Concern over Molo IDPs as camp closures continue

A government directive to close camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the country has raised concerns among aid workers, especially over the plight of IDPs in the volatile district of Molo in Rift Valley Province, where thousands live in at least 50 congested sites.

"Molo is probably the most volatile of all the IDP postings right now," Jeanine Cooper, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kenya (OCHA-Kenya) told IRIN on 24 January. "There seems to be an escalation of the situation that was there before [the post-election violence]; most of those displaced are not from other parts of the country that have been affected by the latest political situation."

Cooper said many of the IDPs in Molo were living in congested sites in Molo town, the district's headquarters, as well as in church compounds and schools.

She said the government has a strategy in place to decongest the IDP camps by putting up new relocation sites, but the province's capacity to deal with the full crisis was limited.

Thousands of other IDPs are living in camps in the towns of Nakuru, Eldoret and areas affected by the violence that has hit parts of the country since the announcement of the outcome of presidential elections held on 27 December 2007. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has claimed the poll was rigged in favour of President Mwai Kibaki.

Phased closures

On the relocation of IDPs from camps across the country, Cooper said the closures were taking place in phases, according to a government plan. She said an IDP camp in Mombasa was closed on 18 January, with the displaced given a month's rations of food and non-food items.

However, reports from the coastal town indicated that the displaced had later assembled in various church compounds in the town.

Cooper said according to the government strategy, the relocation takes into consideration the most vulnerable IDPs.

"Those given priority are the most vulnerable; unaccompanied children, the disabled and those whose homes were completely destroyed," she said. "The government has undertaken a comprehensive registration [of the IDPs] to determine the voluntary nature of the relocation, and those genuinely displaced will be helped; the IOM [International Organization for Migration] is facilitating the transportation of the IDPs."

In Molo, efforts to move the IDPs to new and more spacious sites have been frustrated by skirmishes that have seen the burning of one such site that was being prepared for the IDPs.

According to Josephat Wafula, a coordinator in the Nakuru branch of the Kenya Red Cross Society, Molo district currently has at least 40,000 IDPs, 15,000 of whom are in sites within and around Molo town.

Renewed fighting

"Right now, we have an assessment team on the ground, following reports of an attack that took place last night in the Total area [within the district]," Wafula said on 24 January.

Laurence Achami, a coordinator of the Kuresoi Division of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, said a number of IDPs from the area had been moving towards Molo in the past few days following fresh attacks.

He said in the division alone, at least 3,000 people had been displaced in the past week, bringing the number of those displaced in Kuresoi to just over 6,000.

"The biggest problem in the camps in Kuresoi at the moment is shelter and medicine; the rains have started and we do not have enough structures for all the displaced; some of them are now sleeping in the open and this is a health risk," Achami said.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Victims of the post-election violence being treated at Masaba hospital, Nairobi

Security deteriorating

Meanwhile, in a situation report covering the period up to 23 January, the UN country team said Kenya's security situation was deteriorating, with at least 16 people killed in post-election violence in two days.

The report said seven people were killed in Kipkelion in Rift Valley Province and 70 houses were burnt in the Aldai area, also in Rift Valley.

The report stated that roads in and out of Molo town had been barricaded and that in Trans Nzoia district, also in Rift Valley, five people were shot dead and 30 shops burnt in recent skirmishes.

On 23 January in Nairobi, a Telkom Kenya building was burnt after prayers convened by the opposition Orange Democratic Party (ODM) at a football pitch nearby.

The UN report said four people were killed in the city's Korogocho, Huruma and Mathare slums on the night of 22 January. The UN's security section quoted the government putting the figure of those killed in post-election violence at 685 and those of displaced persons at 222,177 - down from 258,836.

Mediation efforts to resolve the crisis are ongoing, with former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan heading a team of eminent Africans in the quest for a peaceful solution. Annan arrived in the country on 22 January.

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