Of the 600,000 people forcibly displaced in Kenya during the fierce 2007-2008 post-election violence, hundreds have yet to be resettled, despite government pledges to find them new homes.
Minister for Special Programmes Esther Murugi says 723 such families are still displaced, as well as a further 1,200 families who were evicted by the government from their homes in the Mau Forest as part of efforts to protect crucial water catchment areas.
Over 100 of these families live in Pipeline, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Rift Valley Province city of Nakuru.
Conditions in Pipeline are harsh; IDPs’ tents are worn out after five years of constant exposure to the elements. Many rely on the government and aid agencies for food, but the rations are not always delivered on a regular basis.
New elections soon
With fresh elections due on March 4, some IDPs told IRIN they would not vote unless they are resettled before polling day.
Paul Thiong’o, who has lived in an IDP camp since 2008, says it will be important for him to vote in the coming election to help the country select good leaders. “The country needs good leadership, and only voting will make a difference,” he said.
But others, like Beatrice Nyokabi, believe casting their votes will do little to change their circumstances.
“How am I expected to participate in another voting exercise if I still have unhealed wounds [as a result] of voting last time?” she asked.
The government has long promised to buy land to resettle the displaced, but the IDPs say this process has taken too long and that the government should instead give them money to do it on their own.
“I have now given up on being bought a piece of land by this government. I want to be given money [to] purchase a small plot for myself,” said Nyokabi, who leads an association for some of the displaced.
The IDPs allege that corruption among the senior government officials charged with resettling them is the reason the process has taken so long.
“Those officials do not allow us to get land [because] they want to negotiate with the sellers so that they can hike prices and get some money at the expense of our humanitarian needs,” Nyokabi said.
The government denies these charges. “No official would ask for some commission or hike prices because it is not usually a one-person or ministry decision to buy a particular piece of land,” Minister Murugi said.
The government recently passed an IDP law that, among other things, calls for a rights-based approach to dealing with IDPs and for the establishment of a fund to assist them. But IDPs say the government has not been enthusiastic about implementing the law.
“If the government was keen on following the law, we should have been resettled a long time ago,” Jane Mwangi, who is still living in Pipeline camp, told IRIN.
Plans moving forward
Attempts by the government to resettle IDPs have at times met resistance from would-be host communities, who say their lands are being forcibly taken from them.
Still, government officials say they have identified a piece of land to resettle remaining IDPs.
“In the next two weeks, [we] will be resettling people, as we only need to pay land owners 10 percent of the total money for us to move IDPs to the new pieces of land, and can clear the rest after we have already resettled them,” Murugi said.
The government says it has so far used US$176 million to resettle those displaced by the 2007-2008 violence.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, in 2012 alone some 118,000 people were displaced in Kenya as a result of inter-communal and resource-based violence.