, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 20 – In the light of statements made in regard to settlement of those who left the Mau Forest Complex in which the Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been accused by a section of politicians of being insensitive to the plight of victims, I wish to make the following clarification:
Prime Minister Raila Odinga has consulted widely with President Mwai Kibaki on the issue of resettling Internally Displaced Persons in the country, particularly from the Rift Valley, where the bulk of displacements have occurred in the last two decades.
The consensus between the two, in consultation with security and intelligence agencies, is that the issue of landless internally displaced persons runs deeper than the recent relocation from the Mau and poses serious threats to national stability and economic growth unless it is handled with care and utmost professionalism, devoid of grandstanding, quest for political mileage and quick-fix, short term temporary solutions.
Both the President and the Prime Minister are sensitive to the fact that various groups evicted from their homes in the pre and post-election violence of 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2007 are still living in some temporary settlements or as squatters in lands they don’t own.
The Principals are sensitive to the fact that victims of 1992 election violence are still camping in Maela where they first took refuge in the compound of the local Catholic Church. Eventually, they began to fend for themselves and are squatting on other people’s lands.
They are sensitive to the fact that those evicted from Olenguruone and Molo are currently scattered allover Nakuru, Naivasha, Laikipia and Nairobi, some in slums, other living off the streets, hoping that the government will one day attend to their plight.
In parts of Kiambu, particularly in the Gatundu section of what constitutes the wider Aberdares forest, thousands of families evicted from Maela, Enoosupukia, Molo and Olenguruone and other parts are squatting, having been dumped at the Kirigiti Stadium in the middle of the night on orders of the government after the 1992 elections. They are hoping for help from the Government.
In Laikipia, Rumuruti and Marmanent areas are filled with squatters who fled or were ferried there after the 1992 election violence.
In Nyahururu Town, Kiamaina slums are filled with evictees from Olenguruone and Molo following past election violence. The problem is felt as far as Borabu in Kericho-Kisii border and Sondu and Muhoroni areas in Nyanza province.
In recognition of the gravity of the problem and the number of victims waiting for justice and resettlement, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that the Ministry of Lands scouts for land that will gradually and in phases, be home to the many people who have found themselves homeless from the 1990s, first due to politically instigated violence and later as a result of efforts to conserve the country’s water towers including the Mau and Kipkurere forests.
Neither the President nor the Prime Minister is acting alone in this. It is not the intention of the President or the Prime Minister that the scouting for land be used to give political mileage to any individual, community or group.
They want it done in a way that does not make one group happy only to create bitterness in the other. They are looking for a package that is fair to all.
The intention is to deal with a matter that they genuinely believe if not handled properly, will compromise Kenya’s stability in the years to come and one that has been ignored for too long.
Insinuations that the Prime Minister is insensitive to the plight of those who left the Mau are therefore out of tune with the spirit in which the government is seeking to resettle IDPs. Those insinuations are founded on the type of politics that created the problem.
The Prime Minister understands the width and depth of the problem. He was there when the problem began systematically in the run up to 1992 elections. Today, as Co-coordinator and Supervisor of government affairs, his eyes are set on a solution that takes care of all; from 1991 to date.
(Dennis Onyango is the Director of Communications at the Office of the Prime Minister)