Ndirangu Mwangi, 26, one of 14,000 people camping in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret’s showground, was less than encouraged after Kenya’s political leaders visited the town as part of a “national healing” initiative.
“We are worried about the future, we lost everything during the post-election violence and we don’t know where we would restart our lives if we were to return home,” Mwangi told IRIN.
Reacting to speeches by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, Mwangi said even if peace were achieved to facilitate their return home, it was important to strengthen existing laws to ensure an end to the impunity with which their property was damaged or looted.
Widespread violence in the Rift Valley following disputed election results led to the death of more than 1,200 people and the displacement of 350,000.
Kibaki and Odinga, who finally agreed to share power in late February, stressed unity and reconciliation, asserting that they were now working in harmony and were determined to resolve the issues facing all those affected by the violence.
The two leaders visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at the showground before attending the public rally at the stadium.
“We want to resolve this issue once and for all,” Odinga said. “Eldoret is the face of Kenya as it has many tribes living here - we have the Kalenjin, the Luo, Kikuyu, Maasai, Kamba, Luhya, Turkana etc; we want peace and friendship to prevail among all the people.”
For his part, Kibaki said: “Let us all resolve today to live together as one; as your leaders, we have agreed to work together and we are committed to working together in order to stay together as Kenyans.”
Focus on the future
“We heard them saying we should live together as one,” said Lawrence Kibue, after listening to a radio broadcast of the speech in a camp in Burnt Forest, 40km north of Eldoret, “but what we were really hoping for was a solution that would enable us to go back to our farms.”
Rosemary Kuria, 40, an IDP at the Eldoret showground, said the visit by Kibaki and Odinga gave hope to IDPs that their problems would now be prioritised.
|A woman runs from a fire started by opposition surporters during the post-election violence in Eldoret|
“They came here and even entered our tents; they saw the water that lodges in our tents when it rains and they saw that many of us sleep on the floor without any floor sheeting or mattress; Kibaki assured us that our problems will be sorted out, that is why I’m optimistic,” Kuria said.
However, Christopher Kipruto, a resident of Eldoret North constituency, said he feared IDPs may not be welcome home yet.
“The IDPs have cause to fear; during the post-election violence, they know what they did to us and they know what we did to them; unless the animosity among us is resolved, their return may not be smooth; land remains a key issue that needs to be addressed before we can get to the return phase,” Kipruto said.
William Ruto, Agriculture Minister and MP for Eldoret North, said all residents of Uasin Gishu district wanted a lasting solution to the problems arising from the post-election violence.
“The people of Uasin Gishu have said we don’t want to fight each other again; but the residents of Uasin Gishu have three issues they are asking: many people were arrested during the violence for carrying pangas [machetes] and sticks yet to date there is no evidence to support that they were involved in crimes committed at that time. Why are they still being held, these people should be released?
“The other issue is that some chiefs and assistant chiefs were also suspended during the crisis for allegedly not being able to curb the violence, in my opinion it is the PC [provincial commissioner] or DC [district commissioner] who should have been suspended; the chiefs are small people, the people are asking that these chiefs should be reinstated.”
The third issue, he said, was the high cost of fertiliser which had made it difficult for farmers to plant. He said the government should take measures to ensure the price of a bag of fertiliser, now retailing at Ksh4,000 [US$64.50], was reduced to enable farmers to plant and help avert a food shortage in the future.