Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Operation Rudi Nyumbani

The statement below was released by PeaceNet Kenya and reflects on some of the immediate reactions and feelings of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs), communities and peace building experts in Kenya on the government's resettlement plan of the post 2007 election violence victims. The views presented, however, does not necessarily represent that of PeaceNet Kenya.

The government's plan to roll out a speedy resettlement of the thousands of people displaced from their homes during the post 2007 election violence in Kenya is being received with caution. The resettlement plan coded operation rudi nyumbani (operation return home) is expected to kick off on, May 5, 2008 and be completed by May 30, 2008.
Although the displaced people in some of the IDP camps welcome the move, most of them are concerned about the guarantee of their safety and access to basic necessities (food, shelter, health, education and sources of livelihoods) once they return to their farms. Most of the displaced people could not escape with anything when the violence erupted, while their homes including food stores were burnt down and other property stolen.
In the North Rift region, peace and faith based organizations are of the opinion that inter-community dialogue should have been given a priority to give the warring communities a chance to discuss their differences before the resettlement exercise is undertaken.
Reports indicate that some members of the host communities were complaining that they were being forced to co-exist with their neighbours instead of being given a chance to discuss their differences and find a common ground for co-existence. They say that they had raised
issues of concern that needed to be critically addressed if a lasting peace solution was to be achieved in the region.
It is reported that most people fear that once the resettlement of the displaced people is done, long term issues that have always divided the communities leading to inter-ethnic conflict experienced in the areas would be forgotten. They feel that if this was not addressed, violence
might be experienced again in the future.
Some IDPs on the other hand feel that they were not ready to return to their farms unless their security was guaranteed. Some are of the view that the host community should have been persuaded enough to accept to receive them unconditionally.
The Catholic Church, (Eldoret Diocese), is reported to have been spearheading crucial inter-community dialogue meetings in Burnt-Forest, one of the post election hot spots and a traditional inter-ethnic violence prone area. These dialogue meetings are credited for easing the high tension that persisted until recently in the area. The meetings are also said to have encouraged the warring communities to embrace forgiveness and reconciliation.
The church convened one such dialogue on Sunday,
May 4, 2008, where it brought together 20 elders each from the two warring communities to discuss on the government plan to undertake a quick resettlement of the IDPs. It is reported that the elders were of the view that they should have been given a chance to conclude the dialogue that they had initiated to inform the way forward on resettlement.
The elders were planning to hold a joint meeting with elders and youth from both communities living in three of the 21 farms in Burnt-Forest on
Friday, May 9, 2006, to discuss and try to resolve their short term differences, with a view to enabling displaced people return to their farms.
In Molo, another violence hot spot area, some IDPs are said to have relocated back to their farms amid fear and anxiety as the host community complain that they were never involved in the resettlement process of their neighbours. The returnees are reported to have carried the tents they were using at the camps to use them for shelter in the meantime at their farms before they reconstruct their homes. In the South Rift region, most people view that the resettlement plan has been rushed and it is not the right time for the displaced people to return.
According to Francis Murei, the Kericho, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) Coordinator, dialogue should have been given a priority to ensure that the warring communities were willing to co-exist unconditionally. He says sentiments from some youth in the region indicate that they were still repulsive and not willing yet to accept their neighbours. He views that the resettlement exercise should not be given a blanket approach, but undertaken according to the diverse needs of the displaced people.
In the Central Rift region, he identified four categories of IDPs whom he views required unique approaches. These include traders, farmers, employees and squatters. It is reported that while some IDPs were ready to return to thir homes, others are said to have vowed that they would not be returning to their homes for fear of future attack.
According to the CJPC, eight schools were burnt down and 231 teachers displaced in the region during the violence and this would present another problem to returnees as children would not be able to learn.
In Kisii, the over 2,000 IDPs living in the camps are said to be concerned about the security situation in the places where they were displaced from. Others report that their homes and other properties had been occupied by their attackers and may not be able to reclaim them.
Most of them feel that the root causes of the violence had not been addressed to ensure that their neighbours would be happy to have them back to their homes. They say that even if they were to return to their homes, they had lost all their property and had nothing to begin reconstructing their lives with.
They feel that the government should have first instituted a reconstruction plan including a justice system to address their plight before sending them away from the camps.
Other development experts view that the resettlement plan being undertaken is widely perceived as forced and that it may not be sustainable in the long run. They say that before undertaking such a drastic measure, the government should have ensured that communities are given a chance to discuss on their differences and come-up with viable solutions towards mutual coexistence.
They are concerned that if one of the communities feels that they are being forced to live with another, future reconciliation talks would be compromised. They say that cultural peace mediation structures among the various groups in the communities such as elders, youth and women among other groups should have been identified and used to help bring together
the warring communities.
According to experts community dialogue among the warring groups will help people feel each other's concerns as well as changing negative attitudes towards one another.

Kenneth Kibet
Information Officer
Peace And Development Network Trust
(PeaceNet - Trust )


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