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HOW SAFE ARE IDPS AFTER RETURN?

MPs’ fears as internal refugees return home

Story by NATION Team
Publication Date: 5/5/2008

MPs Sunday expressed fears that deployment of security officers might not be a lasting solution to resettling clash victims as thousands of Kenyans displaced in post-election violence start returning to their homes Monday.

Internally displaced people camping at Eldoret showground pray during an interdenominational service at the camp. Inset: MPs from left John Mututho, Lee Kinyanjui, William Ruto, Mureithi Nderitu, Joseph Kiuna, Jackson Kiptanui, William Cheptumo and Peris Simam sing a hymn during the prayers. Photos/JARED NYATAYA

Cabinet minister William Ruto, who led MPs in prayers ahead of the Government resettlement programme, said the use of security personnel without addressing the underlying causes of the problem will not provide permanent solutions.

Meanwhile, the Government yesterday outlined 11 steps to be taken in moving internal refugees back to their homes.

Elsewhere, five MPs from Rift Valley Province urged the Government to get the views of internal refugees before embarking on its mission to resettle them.

Speaking in Rongai during a thanksgiving party hosted by area MP Luka Kigen, the MPs said some people were not ready to go back to their homes.

Cooled tension

Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said the recent visits by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga had eased tension and animosity in the province.

He, however, said the two leaders failed to address all the people affected because they only addressed rallies in the urban centres.

Other MPs at the function were  Mr  Mr Sammy Mwaita (Baringo Central), Mr William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Mr John Mututho (Naivasha).

The Eldoret prayers were attended by seven other MPs as part of the Government’s effort to try and move thousands of people who have been living in camps and police stations for four months.

Mr Ruto said: “Guns and police stations cannot help bring peace if the neighbours are not in agreement. We need genuine reconciliation.”

Mr Ruto said refugees who will not be willing to return to their farms will be supported in their various camps as the Government assesses the situation.

The prayer meeting was attended by MPs Mureithi Nderitu (Laikipia West), Nelson Gaichuhie (Subukia), Joseph Kiuna (Molo), William Cheptumo (Baringo North), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru Town), John Mututho (Naivasha), Jackson Kiptanui (Keiyo South) and Peris Simam (Eldoret South).

Mr Ruto’s remarks came a day after Lands minister James Orengo also called for the resettlement of refugees on land outside the Rift Valley.

The Government, through spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua, announced that the operation will be for “displaced Kenyans who are ready to go back to their farms and homes they lived in before the post-election violence.”

Distant places

“Major arrangements have been made on the ground and all concerned Government agencies and departments are ready for the operation,” he said in a statement posted on his website.

He said the Government was committed to the resettlement of all refugees and all Kenyans have the right to live or own property anywhere.

“The Government encourages all wananchi and leaders to ensure that this fundamental right and harmony are protected and nurtured,” he said.

He said it was heartening that already some camps such as Kipkelion have been  closed after all refugees went back to their homes.

Dr Mutua said the Government will review the exercise he expects to gather momentum on Thursday.

Security staff will escort or ferry those going to distant places in lorries.  Most of the exercise will be in Rift Valley that bore the brunt of post-election violence.

Those at Eldoret show ground will be returned to their homes in Uasin Gishu District. Others from Molo and Nakuru will be moved to their previous homes in Kuresoi. In the Cherangany camp, they will be moved to their homes in Trans Nzoia and those living in police stations in Western and Nyanza provinces will be assisted to go back to where they came from.

Others who are living in Kericho, Naivasha and Limuru will also be evacuated.

On Sunday, humanitarian organisations operating in Rift Valley said the Government had not involved them in the planned resettlement.

“We are in the dark on how the entire exercise will be implemented. We have no logistics on how the victims will be transported back to their farms and how they will be supported to start life afresh,” said a senior official from one of the organisations.

The exercise has also been met with  resistance from the displaced people themselves and area residents who want it suspended.

“The Government should not rush with the resettlement process. There is need for reconciliatory meetings to prepare the victims and their former neighbours to coexist,” said Mr Samuel Koech of Burnt Forest.

Some of the people interviewed urged the Government to settle the victims outside the North Rift region citing fears of recurrent clashes.

“The suspicion between the victims and their former neighbours will derail the resettlement unless genuine reconciliation is done. Alternatively, the Government should settle the victims in areas where they are comfortable,” said Mr James Kosgei from Uasin Gishu.

Victims in various camps said setting up police posts in areas affected by the   violence was not a panacea for peace.

“The security personnel posted to the new stations are not sufficient to guarantee security to all of us. What is required is co-existence and not a 24-hour security system operation,” said Ms Ann Wanjiru, a victim from Burnt Forest.

The Government has built 12 police posts in areas hit hard by violence in Uasin Gishu District

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About SG

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

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