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Security bosses in talks over IDPs

NAIROBI, June 23 – Top security chiefs met in Nairobi on Monday morning to discuss the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) whose return home has been met with hostilities, mainly in the Rift Valley Province.

The meeting at Harambee House was attended by Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti, Commissioner of Police Mohammed Hussein Ali and Administration Police Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua, sources said.

The security bosses were particularly concerned that IDPs who left humanitarian camps to return to their original homes last week were being chased away.

A recent incident was reported in a remote village in Eldoret, one of the areas hard hit by the post election violence early this year.

"It was agreed that security be beefed up in areas persistent with such cases to ensure all IDPs are resettled before the camps hosting them are closed," our source revealed.

Statistics available show that nearly half of the displaced persons ejected from their homes during the poll violence were from Rift Valley, mainly in Eldoret and its environs, including Timboroa.

More than 350,000 people were uprooted from their homes in January at the peak of the chaos that was sparked by presidential vote rigging claims by Raila Odinga (now Prime Minister), against President Mwai Kibaki.

The crisis was later resolved by former UN Chief Kofi Annan, who successfully mediated a power-sharing deal between Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU).

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During Monday’s meeting, the controversial issue of blanket amnesty for suspected perpetrators of the violence was also discussed, but details remain scanty.

Nearly 500 suspects are in custody, charged with various offences related to the post poll chaos.

About half of them face murder and arson charges, while the majority are petty offenders who were arrested for blocking highways, being in possession of machetes and holding illegal unlicensed assemblies, according to statistics available at Police Headquarters.

Cabinet Ministers and politicians allied to ODM have repeatedly demanded a blanket amnesty for suspects held over the post election violence, sparking a heated debate which has seen those opposed to the issue booed publicly.

Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua is the recent casualty of such public sentiment.

She was jeered in Sotik during the funeral of her late Cabinet colleague Lorna Laboso, when she rose to defend the government’s move to deny the suspects amnesty.

President Kibaki has publicly declared in past forums that no amnesty would be granted to ‘criminals’, especially those charged with murder and other serious crimes.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other leading lights in his party ODM have vowed to continue pushing for the release of the suspects, mainly petty offenders.

Cabinet Minister William Ruto (Agriculture) has also been vocal on the issue and has persistently accused the government he serves of applying ‘selective justice’.

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Though Professor Saitoti is understood to have briefed President Kibaki on the discussions and the general state of the country’s security after the Monday morning meeting, details of their convergence are scanty.

No official communication was sent from the Presidential Press Service (PPS) about the meeting, which was held at President Kibaki’s Harambee House office.


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