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GOVERNMENT FORCING US TO RETURN

Tears, anxiety as IDPs arrive home

Published on May 6, 2008, 12:00 am

By Standard Team

Thousands of displaced people began their emotional journey back home in military trucks and buses, amid confusion and uncertainty in an exercise that is bound to severely test the resilience of the Kibaki-Raila led Grand Coalition Government.

Claims of forceful resettlement and threats by Government officials further cast a dark cloud over the exercise.

This was unfolding on a day four MPs and a Cabinet minister lashed out at Lands minister, Mr James Orengo, over his stand on the resettlement of IDPs.

Uprooted and scattered by the bloodletting triggered by the disputed December 27 presidential elections, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are keenly aware that a botched resettlement plan for the IDPs could have far reaching political implications.

Displaced people prepare to board military trucks at Molo DC’s office on Monday.

Dubbed, “Operation Rudi Nyumbani”, the resettlement has been made possible by leaders of PNU and ODM — the two combatants at the elections that plunged the country into unprecedented chaos.

In Molo, one of the epicentres of post-election violence, the Rift Valley PC, Mr Hassan Noor Hassan, supervised the exercise.

Seven Kenya Army trucks and two buses were used in the massive translocation never witnessed before in the country.

The more than 10,000 IDPs who had been camping in Molo will be resettled in 13 farms in the region.

They are Sirikwa, Kiambogo, Githirika, Muthenji, Nyota, Kangawa and Lagwenda.

Other farms are Sasumua, Willa, Muchorwe, Karirikania, Kadonye and Nyaruai.

Yesterday, the PC launched the resettlement exercise that will see thousands of IDPs return to their farms. The launch at the Molo District headquarters was, however, received with mixed feelings.

Some IDPs still preferred to remain in the camps, fearing for their lives, even as the PC reassured them on security.

But an upbeat Ms Rose Nyambura Thuo said: “It is the happiest moment of my life because I am going back to my farm though we are parting with friends I had gotten used to during the difficult times.”

In a gesture that enmity by two communities living in the area had been buried, eight leaders from the Kalenjin community visited the camp and assured the victims that all was well.

“We welcome you back to your farms and we ask for forgiveness on behalf of our people,” said Councillor Joshua Sigilai of Nyota Ward.

In Trans Nzoia and Marakwet districts, up to 3,000 IDPs started their journey back home with mixed feelings. Tents at the Kachibora camp were pulled down as displaced people boarded military trucks to return home.

They included Ms Eunice Gesara, a mother of four, who said she did not know what to expect on her first day home after four months at the camp.

“To be honest, I’m apprehensive about this trip. It is like going back to meet my tormentors,” she told The Standard outside the camp.

But Mr Justus Masi, a village elder in Kiboiye, Cheragany, expressed optimism that the resettlement plan would succeed as it had the blessings of elders in the host community.

It was time to say good bye for displaced people at Kiambogo Farm in Molo as they were transported to their farms under tight security. Picture: Lucas Thuo

He said: “They came to the camp (in Kachibora) and sought forgiveness on behalf of their community. We hope that it was genuine and we will live in harmony.”

Mr Abednego Atuya and his brother, Mr Jared Mecha, who earlier lived in Marakwet District, said everyone was told that they had to go home as the camp would be closed.

But on Monday, the sheer scale of the exercise appeared to send the message that the Government would not countenance failure.

Water, Health, Energy and Education ministries have already deployed staff and materials for the resettlement of IDPs in Molo and Trans Nzoia districts.

Internal Security PS, Mr Francis Kimemia, said the efforts would be coordinated by the Special Programmes and Internal Security ministries.

Personnel from the four ministries will re-construct basic education and health infrastructure destroyed in the violence, the Government said.

In a statement to newsrooms, the PS said the two ministries would coordinate logistics and provide security. The statement added that the military had also been deployed to rebuild schools, hospitals and other amenities gutted or destroyed in the carnage that erupted when the ECK controversially declared President Kibaki winner.

After Molo and Trans Nzoia, the Government will move IDPs integrated or living in Central, Nyanza, Eastern and Western provinces back to the Rift Valley.

Eleven guidelines to direct the resettlement which include registration of genuine IDPs, identification and prioritisation of farms where IDPs will be resettled, listing of destroyed infrastructure, deployment of security personnel, water boozers and movement of IDPs returning to their homes voluntarily have already been published.

They also include reconciliation and enhancement of security in volatile areas. Genuine IDPs will be issued with support kits in their homes or farms, reconstruction of schools, hospitals and other essential services.

The resettlement programme, which began with the Rift Valley peace tours by President Kibaki and Raila, were not entirely incident free. The Head of State, Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, and Internal Security minister, Prof George Saitoti, were booed in Eldoret during the tour.

“Sina haja ya kukasirishwa na mtu ambaye hajui anachosema (I will not be angered by those who don’t understand what they are saying,” the President, who restrained himself after a section of the crowd in Eldoret walked out on him, said.

On his part, Raila said some politicians had warned him not to go to the Rift Valley allegedly because the atmosphere was not yet conducive.

“But I decided that we should start efforts to reconcile communities so that displaced persons can be resettled,” he said.

In Nairobi, US Ambassador, Mr Michael Rannerberger, said his government would support IDPs who voluntarily returned to their homes.

“People cannot be forced to resettle. The process has to be voluntary and there is urgent need for provisions that will create restoration of their livelihoods,” Rannerberger, who was addressing journalists at the US Embassy, said.

On Monday, four central Kenya MPs, among them a Cabinet minister, condemned the Lands minister over his call that IDPs uprooted from Rift Valley be resettled in other provinces.

The legislators, who included Gender and Children’s minister, Ms Esther Murugi, termed Orengo’s sentiments careless and senseless.

Murugi, who is also the Nyeri Town MP, led legislators Mr Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaregwa), Mr Lenny Kivuti (Siakago) and FT Nyammo (Tetu) in criticising Orengo’s remarks, saying the displaced persons had “every right” to be returned to where they had been evicted.

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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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