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Stunted progress in IDPs relocation

NAIROBI, May 13 – Despite assertions by the government that the resettlement exercise had been largely successful, hundreds of displaced families holed up in camps in Central Province have expressed fear of going back to their farms in Rift Valley.
On Tuesday, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) accused the Government of rushing the resettlement and not holding consultations with those affected.
But the Central Provincial Commissioner (PC) Kiplimo Rugut said the exercise coded ‘Operation Rudi Nyumbani’ would go on as scheduled.
Rugut said the Government would not force people to go back to their farms but would assist those willing to be resettled.
The area hosts some 80,000 IDPs, and the PC said six vehicles had already been dispatched to assist in their resettlement to Rift Valley.
In Nyeri, families camping at Ruringu Stadium said that a permanent solution to the problem of internal conflict ought to be addressed before the exercise is concluded.
One of the victims of the post-election violence, Ibrahim Mwangi, said the Government had an obligation to find out why there was a re-emergence of violence every election year.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Special Programmes said the provincial administration would be used to monitor the progress of the resettled IDPs as well as carry out the compensation process.

Deputy Secretary in the Ministry, Moses Gitari, however insisted that the IDPs must return to their properties for the government to be able to compensate them.

“When they have gone back, we can go there and find out who is back and how we can compensate them. But when they are outside their premises, we are unable to do this because we don’t know where they came from, even though they have registered with the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies,” he said.

A number of IDPs have refused to be resettled until they are compensated.

At the same time, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) Secretary General Abbas Gullet disagreed with the government’s plans to close all IDP camps in the next two weeks arguing that it is not feasible.

Gullet said: “There are thousands who have gone back and there are still more who are yet to go back, the process is still on-going; I don’t think this is real unless you are going to force people out of the camps.”

He said the government needs to come up with a way of relocating IDPs who are reluctant to go back home, to other areas.

Separately, Gullet said that life is slowly returning to normal in the Mount Elgon region following the on-going military operation targeted at eliminating members of the Sabaot Land Defence Force.

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“Things have normalised. We have been distributing food, we have never been denied access except in the operation areas; on a daily basis we have been distributing seeds and tools since January and people have actually gone back to farming,” he said.

Gullet meanwhile also appealed to the civil society to partner with the government in assisting the resettlement exercise.

He claimed that some civil society organisations were misusing the funding they got to assist vulnerable groups by using them for their advocacy work.

Donor organisations usually prefer releasing funding through the civil society, rather than the government, due to its wide network of operations with the grassroots.

On Tuesday the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission Delegation to Kenya pledged a total of Sh670,000 towards humanitarian assistance for the internal refugees.

The donation, they said, would be provided to the KRCS for the provision of basic needs such as water, sanitation, medical supplies and food to the IDPs who are still in camps around the country.

According to the government, a total of Sh31 billion is needed to fully fund the resettlement of the displaced persons, in terms of repatriation and compensation.

On Monday, President Mwai Kibaki helped to raise Sh457 million, as he launched a Mitigation Fund for the internal refugees that will be open for the rest of the year.

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