Kenya: What next after political deal

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After Kenya’s laudable power-sharing agreement, humanitarian actors say the hard work has yet to begin – resettling the displaced and reconciling all Kenyans.

“We still have 200 camps for the displaced],” Bob McCarthy, regional emergency coordinator for the [UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said. “People are being assisted to meet their immediate, short-term needs. The challenge now is to establish whether conditions are conducive for IDPs to return to their homes…”

Describing the agreement signed between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga on 28 February as a starting point, McCarthy said now was the time to move forward “in a very robust way with recovery programmes”.

Besida Tonwe, the head of the regional support office for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said: “Let’s hope IDPs [internally displaced persons] can go back home to the places they left, not their ‘ancestral lands’… there has to be a well-managed return… businesses should receive some kind of compensation for their losses… there should be a constant dialogue between those returning and those who perpetrated acts that led them to flee and with local officials….”

She said now money needed to be pumped into early recovery efforts in areas that were severely hit by the post-election violence, which started soon after the announcement of poll results in late December 2007.

“The agreement between the two leaders came as a relief to all Kenyans but my worry is; ‘what next’? Will these leaders remember the thousands of people who are still displaced?” questioned John Shikuku, a reverend with the National Alliance of Churches, who coordinated the alliance’s secretariat in the IDP camp at the Nairobi Showground.

Shikuku said that after the government’s recent closure of the camp, about 148 IDP families had gone to the nearby compound of the Dagoretti district officer while another 48 families had gone to the compound of the Kibera district officer.

“Taking a displaced person from one camp to another does not help; we now need to focus on ways of getting these people settled and we hope the politicians will make this a priority,” he said.

Shikuku said the National Alliance of Churches was raising funds to pay rents for the displaced in urban areas and to begin peace and reconciliation programmes when all are settled.
Francis Mwangi, an IDP from Kuresoi in Molo district, Rift Valley Province, said: “It is good that the agreement has been signed; what we need right now is to stop suffering, we need to feel safe to return to our homes, right now we are still spending the nights at a primary school as we wait for security to improve.”

Under their agreement, Kibaki and Odinga will share power, with the creation of a prime minister’s post to accommodate Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement.

In Nakuru, IDPs had mixed reactions to the deal. “Most IDPs here in the camp [almost entirely Kikuyu] feel President Kibaki has sold them out – they see this agreement as strengthening their enemies,” Jesse Njoroge, the camp’s coordinator, told IRIN. “Similarly, many Kalenjin people in town feel shortchanged – the post of prime minister, they feel, should have gone to William Ruto, and so they feel all the hard work they did in the run-up to the election has been lost to Nyanza Province.”

The Nakuru Showground is hosting at least 12,800 IDPs.

“The announcement has had no major effect here,” Njoroge said. “The IDPs feel that an agreement at the national level does not guarantee their safety and security at the grassroots level – these agreements don’t always trickle down.”

He said the IDPs would only consider returning to the homes once the security situation improved significantly, “to a point where they are able to live safely side by side with the people who evicted them. A few IDPs are ready to leave the camp yet they are waiting to see if they will be compensated for what they’ve lost,” he said.

He added: “What is important is not co-existence of leaders, but co-existence of Kenyans.”


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