Kibaki, Raila face IDPs
Published on April 24, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
Today’s tour of the Rift Valley by President Kibaki and Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, is expected to be a major litmus test of the Government’s commitment to resettle the more than 140,000 displaced people still living in camps.
Intrigues and silent protests have characterised the planned visit, with the possibility of attracting hostility from a section of MPs and the host communities.
Hurdles have also been put on the way of the tour, with the region’s MPs insisting that the host communities had neither been prepared to receive their former neighbours nor were there adequate structures to resettle IDPs.
The three-day visit also takes place against expectation by the IDPs that the Government could finally resettle them.
But there is also discontent among local leaders even as a group of former MPs announced that Kanu had quit the Party of National Unity.
But Raila moved swiftly to reassure grumbling MPs from the province that the visit was not a prelude to forced resettlement of the IDPs.
“Let me clarify that the President is not going to resettle people. You cannot do that in a day. We are going to dialogue and find best options to resolve the crisis,” Raila said to cool tempers.
Agriculture minister, Mr William Ruto, also dismissed claims that Rift Valley MPs had disagreed with President Kibaki and Raila on resettlement of displaced people.
Ruto said the only difference that emerged was on the “approach and not the principle”.
However, a scanty statement from the Presidential Press Service (PPS) left doubt whether the President and the Prime Minister would face the IDPs and address their plight.
The President, PM and Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, will tour Eldoret, Trans Nzoia, Kipkelion, Sotik, Molo and Naivasha. It will be a litmus test for the fragile coalition: Does it have the capacity to resettle the IDPs?
In Eldoret, the leaders will address a rally at Kipchoge Keino Stadium and not at the ASK grounds where 20,000 IDPs are camping.
Kibaki and Raila will also address roadside rallies in Molo and Naivasha, but it was not clear whether they would visit IDPs in both towns.
|Eldoret ASK showground camp that hosts about 17,000 displaced people.
Failure to meet the IDPs could leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Many displaced people camping at Ndundori centre, Nakuru District, said the leaders’ visit would help show the seriousness of the Government in addressing their plight.
IDPs in Nakuru and Eldoret were preparing to tell President Kibaki and Raila to their face that they were tired of living in squalid conditions in the camps without adequate food.
Local MPs were demanding that all those arrested during the post-election violence for alleged arson and killings be released.
But the urgency of the plight of IDPs was underlined when Parliament suspended normal business last evening to discuss the emotive issue.
MPs were united in calling for the immediate resettlement of IDPs, even as emotions ran high during the two-and-half hour debate.
But commenting on today’s tour, Raila said the visit to the vast region that bore the brunt of post-election violence was largely on humanitarian grounds.
He asked leaders and residents not to misconstrue the visit as a forceful attempt to return IDPs to farms they were uprooted from by the violence.
“The visit is to address a humanitarian crisis that is getting worse and to assess the level of intervention by the coalition Government,” said Raila.
Speaking at his Treasury office after meeting a delegation of experts from the US, led by American Ambassador, Mr Michael Ranneberger, he said: “We appeal for patience and dialogue. That is why we are visiting people to get to know the best options of resolving the crisis.”
He went on: “Let us not politicise a humanitarian crisis. There is looming famine and the President and myself have a constitutional duty to protect Kenyans from the threat of hunger and displacement. This can only be done through such fact-finding visits.”
Ranneberger said the US was committed to help Kenya’s reconstruction and supported those affected by post-poll violence and was waiting for the coalition Government to take the bold step.
“We have committed Sh1.5 billion to support reconciliation, reform and the return of displaced persons to their homes,” he said.
The envoy challenged Kenya to address grievances that fuelled the crisis.
“I appeal to Kenyans to give the coalition Government support and patience to allow it address complex issues,” Ranneberger said.
The visit could also make or break the peace building and reconciliation efforts undertaken by the Catholic and Anglican churches in the vast region.
The post-election crisis, triggered by a disputed presidential election, led to the killing of 1,200 people and displacement of 350,000 others, 140,000 of whom are still in IDP camps.
Rift Valley MPs said yesterday that while President Kibaki and Raila were welcome to the region, there were no structures in place to receive IDPs in their previous homes just yet.
Mr David Koech, the Secretary of Rift Valley Parliamentary Group and also the Mosop MP, said they were not opposed to the return of the IDPs, but were asking for more time to initiate a healing process and prepare the hosts to co-exist with their neighbours.
The dissatisfaction among Rift Valley MPs took another dimension when former Kanu lawmakers from the region pulled out of PNU and demanded that the party formally does the same.
Former MPs, Mr Gedion Moi, Mr John Sambu, Mr Joseph Kimkung, Mr Ezekiel Barng’etuny and former Eldoret North parliamentary aspirant, Mr Jonathan Bii, said Rift Valley had been shortchanged in the allocation of Government positions.
The decision came on the heels of Tuesday’s meeting between MPs and President Kibaki at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, which was characterised by hostility.
This could easily replicate itself during meetings unless the MPs were assured that a committee would work on the logistics of resettling the IDPs.
Apart from the hostility, the two leaders will have to face the challenge of fake IDPs who have flooded the camps and the thorny issue of compensation.
Reported by David Ohito, Anderson Ojwang, Steve Mkawale, Vincent Bartoo and PPS