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How neighbours shattered dreams

NAIROBI, Kenya, October 5 – Wanjohi Chege had a dream. He envisioned a business where he could exploit his talent as a carpenter while at the same time eking out a living for himself and his family.

He was already well established and was just breaking even in his business when his life was shattered.  This was no ordinary calamity but one which left in its wake emotional as well as physical scars. It was the violence that rocked the country following the 2007 disputed elections.

The seismic like upheavals coming in the wake of the polls were of a proportion never felt in the country and it took an ugly turn as neighbor turned against neighbor, friend upon friend and in some cases family members even disowned their own.

These developments changed the course of Mr Chege’s life completely. When the pandora’s box opened on that fateful day, he had to leave all his investments, flee from his home and live as an internally displaced person in his own country.

As he recounted, his flight was like that of the biblical Lot who never at one moment looked behind him or had the time to collect his possessions during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

"The situation as we experienced it was very bad. It was unbelievable that the people who we had been staying with for more than 10 years could turn against us. It opened our eyes to the harsh reality of what havoc tribalism can wreck on the society," he reminisced.

He stayed in a camp for a while until the government came up with a plan to resettle those who were displaced.

Mr Chege explained that the funds set aside for the process were not enough to facilitate the return to normalcy that they previously had.

"The government promised to give us land. It also said that it would follow up on the assistance but we have not seen any progress in this regard," he recalled.

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At this moment, the funds he was given are finished and he described his life as very hectic.

"The money that we were given as resettlement fees were not enough. They cannot cater for life’s bare necessities. The government should give us land, at least one acre so that we may be dependent on ourselves," he stated.

For Agnes Wanjiru, the post poll violence came as a big surprise. She carried neither food nor clothing on the first day as she just ran and ran. The road to safety was strewn with bodies. On the following day, she met a woman from her town who said that she could accompany her.

In an exclusive interview with Capital Newsbeat, Mrs. Wanjiru stated that she may not return to her home due to the atrocities that she witnessed during the dark and bleak period.

She appealed to the government to make good its promise to resettle all IDPs so that they could live normal if not the lives they had previously before.

"As the government is saying, it should come and assist us with both money and sustenance so that we can go back to our normal routines," she said.

There are still thousands of "Cheges and Wanjirus" in Kenya. Many of them are still traumatised by the violence two years after the tumultuous elections. Few have known normal family life since then and many will never return to their homes.

At the moment, there are pleas to resettle all IDPs before the onset of the Elnino rains expected any time soon.

The latest came from none other than the head of state Mwai Kibaki who instructed that all displaced people be allocated a portion of funds so as to gain the little semblance of life they had previously before.

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It is in this regard that the government resettlement programme focused its attention to the Eldoret Showground where most of the IDPs still languished in unhygienic conditions.

At the moment, a tug of war is taking place between the displaced people and government officials tasked to relocate them.
All this is taking place in place imbued with a wide assortment of health hazards which threaten the Internally Displaced Persons.

Public Health and Sanitation assistant minister James Gesami cautioned that strict hygienic measures needed to be observed at the camp and also during the transition period.

"There are of course challenges. The challenges that are there are on issues of health, water and environment. We are going to work together as government to make sure that all these people are settled well," the assistant minister stated.
He further expressed the government’s commitment to sensitise the people in the camps about the importance of maintaining a daily hygiene routine.

"In as far as public health is concerned, we are on the ground to make sure that we give the usual very strong messages that we must have a toilet and use it, we must wash our hands after and before visiting the toilet. They should also cook their food properly before they eat it," Mr Gesami said.

Special Programmes Mitigation and Resettlement Director Wilfred Ndolo said that each family in the camp was entitled to Sh35,000 as government support to enable them to settle down.

He stressed that that the money was not compensatory but was to enable the households settle back to their normal lives.

When Capital Newsbeat sought to know whether the government would allocate land for the IDPs, he said that it would be possible but only after they moved out of the Eldoret Showground.

"The government will provide support through some funds given to the IDPs to enable them to start off and then when they settle, we will assist them to build their houses," he stated. "But this will only happen after they move from the camp."

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Mr Ndolo urged them to soften their hard stance on the relocation exercise and to see it as an opportunity to rebuild their lives.
He gave the assurance that the government would seek ways to help them settle faster by providing them with material sustenance until they had their feet firmly on solid ground.

"Out of the original camps, we have transit camps where there are 7,220 households and these will leave their locations as soon as the government builds houses for them," he said.

"The process will be not be complete until we empty all the transit camps and everyone is settled in their new homes," he further added.

"The government will also make an arrangement to plough their land, plant for them and feed the family until they get their first crop."

"If the family was affected seriously during the post election violence, a counselor will be attached to the family to take care of their emotional well being."

Indeed if you could afford to buy a genuine pearl necklace or a diamond ring, would you settle for a poor imitation of the real thing? Probably not, unless you had been deceived into believing that what you were getting was the best that could ever be had.

As regards government, hundreds of millions of people have been deceived into believing that they are getting the best that can be had. In reality they are ending up with poor imitations. No wonder they are disappointed, dissatisfied, and frustrated.

That was the spirit that reigned high during the December 2007 elections here in Kenya.

The violence that followed thereafter was of a horrendous proportion manifesting itself in raw barbaric carnage which left many with little choice but to flee the ‘safe havens’ they referred to as their homes.

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Whether they are ever going to settle back to their original lives only time can tell but at the moment, a lot needs to be done to ensure that our people, our fellow compatriots have the basic necessities of life key among them being shelter from the oncoming Elnino rains that might destabilise them further.


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