IDPs in Kenya hesitant to return home despite relative calm

IDPs in Kenya hesitant to return home despite relative calm


CHOGOCHO, Kenya, April 16 (UNHCR) – Thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) in Kenya are still hesitant to go home despite the return of peace to parts of the country affected by post-election violence at the start of the year.

Most of the IDPs, especially in western Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, fear they will be attacked if they return home. Some of the men go back to villages like Chogocho during the day to tend to their crops before seeking shelter with friends or relatives at night in towns like Elburgon, located eight kilometres away.

“I still don’t feel safe walking around here without a weapon,” said 72-year-old Githinji, who was seen in Chogocho recently carrying a bow and arrows. “Members of the other community regularly attack us when we come to cultivate our farms,” he added.

This area, located some 40 kms from the provincial capital of Nakuru, was hard hit by the violence that followed the presidential election of December 27 and left hundreds of people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

The violence has eased since the rival sides brokered a power-sharing agreement – a 42-member coalition cabinet was announced on Sunday – but tensions remain high in some areas, including around Chogocho and Elburgon. The government has said it will put a priority on returning IDPs to their homes.

There are many burned and vandalized houses and buildings on the road between the two places, including a destroyed primary school and a razed shopping centre in Chogocho. Some 300 students at the school have had to both to other institutions, putting pressure on crowded education facilities in the area.

“Our children are suffering from the damage wreaked by arsonists as they are now obliged to learn in conditions that are less than ideal,” 62-year-old Kinuthia told a UNHCR team that braved heavy rain to visit the area.

Many people in the area were without shelter and the UN refugee agency and the Kenya Red Cross Society promised to provide them with tents and plastic sheets.

Many people here told Liz Ahua, UNHCR representative in Kenya and team leader, that they were not ready to return home permanently until they received government assurances of safety and protection.

Special District Officer Patrick Nyamai said the government was in the process of establishing peace committees to initiate reconciliation and dialogue between the IDPs and their rivals in return areas.

Meanwhile, the number of displaced people moving to official IDP sites is rising. Some of the newly arrived said they had moved to IDP sites in the region because they had become a burden for the friends or relatives hosting them.

“The plight of families that have been hosting IDPs deserves attention from the government as well as humanitarian agencies,” said Ahua. “Their generosity towards the IDPs should not be a burden that goes unrecognized.”

By Emmanuel Nyabera
In Chogocho, Kenya

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