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UN experts urge protection for IDPs

NAIROBI, May 27 – UN expert on human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has called for renewed efforts to protect and assist Kenya’s IDPs, which, he said, is key to conflict resolution and peace-building.

Walter Kaelin, representative of the UN Secretary General on the Human Rights of IDPs who visited Kenya on May 19-23, called onthe government and donors to support necessary efforts to strengthen recovery efforts.

"These efforts are essential to protect the human rights of the displaced and to build peace in Kenya. The use of constituency development funds and other decentralized funding sources for early recovery activities benefiting all communities, regardless of their vote, would send a powerful message that it is time for communities to reconcile," said Kaelin in a statement issued in Nairobi on Tuesday.

He also recommended that the government adopt a comprehensive IDP strategy, as well as necessary laws to implement it.

"Kenya’s ratification of the Protocols on IDPs and on property restitution adopted by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region provides a unique opportunity to fully equip this country with the instruments necessary to resolve past and future displacement situations," the UN expert said.

He said special efforts by the government, humanitarian agencies and the donors are essential if the return of those displaced by the post-election violence is to be sustainable and compatible with international human rights standards.

"In the absence of substantially increased efforts, we will jeopardize the fragile process of building and restoring peace in displacement-affected communities," Kaelin said.

He commended the government and humanitarian agencies for the effective assistance and support provided to those living in camps since they were displaced by the post-election violence of December 2007 and January 2008.

"Today, the government’s effort to return the displaced from camps to their fields and homes create particular challenges. These challenges include ensuring that returns are safe and voluntary, providing humanitarian assistance in the areas of return and at the transit sites, and restoring full protection of the IDPs’ human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement," he said.

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He said while reconciliation efforts are underway and there is an increased police presence in affected areas, more robust reconciliation measures involving returning IDPs and the local communities must be taken to address underlying causes of the displacement.

"Local-elected officials and political leaders from all sides must demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation. Without true reconciliation and fair transitional justice measures, the risk of renewed violence against returnees remains high," Kaelin said.

The UN experts visited areas affected by the post-election crisis of Rift Valley and expressed concern that despite welcome efforts by the government, the present speed of the return operations has left some returnees without adequate humanitarian assistance, clean water and sanitation, access to education and basic health services and basic tools to resume farming or other livelihoods.

"Returns must be better planned and coordinated if we want to avoid regression into a new emergency situation. We run the risk now that the displaced will return to camps and urban areas in increasing numbers because life at transit sites may become unbearable," he said.

Hundreds of people on both sides of Kenya’s political and ethnic divide were arrested during the violence, in which some 350,000 people were forced out of their homes.


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