The more than 40 MPs are expected to table a recommendation that it would be unwise to rush to resettle the refugees now living in camps before dealing with the causes of the mistrust that has developed over between communities in the region.

The 350,000 people were forced out of their homes following violence that broke out as a result of the disputed presidential election results in December.

Rift Valley bore the brunt of the mayhem with most of those displaced coming from the province. 

The chaos left about 1,200 people dead.

Our terms

Yesterday, the Rift Valley MPs went into a consultative forum at a city hotel ahead of today’s meeting.

“We want to go and listen to what the President and the Prime Minister will tell us then we will give them our terms. We will meet as Kalenjin MPs in the evening today (yesterday) to agree on our agenda,” said Bomet MP Franklin Bett.

If the MPs’ view on the resettlement holds, it would spell doom for over 200,000 displaced people living in camps in the province and 150,000 others in other parts of the country.

Government sources confirmed the meeting will take place at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre today from 10 am. 

Agriculture minister William Ruto broke news of the meeting at the weekend in Eldoret when he said leaders from the region would meet President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to find a lasting solution to violence during elections. 

Among the options that today’s meeting will explore are resettling the affected families on their farms. 

This would mean that the people are taken back to their homes under police escort, but this could stretch the force and may not guarantee their safety after the officers leave.

Alternatively, the Government could buy  land  for the victims elsewhere.

But finding this could present problems to the victims as land might not be readily available in places of their choice.

Resettlement was one of the issues that were reportedly discussed between the President and the PM  at Harambee House yesterday.

Arrested people

Although a few have gone back to their farms after the relative calm, the majority are still living in camps.

Yesterday, Mr Bett urged the Government not to hurriedly resettle the displaced people until the underlying causes of the fighting has been addressed. 

“A rushed exercise is not a solution to the frequent bouts of political violence. Resettlement of the displaced people should not only be for political expediency. Let us do it for the coming generation and for peace,” he said.

To avoid a superficial solution, the ODM MP posed some questions which, he said, leaders from the region were in agreement should be resolved. 

“Why is this problem coming up every time? Why in an election year? There must be a problem that is embedded in the minds of the people of the Rift Valley and this problem must not be superficially done,” he said.

MPs Musa Sirma (Nominated) and Julius Kones (Konoin) agreed with Mr Bett that the Government was hurrying in the resettlement. 

Dr Kones said that in addition to the commission, they would demand that dozens of people from the region who were arrested during the violence are released  and charges against them dropped.

Mr Bett traced the problem to the colonial period and blamed the founding father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, for failing to allow ‘original owners’ to take over the land that was left by the settlers. 

“Kenyatta decided to trash the pact with leaders and this continued well into the seventies. People who were in the know — home-guards — expanded their land in central Kenya and in the process created IDPs. 

“These are the people who were brought to buy land cheaply in the Rift Valley  through groups such as Nyakinyua I, Nyakinyua II and Nyakinyua III to create space for home-guards. 

“This is why we have large tracts of empty land in Central Province belonging to home-guards,” he said.

“Somebody can say that I bought the land on which I am living. These are later cases, but the original buyers got it for a song. 

“This is why we are saying that, all issues must be handled properly, conclusively, comprehensively and fairly,” he said. 

But Water and Irrigation assistant minister Mwangi Kiunjuri urged the Government to speedily resettle the refugees as it works on the establishment of the truth team. 

He was categorical that the issue was political and it was up to the politicians to find a solution to it.


About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.


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