OCHA Kenya Humanitarian Update vol. 18, 1 – 9 May 2008

OCHA Kenya Humanitarian Update vol. 18, 1 – 9 May 2008


HIGHLIGHTS

– 15,000 IDPs return home as government launches resettlement operation

– Food crisis looms as inflation nears 27%

– Government agrees to new IDP registration format

– Water and sanitation provision stabilizes in most camps

– Second phase of teacher training on peace education completed

The information contained in this report has been compiled by OCHA from information received from the field, from national and international humanitarian partners and from other official sources. It does not represent a position from the United Nations.

I. General Overview

The government of Kenya launched 5 May, Operation Rudi Nyumbani’resettlement’ in an effort to return Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their home areas. The first phase of the operation is targeting IDPs in Trans Nzoia and Molo districts, building on trends of large numbers of IDPs spontaneously returning to their farms over the past two months. Some 15,000 people had been transported to their home areas by 9 May. Uasin Gishu and Naivasha Districts are slated for the second phase. Concerns have been expressed by many IDPs residing in camps as well as by members of the international communityonthe lack of consultations and planning with stakeholders prior to the operation.

The official start of the return operation followed a three-day tour of Rift Valley Province by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga that ended on 26 April. They encouraged communities to reconcile so that the displaced could return to their homes and farms, a measure that could help soften the impact of the looming food crisis. The early stages of implementation of the resettlement illustrated some of the challenges faced by Provincial and District Commissioners to meet the needs of displaced persons and ensure their security and led to greater prudence and consultation in subsequent days. By 7 May, the operation had slowed due to the recognized need for more planning in many places of displacement. The District Commissioner (DC) of Uasin Gishu District, for example, implemented a more cautious and consultative return exercise where food and relief items were solicited and in place prior to commencement on Friday May 9th. Instead of using military vehicles for the operation, a practice that was criticized for the effective intimidation that military presence lent to the exercise, the KRCS provided the transportation to pre-assessed areas of return.

The government maintains that all resettlement efforts will be voluntary and reports suggest that the process has been largely based on the principle of voluntariness, building on pre-existing trends of spontaneous returns to farms where many have managed to cultivate their land. The Minister of Special Programmes assured IDPs that they could stay in camps until peace talks had been undertaken with local communities in areas of return. However, some coercion has been reported in specific camps by particular local authorities. Furthermore, the involvement of the military in the operation had added psychological pressure on IDPs to return in areas like trans Nzoia and Molo. Due to the sudden and expedited nature of the operation and lack of clear information about the operation and conditions in places of return, IDPs’ ability decisions about their choice to return may have been compromised.

Mirroring the global food crisis, food prices continued to increase over the week, and inflation in April reached 26.6%, up from 21.8% in March. Inflation is largely being felt in food prices, which have increased by at least 30% in the past six months in Kenya. If food prices are excluded, inflation actually fell marginally to 9.6%. The government predicts economic growth in 2008 will be between 4.5 and 6%, but the World Bank believes 3% is more realistic Despite these declines, primarily attributable to the post-election violence, the government hopes that the 8-10% growth experienced in 2007 will help offset expected economic losses. To mitigate the economic shocks, which are exacerbating the situation for many displaced farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture has established a US$50 million fund to provide loans for Kenyan farmers. This comes in the wake of an African Development Bank announcement of a US$1 billion in farm loans for Africa.

Despite the united front presented on last month’s tour, discussions continued within theRift Valley grand coalition government on the roles of the prime minister and vice president, particularly with regard to control over the cabinet. Cabinet members continued efforts to build inter-party working relationships. Recognizing that land disputes have underscored past conflicts in Kenya and are intimately linked to the post-election violence, there is continued pressure for the government to address Agenda Number Four which is anticipated to include constitutional and land legislation reforms. Analysts report that resolving land issues will be key to the sustainability of return and resettlement efforts. These longer-term issues will also be critical for resolving newer displacements and conflicts, such as in Mount Elgon, where the government is facing allegations of human rights abuses.

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