Kenya: Government accused of violating guiding principles on internal displacement
10 November 2008

Rights of urban refugees, like this woman in Nairobi, and IDPs in Kenya are still up for debate. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
To improve the situation efforts have to be concentrated on improving security and protection in the camps.
Kenya, 10 November 2008 Human rights activists have accused Kenyan officials of having violated the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement during the operation “Rudi Nyumbani” which aimed at resettling people displaced by post-election violence early this year, according to a recent IRIN report. 

Ndungu Wainaina, executive director for the International Centre for Conflict and Policy, says Kenya has no specific policy on internal displacement and no domestic law on protection and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The country is yet to apply the protocols it signed under the Great Lakes Process – a set of 10 agreed upon by countries in the Horn, East and Central Africa which, among other issues, provide for the protection and assistance to IDPs as well as the property rights of returning persons.

However, government representative Ali Mohammed says the Kenyan government has fully respected the Guiding Principles during the recent resettlements of IDPs in the country and ensured that the displaced left the camps voluntarily. It has also circulated the Principles to all relevant partners and provided training on their application. Moreover, the rights of the displaced are provided for in other laws.

IDPs need support

As Fatma Ibrahim from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights points out, the government has helped the IDPs in terms of medical, financial and food assistance but failed to adequately consult IDPs on the resettlement process and to properly inform them about their rights. She sees a clear violation of the Guiding Principles in the lack of substantive participation of the IDPs in the process, the heavy-handedness from the provincial authorities in some instances and in the fact that some of the IDPs were given three-day deadlines to leave the camps. Fatma Ibrahim stated that “there seems to be insufficient information to the IDPs on what is available and what they are entitled to.”

JRS has been supporting IDPs in the Rift Valley Province, Kenya, through education, livelihood programmes and psycho-social assistance since February this year. Carolyne Savala, Project Director in Kitale says among the different groups of returnees, those who have no land (the so-called “squatters”) are the worst affected by the resettlement, as they have no place to return to and cannot survive long on the 10.000 KSH (130 USD) provided by the government. Furthermore, some host communities were not prepared to accept returnees from different tribes.

To improve the situation efforts have to be concentrated on improving security and protection in the camps. There is an urgent need for peace-building activities in the respective areas of return and the youth should be integrated in a way that offers a perspective for the future. Continued assistance and support is required to find durable solutions.

Press Contact Information