Most of those displaced by post-election violence, mainly in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province five years ago, have been resettled, but those whose relatives were killed or who lost their property are seeking justice and further compensation.
With few perpetrators of the violence having been bought to book, “the compensation they need is not only in monetary terms, but also in accessing justice for lost lives,” said Collins Omondi, an official with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).
Property worth billions of shillings was destroyed in the post-election violence (file photo)
“Even though most of the IDPs [internally displaced persons] may have gotten some financial support from the government, the money was so little, considered by not only [the] average losses, but [also] the time wasted in displacement.”
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced at the height of the 2007- early 2008 post-polls violence into squalid camps.
The government provided 10,000 shillings (US$120) in family assistance to 157,908 of the displaced households, with a further 37,843 households receiving 25,000 shillings ($300) to help them rebuild houses burnt down in the violence, Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi told IRIN.
“But we discovered most of them would not spend the money on reconstructing their houses so we stopped giving the 25,000 shillings,” added Murugi.
Instead, the ministry started constructing houses for those who were ready to return to the areas they had been displaced from, building 17,916 homes. A further 3,000 houses have also been built for IDP families that have been resettled elsewhere, with 1,300 more units under construction.
“If I buy you land and build for you, what else would you want from me? That itself is more than justice enough,” said Murugi.
For IDPs who previously ran businesses, the land alone is inadequate.
“I am happy that I will get a piece of land, not necessarily for my own, but [as] an inheritance for my grandson. But I wish the government gave me money to restart my business which was burnt down during [the violence],” 80-year-old Elishiba Muthoni, told IRIN, in the Wiyumiririe area of the central Laikipia County.
Muthoni, whose daughter was killed in the turmoil, was a second-hand clothes seller in the Rift Valley town of Kericho. She received 10,000 shillings ($120) from the government yet her business stock was worth at least 150,000 shillings ($1,807).
“The single-track approach of buying agricultural land and resettling IDPs, and sometimes assisting them to build houses is not feasible,” noted a September 2011 report by the UN Development Programme and the UN Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“The diversity in terms of socioeconomic occupation within the IDP population needs to be acknowledged. Some of these IDPs ran businesses, and have no farming skills whatsoever,” said the report.
According to KNCHR’s Omondi, the government should have evaluated the financial losses incurred by the displaced during the post-election violence and repaid them in full.
The prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence is also key.
“If people who are responsible for the evictions and displacement of persons are not held to account or punished for atrocities they committed such as arson, murder, rape, among other criminal acts, there will be no closure of the issue,” he said.
While four suspects who are said to bear the greatest responsibility for the 2007-2008 poll violence are to be tried by the International Criminal Court, thousands of other perpetrators remain free, making it impossible for some IDPs to return to their areas of displacement.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a December 2011 report called for a special judicial mechanism to deal with this issue. It noted that in most cases the police arrested suspects hurriedly, without adequate investigations.
In the Kiambaa church attack at the peak of the violence in which at least 28 people were killed, HRW said that while the court had been told 4,000 people had attacked the church, only four were arrested and charged. “For Kiambaa survivors, the fact that no one has been convicted of the crime is an emblem of injustice,” it said.
HRW also reported on a case in which a suspected rapist was acquitted by a court in the Rift Valley capital, Eldoret, because when the victim first reported the crime she did not give the suspect’s name (she could only recognize him).
“We cannot go back to Nandi [in Rift Valley] because there is no justice. How can we live with people who did this?” asked the father of the rape victim quoted in the HRW report.
IDP resettlement has also been resisted by local communities in some areas, making it difficult for former IDPs to re-establish livelihoods.
Land and reconciliation
Meanwhile, human rights officials are calling for more government action, with civil society groups, such as the Internal Displacement Policy and Advocacy Centre (IDPAC), educating IDPs on the need to seek justice.
They are also urging the government to help IDPs still affected by political violence in 1992, 1997 and 2002, and those displaced in fights over water and pasture in northern Kenya, as well as by foreign militia incursions.
Kenya still has an estimated 250,000 IDPs, according to Nuur Sheekh of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
Reconciliation, as well as addressing the land issue, is also vital.
“The competition for control of land, particularly in the Rift Valley, has been protracted, resulting from mutually exclusive claims based on property rights by migrant groups and assertion of cultural heritage rights by indigenous groups. This has made the Rift Valley the theatre of the most vicious episodes of violence and displacement, particularly since the transition to democracy in the early 1990s,” notes a case study on internal displacement in Kenya.
“The relationship between political affiliation, ethnic identity and land ownership form the basis for contestation, whereby members of ethnic groups associated with rival political opinions are labelled `outsiders’ and violently ejected from their farms,” it said.