Kenya: The case of Internally Displaced People following the 2007 Post Election Violence.

 

By
Njuhi Chege

June, 2010

This piece was written while the author was completing a Master of Arts degree in Peace Studies at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

 

This essay outlines the issue of IDPs as a result of the 2007 general elections in which armed conflict claimed the lives of 1,500 people. In addition, over 350,000 were displaced from their homes by the time the National Accord and Reconciliation Act was signed in 2008. [1] The main argument of this essay is that the Kenyan government has not done enough to mitigate the problem of displaced peoples and this continues to escalate the tensions among different members of the community. It is necessary to acknowledge that the task of resettling IDPs has been carried out through the interdependence of various actors. Actors such as the United Nations, local NGOs, and community-based organizations have been working to alleviate the appalling conditions that IDPs are faced with. However, this essay will focus squarely on government action or inaction, as the main responsibility is theirs. Recommendations for the government will also be highlighted as a means of reducing tension among the various communities.

Electoral violence has been described as "the use of force by the state security forces or the eruption of armed hostilities between individuals or groups for reasons directly related to suffrage." [2] Prior to the establishment of the multi- party Kenyan state, violence was mainly perpetrated by the ruling party Kenya African National Union (KANU) in a bid to maintain its power and influence. However in the last elections, supporters were divided among two main political parties:; the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Electoral violence erupted among supporters of different parties and candidates on December 30th 2007 following disputed election results. [3] The supporters of these parties were overly divided along ethnic lines and the 2007 general elections played out as an ethnic census.. There was always a fear that multi-parties cannot work in a multi-ethnic society. [4]

As recently as December 2008, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that there are over 26,000,000 internally displaced people in the world as a result of conflict or human rights violations. [5] Internally displaced people (IDPs) have been described as "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violation of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border." [6] Due to the fact that IDPs have not crossed the state border, the responsibility of protecting and re-settling them is borne by the national government. The international community is not under any legal obligation to assist them.

In the case of Kenya, violent conflict in the form of tribal clashes, cattle rustling and electoral violence have led to protracted displacement dating back decades in Kenya's history [7]. This stems from colonial times where settlers evicted natives from their ancestral land and most recently from post election violence in 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007. [8] The issue of internally displaced people in Kenya has been a fairly prevalent phenomenon. [9] [h2] The Kenyan government: Failure to act[/h2]

By "failure to act", I mean the instances where the government has had an opportunity to make a positive impact on IDP issue, yet lacked the will and capacity to adequately resettle them. For example:

1. Failure to meet expectations of Agenda 2 the National Accord: The National Accord was signed in 2008 and featured the issue of IDPs prominently. Agenda 2 was mainly focusing on the resettlement of IDPs promptly and efficiently. The successful return of IDPs is based on three outcomes: the safety of returnees, restitution and return of property to the displaced, and the creation of an economic, social and political environment that sustains the IDPs upon return. [10] However, this process was riddled with reports of corruption by the government, use of force by the government, threat of hostility upon return of IDPs and hostility from the host community. [11] This has led to heightened tension among various groups and a lack of trust for the government as the resettlement process was not as straight forward as it had been planned to be in the National Accords.

Moreover, Agenda 1 of the Accord focused mainly on bringing an end to the violence. Agenda 3 focused on how the two principles, President Mwai Kibaki (PNU) and Raila Odinga(ODM) would share power, while Agenda 4 was focused on tackling poverty and inequality, unemployment and regional development imbalances, consolidating national cohesion, land reforms and addressing the issue of transparency and accountability. [12]

Unfortunately, the National Accord highlighted the contentious issues, but did not outline how to address them. More importantly, the timeline allocated for the above was one year, which has proven to be unrealistic thus far as there are no mechanisms to implement the accords, or enforce compliance.

The agenda set out in the Accord must therefore by replanned, taking both short-term and long-term goals into account. The new planning should set out procedures which would encourage true reconciliation and the building of sustainable relationships and structures where they have been broken by the conflict. [13]

2. IDPs still live in deplorable conditions two years after their displacement during the post election violence. To this day, there are still thousands of IDPs living in temporary camps two years after the post election violence. Illiteracy, unemployment, malnutrition, inadequate access to food, water, health care and sanitation are still prevalent among the IDPs. This has led to heightened anger and frustrations among the IDP who had hoped that the government would facilitate their resettlement promptly.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS and rising cases of sexual abuse, domestic violence, child labor and gender-based violence, especially among children and wome, are current realities among the IDP population. Especially in communities with an ethnic divide, systematic rape has been used as a means of destabilizing the 'other' community. Rape becomes a tool of war used to dehumanize and humiliate the enemy. Cases of rape have been reported in the camps in various locations in Kenya. Other vulnerable groups among the internally displaced include the elderly and the disabled. The physical security in IDP camps was undermined especially because the camps were ethnically based, therefore making them vulnerable to attacks by members of the 'other' groups. Police machinery was rarely on site to offer protection to the IDPs. [14]

In this case, the government has failed to promptly and effectively resettle IDPs or offer them decent standards of living. It is therefore important for the government to put into place defined procedures for the handling of IDPs, while making human security a priority. The situation is complicated by the fact that displaced people can only be protected by international law when they cross an international border to become refugees. As IDPs, they still fall under the mandate of the government which was ill equipped for handling the high numbers of displaced people. Kenya ratified the Great Lakes Pact which incorporates the Guiding Principles. [15]

Although international law does not protect IDPs, they are protected by the Great Lakes Pact, which was initiated by the African Union and the United Nations and signed by eleven countries in the Great Lakes region. It was put into force in June 2008. Its Guiding Principles call for the assistance and protection of the human rights of IDPs, according to international human rights standards. [16] The government should also facilitate the work of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) which has been on the ground working with the IDPs as UNHCR's mandate has been expanded to cover both.

3. Delay in addressing the root causes of the conflict. The process of reconstruction following the signing of the National Accords is a process that requires ample time beyond simply responding to the crisis at hand. [17] Currently, there are fears that the country might witness some violence among supporters of the various politicians should they fail to reach consensus over wrangles concerning the coalition government. The wrangles are between the two main principals, President Kibaki (PNU) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga(ODM).

Even with the signing of the National Accord, where power sharing was addressed under Agenda 3, controversy continues to cloud the centre of power. This has led to a rise in tensions among their various supporters and the ethnic cleavages continue to deepen. Issues of peace, reconstruction and reconciliation can only begin with an acknowledgment that the structures and systems of government are flawed. [19] If the parliament is predominantly divided among ODM and PNU, this translates to the entire nation being divided among supporters of one or the other, enemies or allies of the 'other'.

In this case, immediate and long term measures should be taken by the government to restore unity and promote reconciliation. Steps should include: (1) improving democratization by reforming the electoral process, (2) enhancing dialogue among the warring tribes, (3) resettling all the IDPs (4) allowing IDP children to resume school, (as education is a means to stability and security for the coming generations), and (5) consolidating measures to stimulate economic development, especially among the poor. Such activities require pre-planning and the allocation of sufficient time and resources for them to be effective. State institutions also need to be better run. For example, the police need to be better equipped, properly trained and sensitized on how to protect and serve effectively and non-discriminatorily.

4. Money and land disbursed for IDPs' self- reliance has been misappropriated by top government officials: Kenya's government is in conflict over 1.4 billion Kenyan Shillings that was originally allocated to buy land for IDPs, however the top officials have been reported to have misappropriated the money. [20] Graft and corruption are factors that are causing dissatisfaction with the government and continued conflict among tribes. The UN estimates that up to 600,000 people were displaced during the 2007/2008 post election violence. Currently, the number still displaced stands at 181-000 - 200,000 people.

Lack of transparency and accountability during 'Operation Rudi Nyumbani' where the government sought to return the IDPs home was received with mixed feeling because many of the IDPs felt that the money was not enough to sustain a family. For instance, in this operation, 10,000 Kenya shillings (about US $130) was the amount being disbursed to assist IDPs in the resettlement. [21] According to local media, there are some government officials who allegedly used names of genuine IDPs to misuse more than Sh200 million (about US $ 3million). [22] Additionally, many IDPs were forcibly resettled in tent villages. This is in violation of the Guiding Principle [23] and therefore the rights of the IDPs were trampled on. The government also forcibly closed down some camps without alternatives for the displaced people. It is therefore paramount that NGOs, both local and international, should act as watch dogs and closely scrutinize government activities, while also working to provide durable solutions for the IDPs in Kenya.

5. The government ignored early warning signs leading up to the Post Election Violence. Some violence after the 2007 general elections was expected, but the magnitude with which it occurred was never predicted. This overwhelmed the government, which had no instruments in place to deal with this crisis, even if the issue of IDPs has long been a feature in Kenya's history. The government ignored the early warning signs, such as escalated levels of tension between some tribes during the campaign, violence during campaign rallies, propaganda, threats and incitement by politicians and accumulation of machetes and small arms by local communities. These were red flags that clearly communicated the high probability of impending chaos and violence. However, even with warnings from local NGOs and the civil society, little was done to respond. For instance, the illegal distribution of small arms and weapons increased during the months leading up to the elections. Not only were these used during the armed conflict, but they were and are still used in criminal activities such a carjacking, kidnapping, armed robberies and gang rapes. [24] The government should vigorously embark on the disarmament of communities which are heavily armed by offering incentives such as offering compensation for arms or by offering training for jobs. It is also important that the government strengthens its judicial structures, particularly the police and the judiciary. These agencies will facilitate disarmament and punishment for those involved in the illegal arms trade, or those perpetrating crimes of hate that infringe on the human rights of individuals.

6. Perpetrators of electoral violence have gone unpunished . Armed groups allied to some government officials were responsible for perpetrating the burning, looting, rapes and evictions of the civilian populations. Many of those whose homes and land were taken from them have received little or no form of compensation from the government. [25] Justice has not been forthcoming even with the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission which was established by law in 2008 to deal with the issue of human rights violations during post colonial Kenya. However, it has been riddled with controversies. For instance, the call for the repeal of the Indemnity Act (1970), which protects public officials and other individuals responsible for gross human rights violations, has raised apprehension as it is viewed as a loophole that will further the culture of impunity that is already plaguing Kenyan institutions. [26]

The delay in bringing justice to the victims and ensuring accountability of the perpetrators is detrimental to the current peacebuilding efforts in Kenya. More efforts should be taken to streamline transitional justice mechanisms to prevent the escalation of the conflict.

Some of the current politicians and top leadership have been named and may be facing the International Criminal Court. The ICC chief prosecutor, Louis Moreno O-campo was recently given the green light by the ICC to open up investigations of events that occurred between June 1st 2005 to November 26th 2009, in an effort to prosecute the masterminds of the post election violence .[27] This is a positive step towards seeking justice and reconciliation among Kenyans and has been well received both locally and internationally.

Real changes are needed to remedy the current IDP situation. In the short term, the government should give assistance in the form of food, healthcare and especially security to the large number of IDPs still awaiting resettlement. Moreover, the government should focus on activities that will permanently address not only the issue of IDPs, but also the root causes of the conflict. Long term durable solutions will include the institutionalization of democracy, addressing corruption and consolidating laws such as the fair distribution of land and fair access to economic activities.

If the above issues are not addressed by the Kenyan government, then a repeat of the armed conflict and deepening ethnic cleavages may be witnessed, not only in everyday interactions but in the upcoming 2012 election. It has already been noted that communities are already arming themselves as 'protection' measures in readiness for the 2012 general elections. According to some news reports, it is not a question of whether there will be violence during the scheduled 2012 elections, but a question of how bad it will be. [28]This further highlights the urgency of establishing mechanisms that will prevent such outcomes in the future.


[1] Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence. Waki Report on Post Election Violence. Nairobi: Daily Nation, 2008. Pg 272. According to government records, some constituencies were not recorded however therefore the number is set to be higher.

[2] Kamunji, Prisca Mbura. The Current Situation of Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya. Jesuit Refugee Service, East Afric Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Kenya: No Durable Soulutions for Internally Displaced Yet. Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council, 2008. Pg 14. a, 2001.Pg 34

[3] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Kenya: No Durable Soulutions for Internally Displaced Yet. Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council, 2008. Pg 8,9

[4] Kamunji, Prisca Mbura. The Current Situation of Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya. Jesuit Refugee Service, East Africa, 2001.

[5] The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre- http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004CE90B/(httpPages)/22FB1D4E2B196DAA802570BB005E787C?OpenDocument&count=1000- . Accessed on 28th January 2010.

[6] Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence. Waki Report on Post Election Violence. Nairobi: Daily Nation, 2008. pg 271

[7] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Kenya: No Durable Soulutions for Internally Displaced Yet. Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council, 2008. Pg 14. "The definition of protracted displacement was agreed by participants at a 2007 expert seminar on protracted IDP situations, hosted by UNHCR and the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal displacement: "Protracted internal displacement situations are those in which the processes of finding durable solutions have stalled and/or IDPs are marginalized as a consequence of violations or a lack of protection of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights." Factors such as the amount of time in displacement or the number of people affected are not a primary consideration in determining whether a situation is protracted."

[8] Violence, Commission of Inquiry into Post Election. Waki Report on Post Election Violence. Nairobi: Daily Nation, 2008.Pg 271

[9] Ibid.pg 271

[10] Ibid. Pg 298

[11] Sihanya, Ben. Is there political will towards achieving agenda four…? Transparency International, Kenya. March 2009. http://www.tikenya.org/documents/Adili109.pdf

[12] Sihanya, Ben. Is there political will towards achieving agenda four…? Transparency International, Kenya. March 2009. http://www.tikenya.org/documents/Adili109.pdf

[13] Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 1997.

[14] Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Kenya: No Durable Soulutions for Internally Displaced Yet. Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council, 2008.Pg 56-58

[15] Ibid. Pg 82

[16] Internal Displacement Monitoring centre. http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004CFA06/(httpPages)/8E4644C3046B061AC12576D400616500?OpenDocument . "The Pact entered into force in June 2008 and has been ratified by the 11 member states. Two of its ten protocols deal with protection of IDPs: the Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons, and the Protocol on the Property Rights of Returning Populations. A third one, the Protocol on the Prevention and Suppression of Sexual Violence against Women and Children is highly important for IDPs, given the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict environments."Accessed on April 22nd 2010.

[17] Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 1997.

[18] Daily Nation, 24th February 2010. Kibaki Meets Raila Behind Closed Doors http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/867706/-/wr40qez/-/index.html President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga met for the first time on Tuesday, after wrangles hit the Grand Coalition Government over the reversal of the controversial suspension of two ministers by the PM.

[19] Anderson, Mary B. Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace- Or War. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc, 1999.

[20] The Standard, January 12th 2010. How officials used IDPs' names to siphon Shs 200 million meant for victims. A http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/news/InsidePage.php?id=2000000781&cid=159&story=How%20officials%20used%20IDPs'%20names%20to%20siphon%20Sh200m%20meant%20for%20victims. Accessed on 24th February 2010.

[21] Violence, Commission of Inquiry into Post Election. Waki Report on Post Election Violence. Nairobi: Daily Nation, 2008. Pg 290-According to the government, as at 8th July 2008, 210,594 IDPs had been resettled leaving 21,431 in camps. The resettlement program cost the government an estimated Kshs. 30 billion.

[22] The Standard, January 12th 2010. How officials used IDPs' names to siphon Shs 200 million meant for victims.

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/news/InsidePage.php?id=2000000781&cid=159&story=How%20officials%20used%20IDPs'%20names%20to%20siphon%20Sh200m%20meant%20for%20victims. Accessed on 24th February 2010.

[23] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Kenya: No Durable Soulutions for Internally Displaced Yet. Geneva: Norwegian Refugee Council, 2008. Pg 82. " The UN's Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons state that "Internally displaced persons … have the right to be protected against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where their life, safety, liberty and/or health would be at risk." The Guiding Principles reflect international humanitarian law as well as human rights law, and provide a consolidated set of international standards governing the treatment of the internally displaced. Kenya has ratified the Great Lakes Pact which incorporates the Guiding Principles."

[24] Ibid. Pg 35. "Kenya is vulnerable to weapons trafficking because of its geographic location in a conflict-ridden region. The weapons circulating in Kenya originate from places as far away as China and the United States, but most of them passed through war zones in neighboring countries before making their way to Kenya's illegal gun markets."

[25]IRIN Africa. 1st May 2008. Kenya: Compensation, fear of attacks keeping IDPs' in Rift Valley camps. http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=78007 Accessed on 23rd February 2010.

[26] The Standard Online. 7th February 2010 'TJRC useless unless law is repealed, say leaders' by Linah Benyawa http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/arts/InsidePage.php?id=2000002695&cid=4& There are doubts about Diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat's fitness to lead the TJRC due to allegations that he too had acquired land illegally. Also, petitions were made to repeal the Indemnity Act (1970) that shields some State agencies and actors from being held accountable for atrocities committed.Accessed April 23rd 2010.

[27] The Commission of Inquiry into post election violence (CIPEV) recommended that the ICC step in if Kenya was unable to establish a credible special tribunal to try the violence masterminds. Moreno O-campo has identified 20 persons from among senior politicians and the police as being mainly responsible for rape, murder, and other crimes against humanity

[28] The Guardian Weekly. Tuesday 3rd March 2009. Kenya: Looking to the 2012 elections. http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=973&catID=21 Accessed on 19th February 2010.


Bibliography

Anderson, Mary B. Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace- Or War. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc, 1999.

BBC News, Thursday 5 November 2009. ICC to Investigate Kenya Violence- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8344125.stm http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8344125.stm . Accessed on 25th February 2010

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Commission of Inquiry into Post Election violence. Waki Report on Post Election Violence. Nairobi: Daily Nation, 2008.

Daily Nation, 24th February 2010. Kibaki Meets Raila Behind Closed Doors http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/867706/-/wr40qez/-/index.html http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/867706/-/wr40qez/-/index.html

IRIN Africa. 1st May 2008. Kenya: Compensation, fear of attacks keeping IDPs' in Rift Valley camps. http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=78007 http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=78007 Accessed on 23rd February 2010.

Joanne Macrea, Anthony Zwi. War and Hunger: Rethinking International Responses to Complex Emergencies. New Jersey: Zed books ltd, 1994.

Kamunji, Prisca Mbura. The Current Situation of Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya. Jesuit Refugee Service, East Africa, 2001.

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Sihanya, Ben. Is there political will towards achieving agenda four…? Transparency International, Kenya. March 2009.

The Guardian Weekly. Tuesday 3rd March 2009. Kenya: Looking to the 2012 elections. http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=973&catID=21

http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=973&catID=21 Accesed on 19th February 2010.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre Website:

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/news/InsidePage.php?id=2000000781&cid=159&story=How%20officials%20used%20IDPs%E2%80%99%20names%20to%20siphon%20Sh200m%20meant%20for%20victims http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/news/InsidePage.php?id=2000000781&cid=159&story=How%20officials%20used%20IDPs'%20names%20to%20siphon%20Sh200m%20meant%20for%20victims . Accessed on 24th February 2010.

The Standard Online. 7th February 2010 'TJRC useless unless law is repealed, say leaders' by Linah Benyawa http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/arts/InsidePage.php?id=2000002695&cid=4& There are doubts about Diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat's fitness to lead the TJRC due to allegations that he too had acquired land illegally. Also, petitions were made to repeal the Indemnity Act (1970) that shields some State agencies and actors from being held accountable for atrocities committed. Accessed April 23rd 2010.