This is a piece I’d written on the IDP situation here in Kenya a while ago.
The days of ‘Kenya yetu hakuna matata’ came to an abrupt end immediately after the 2007 general elections. We then came to know a different reality characterized by ethnic rivalry, violence, insecurity and death. The now infamous Post Election Violence (PEV) was upon us. Different communities that had been coexisting harmoniously turned against each other as a result of deep-seated hostilities and issues which had been slowly boiling to the surface and then erupted thanks to cultural-political tensions. These land and ethnic clashes caused hundreds to be savagely murdered and thousands upon thousands to be violently forced out of their homes. To
be rendered as internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
It has now been a bit over two years since and a lot has happened. A coalition government came into being. Political leaders changed camps and affiliations more frequently than before. We even had a number of international notables: Koffi Annan, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and Luis-Moreno Ocampo jet in on missions pertinent to the reconstruction of our country. So many things have been happening but unfortunately nothing worthy of mention has changed for those most severely afflicted by the PEV: the IDPs.
It is an outrage that the IDP situation still prevails to this date. We still have tens of thousands of men, women and children living under sordid conditions in congested IDP camps. This is simply morally repulsive. Their habitual lives were stolen from them and even as the rest of us went back to normal, they are still trapped in a chocked and grave existence in these dilapidated camps. A living whereby their requisite human needs (food, shelter and medical care) are neither prioritized nor provided for. They have suffered enough and it is high time that real measures be made to re-settle them and restore their lives to some semblance of normalcy or at the very least, stability. There is a desideratum for peace and security in their lives, one that can not be provided in these camps.
Yes, there have been some efforts to aid these IDPs, but this is proving to be futile while they still continue to inhabit the IDP camps. The situation is exacerbating because the aid being inadequate to alleviate most of the urgent humanitarian needs of all the IDPs leads them to look for alternative means. Parents end up leaving their children in the camps in order to go find odd jobs so as to fend for them. On one hand mothers in desperation engage in prostitution to provide for their families. On the other, the children left unattended in the camps get taken advantage of. These instances lead to pregnancies, ipso facto subsequent population increases which end up weighing heavily on the aids that were never enough to begin with. Clearly, the longer the IDPs stay in the camps, the worse the situation gets.
The government is not actively fulfilling its obligations to these IDPs. Granted, there are no set laws in international law that expressly touch on IDPs as there are on refugees, but there are a few provisions and guidelines. First of all, the Guiding Principles on the Internally Displaced, which was compiled by Francis Deng in 1994 and is approved and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), states that the government involved has a responsibility to prevent its peoples from being internally displaced and also that it is obligated to assume responsibility for them should displacement occur. Also the Draft Policy of 2009 in Kenya clearly expresses that the government is responsible for the protection and assistance of IDPs due to their vulnerability and helplessness.
These principles and policies may not be binding on the government but that is no excuse for it not to deliver on them. International bodies, movements and organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) among others, are making strides to relieve the IDP crisis. However, they can not manage such an arduous task alone. There has to be what has been termed a ‘collaborative approach’ between them and the government for real progress on this front to be made. The only thing wanting for this to happen is the political will.
In true Kenyan fashion, the government would rather spend obscene amounts of money on premature campaigns, irrelevant and unnecessary retreats and their never-ending undeserved pay hikes in a bid to try and satisfy their insatiable greed than to fund the re-settlement of IDPs. Their culture of corruption hinders any progress and threatens to leave the IDPs in this dire state of affairs. The government needs to throw its weight and resources behind the formulation and implementation of sustainable solutions to save the IDPs from this disaster.
So far, the only progress seen was when a group of IDPs collectively accumulated the pitiable compensation they were given by the government and bought community land to go start a new. It was not exactly back to their former standards of living, but it was a step in the right direction. A pity that such initiative had to be taken by the victims and not the government. Even so, a majority are still living in a quandary in the camps.
The government really needs to step up to the plate and assume their role in all this. They need to make good on the draft policy which has mentions of an IDP fund and start injecting much needed funds into it in order to get the IDPs out of the inconsolable state. Because it would be a colossal fail on the governments part if we still had discouraging stories about the IDPs headlining the news another two years from now. However, as much as I would implore the government to engage in this exercise, I have a sinking feeling that nothing will change. That maybe the inaction is intentional. That maybe we are just being trained to get used to the IDP condition because come 2012, we will be in for the same ride God forbid.