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Security fears haunt IDP homecoming

KITALE, May 6 – An ambitious resettlement programme for thousands of internal refugees entered its second day on Tuesday with thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) repatriated home.

The programme dubbed ‘Operation Rudi Nyumbani’ (operation return home) is aimed at resettling more than 350,000 people uprooted from their homes after the bloody post election violence.

At least 9, 000 people who were displaced from their farms in Trans-Nzoia District headed for their homes.

A few of their colleagues however resisted their resettlement expressing insecurity fears.

At the Kitale ASK Showground camp where 6,000 IDPs had been living, the provincial administration had a difficult task trying to convince the displaced to go back home as women refused to board vehicles.

Eventually it was unanimously agreed that men be dispatched to assess the situation first while women and children remained behind.
The operation supervised by the area chief Shem Amae later kicked off but officials said those resisting resettlement were not genuine IDPs.

 “We are having problems with some people from Kitale town here who were not displaced in the first place but are now permanently in the camps because of the generous food rations. These are the people who want the operation to fail so that they can continue benefiting from what does not belong to them,” the chief said.

Amae said majority of former IDPs had returned to their homes in Gitwamba village after the government provided them with farm inputs and assisted them to plough their farms.

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However, in Cherengany where the operation was being supervised by the local District Commissioner (DC) Seif Matata, there was no hitch as the more than 2,000 evictees of Geta Farm were resettled.

Officers from the two police stations erected in Geta and Kabolet were at hand to assure the IDPs that there would be round the clock security.

The DC said that the operation would take two days and thanked the Kitale Catholic Bishop Maurice Crowley for coordinating international NGOs in assisting those who were willing to return.

The church had provided medicine, food and other necessities for the displaced especially women and children.

In Kwanza security was tight as the military kept vigil as the IDPs from Endebess started their journey back home.

Some however said that they were worried as some of the neighbour’s still harboured hostility.

“The government may provide security but cannot possibly remove the raw hostility that some of our neighbours still harbour against us,” Pius Wefwafwa said.

“They are even more agitated that the IDPs are getting assistance to farm, while majority of them could not farm because of the increased price hikes in the farm inputs a fact that has aggravated the situation more,” argued an IDP Samuel Wanyama.

Meanwhile IDPs backed by hundreds of Kipsaina residents in Cherangani constituency held a peaceful demonstration to protests against insecurity in their area.

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The group on Tuesday stormed the Trans-Nzoia East district commissioner’s office demanding protection from the government.

Business at the busy Kitale-Kapenguria Road came to a standstill as the locals blocked vehicles along the route and accused police for failing to protect them.

Plans to relocate the IDPs from Kesogon Centre were disrupted after the group claimed that they have been attacked at the camp by gunmen.

They group asked area MP Joshua Kutuny to assist them saying they had lost confidence with police officers stationed in the area.

The locals also demanded the transfer of all police officers based at Kipsaina, Kesogon, Munyaka and Aruba police stations claiming that some of them were colluding with criminals.

The locals led by Pius Njoroge said that over 15 people had been killed in the area.

“Criminals arrested are released without being taken to court after some Kangaroo agreement,” Njoroge said.

They appealed to Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti to intervene.

The DC however said he will investigate the issue and assured the locals that security will be beefed up.

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The exercise began just a week after President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga toured the affected area where they promised the victims of government’s support.

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