IDPs leave city for "ancestral homes"

Thousands of people displaced from the suburbs on the western edge of the capital, Nairobi, have left for their "ancestral homes" in western Kenya, according to humanitarian workers.

"We had a total of 17,000 people here [Kabete Police Station] last week but they have been leaving since Friday [1 February] for their ancestral homes in areas such as Kisumu, Bondo, Busia, Kakamega and Kitale," Regina Munguti, a volunteer with the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, told IRIN on 8 February.

She said the displaced had fled their rental houses in Kikuyu, Kinoo and Ndumbuini areas after they received leaflets threatening them with death. Most of were from Luo and Luhya communities, she added.

Munguti said only eight of the 17 families still left at the camp for displaced people had said they had nowhere to go.

"These are the families who know no other home apart from the houses they vacated; they would not know where to go once they get to western Kenya," she said. "We have referred four children, a girl and three boys, to a children's home after they got separated from their families."

The displacement in Nairobi as well as in the central Kenya region has followed the initial displacement of thousands of people from Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces, which were hardest hit by the violence that erupted in late December 2007 following disputed presidential elections.

Protests over the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki led to the violence that has so far claimed at least 1,000 lives and displaced 300,000 more, mostly from Rift Valley Province. The violence has since taken on ethnic dimensions, with the communities who find themselves the minority in such areas at risk of death.

"Life has been difficult here at the police station and I am glad that I am scheduled to leave today," Samson Opoyo, a tailor who had lived in Uthiru Gichagi [western Nairobi] for 10 years, said. "When we left our homes about a week-and-a-half ago, I had my wife and three children with me but I have since managed to have them taken to my original home in Oyugis [Nyanza Province]. I hope to board a bus any time now."

The buses carrying the displaced join other commercial bus convoys to western Kenya that have a security presence.

Munguti said 50 of the IDPs left on 8 February for Bondo and Busia areas of Nyanza and Western provinces and that another 22 were due to leave later in the day for Kitale, a town in Rift Valley Province.

She said the transportation of the IDPs was being carried out by charitable organisations and individual volunteers. Lifeskills Promoters, an educational NGO working with youths aged between 18 and 24, has provided transport for most of the Kabete IDPs.

"We realised that many youths had been caught up in the crisis in our country and after visiting this camp, transportation was identified as the most urgent need," Isaac Mwaniki, a partnerships officer for Lifeskills Promoters, told IRIN. "Today we are organising the transportation of 22 people to Kitale [western Kenya]."

The Kenya Red Cross Society has been providing food for the IDPs at Kabete Police Station, Munguti said. Women and children were sleeping in a hall nearby while the men spent the nights in the open, she added.