IDPs' significant needs remain as inter-communal violence increases
Conflict and violence are on the rise in Kenya. In 2012 more than 118,000 people are estimated to have been newly displaced as a result of inter-communal and resource-based violence, linked to a combination of ethnic, political and economic factors. Tens of thousands more have been displaced as a result of natural disasters and development projects.
Although a large number of Kenyans displaced during the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 are still struggling to find durable solutions, the level of service provision and donor attention is rapidly declining. Many assume that the emergency has ended, however there are still humanitarian needs for the IDPs. There is a clear gap between short-term emergencymeasures and the comprehensive medium and long-term initiatives that internally displaced people (IDPs) need to end their displacement and restart their lives.
Current displacements, mainly affecting pastoralists in arid and semi-arid areas, also need to be acknowledged as significant needs and protection concerns remain. The lack of reliable data on IDPs and their location, including those who have returned to their places of origin or resettled elsewhere, remains a major challenge.
The humanitarian community has begun contingency planning for any large-scale displacement associated with the March 2013 general election, but so far – with the exception of the Kenya Red Cross - it is not fully prepared to respond. Ongoing peace and reconciliation projects, which are critical to the achievement of durable solutions and the prevention of future displacement, are currently at risk of being cut because of insufficient funding. Kenya has made laudable progress in passing a bill and adopting a policy on IDPs, which now need to be implemented.
Background and causes of internal displacement
Since its independence in 1963, Kenya has experienced numerous waves of internal displacement caused by a quagmire of armed conflict and localised violence, sudden and slow-onset disasters, political factors and development projects.
Early triggers of displacement
Displacement dates back to land issues that arose during the country’s colonial past. When British colonialists chose to settle on Kenya’s most fertile land in Rift Valley province in the early 20th century, they evicted nomadic pastoralists and recruited agricultural labourers from neighbouring provinces to work on their farms. After independence, the majority of British farm owners went back to Europe, leaving their land to the government which in turn sold it on. The agricultural labourers who had worked for the British bought most of it, and this in effect locked out the nomadic pastoralists who were the original users (RCK , 2005). These historic grievances and injustices still resonate today with disenfranchised communities across Rift Valley and beyond.
Ethnic clashes have been a feature of Kenyan elections since the first multi-party general elections in 1992. According to the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, more than 15,000 people were killed and almost 300,000 displaced in Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western provinces between 1991 and 1996. In the run-up to the 1997 elections, new violence erupted on the coast, killing more than 100 people and displacing more than 100,000, most of them opposition supporters. Between 1999 and 2005 politically-motivated violence continued to flare up, mostly in Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western provinces (HRW, 1998; RCK 2005).
Displacement caused by post election violence in 2007 and 2008
Kenya’s worst incidence of internal displacement took place following the disputed presidential elections of December 2007, when an estimated 650,000 people fled their homes during two months of intense inter-ethnic violence which cost 1,300 lives. Around 350,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) took refuge in 118 camps, while 300,000 so-called “integrated IDPs” found shelter with host communities (OCHA, February 2008; BBC, March 2010; RCK, 2012).
A compromise negotiated by the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities led to the signing in 28 February 2008 of a power-sharing agreement enshrined in the National Accord and Reconciliation Act. The agreement acknowledged that to end Kenya’s cycle of electoral violence and displacement, it would be necessary to address impunity for human rights violations, reform the police, tackle poverty and the inequitable distribution of resources and address long-standing injustices ( ICG, February 2008).
Separate commissions were set up to investigate the conduct of the elections and the violence surrounding it, but the government has been slow to act on their recommendations (African Journal of Legal Studies, 2009). As efforts to establish a local mechanism to bring those responsible for the violence to justice failed, the International Criminal Court (ICC) began to investigate and eventually charged four prominent political figures representing the two sides in the conflict - including two candidates for the March 2013 election - with crimes against humanity (ICG, January 2012; IWPR 22 November 2012). With the ICC proceedings ongoing and the four defendants due to go on trial in The Hague in April 2013, there is concern that the process could cause political tensions which in turn might be exploited to whip up inter-ethnic violence (OCHA, 24 July 2012).
A new constitution was put to a national referendum and adopted in August 2010 (BBC, 5 August 2010). Amendments include a bill of rights, provisions for land reform that enables illegally acquired land to be repossessed, and restrictions on the president’s powers. The new constitution also established devolution processes and drew up new county and constituency boundaries. These new boundaries have a tendency to run along ethnic lines and are emerging as triggers of displacement. This is of particular concern in the run-up to the March 2013 elections, especially as many issues and grievances from the 2007/2008 post-election violence remain unresolved (OCHA, 24 July 2012).
Displacement caused by natural disasters
Sudden-onset natural disasters, predominantly floods, lead to frequent displacement. According to the UN, floods have displaced around 100,000 people since the beginning of 2012 (OCHA, May 2012). IDPs require assistance in the form of shelter, water, sanitation and health care. The worst-affected areas in 2012 were Nyanza province, and parts of Rift Valley and Coast provinces and the greater metropolitan area of Nairobi (IFRC, June 2012). In 2011 floods affected North Eastern, Coast, Eastern, Rift Valley and Western provinces, destroying homes, property and livelihoods, and displacing more than 90,000 people, including pastoralists. The Kenyan Red Cross has provided some emergency assistance, but as of December 2012, there is little information available about those displaced, their situations or their protection concerns (Citizen TV, 2012).
In addition to sudden-onset disasters, drought and the resource depletion associated with it, especially when combined with other stressors, has also led to displacement. Around 80 per cent of Kenya’s land is considered arid or semi-arid, but by far the worst-affected area is the north of the country, which has suffered frequent and increasingly severe droughts. These have particularly affected pastoralist communities, which have been forced to abandon their traditional livelihoods and exhaust their coping strategies, making them more dependent on aid and leading communities to fight each other over resources and land. Some pastoralist IDPs have found new, if less viable, sources of livelihoods, including in urban areas, but many have ended up in unrecognised protracted displacement and extreme poverty (OHCHR , February 2012; IDMC interviews with pastoralist IDPs November 2012).
Displacement caused by development and environmental protection projects
Evictions by various land owners to make way for development and environmental protection projects have displaced significant numbers of people over the years, but there has been little contingency planning in terms of humanitarian assistance for such IDPs or support for durable solutions (IRIN, 29 November 2011). People have been evicted both in urban settings and from forest areas. In June 2005, for example, around 50,000 people were reported to have been forcibly evicted from the Mau Forest, followed by a further 12,000 in the latter part of 2009 (Survival International, 2010). The history of settlement in the Mau Forest is complex, and includes the clearing of residents’ land during the colonial period and government land allocations in the 1990s (many of which are now considered illegal or inappropriate) (COHRE, 2012; OHCHR February 2012).
Recent discoveries of oil and other minerals in the Turkana district of Rift Valley have led to grievances and tensions among local communities, as they were not consulted prior to exploration and fear displacement without compensation or viable alternatives. The Turkana Development Initiative claims that households have already been displaced as far as 50 kilometres from exploration sites since oil was discovered in early 2012 (ISS, November 2012). Up to 63 per cent of Turkana district has been earmarked for prospecting and observers fear disputes and conflict over land and title deeds (IRIN, 29 May 2012). In 2009, violence over access to natural resources, also resulted in displacement.
Despite the end of the post-election conflict of 2007 and 2008, violence has continued to cause new displacement across Kenya. In 2009 and 2010, inter-ethnic clashes, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and government-led disarmament efforts among pastoralist communities forced people to flee their homes in northern Kenya and central Rift Valley. Cattle rustling and inter-community clashes - some of which also involved groups from Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda - also continue to cause frequent displacements (Small Arms Survey , June 2012). The displacement caused by cattle rustling and conflicts between pastoral communities, which are mostly reported in central areas such as Turkana and Isiolo, constitute the most neglected humanitarian and development problem in the country (JETEMS, 2012). Its political dimension – especially in the run-up to the March 2013 elections – is also deliberately ignored.
Internal displacement figures
Given that Kenya lacks efficient and disaggregated data-collection systems, and a comprehensive profiling or survey of IDPs has not been conducted, a lack of reliable information remains a major challenge. In its absence, estimates by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) put the number of IDPs at around 300,000 as of January 2012 (UNHCR, January 2012). At the end of November, OCHA estimated that 118,000 people had been newly displaced by inter-communal conflict in Kenya during 2012, drawing largely on information from the Kenya Red Cross (OCHA, 21 and 29 November 2012). This overall number of new IDPs is likely to be higher, given recent developments. An average of over 27,000 per million people are also affected by natural disasters every year (OHCHR , February 2012).
A registration exercise was undertaken in 2007 and 2008 for those who were displaced by the post-election violence. The methodology applied, however, was often inaccurate, inefficient and not disaggregated, and as a result the national database was restricted to the 6,800 households identified and formally recognised by the Ministry of State for Special Programmes (MoSSP) ( OHCHR , February 2012). Kenyan rights groups have also questioned the transparency of the registration process as some IDPs were missed out or were unable to present themselves when registration was undertaken. The results of a planned verification exercise are yet to be released.
As registration only covered some of those displaced by the post-election violence, understanding of the situation and needs of other IDPs needs to be improved. These include the so-called “integrated IDPs” in urban settings, people displaced by natural disasters, development or environmental projects and pastoralist IDPs. In essence, no IDPs displaced before or after the violence of 2007 and 2008 have been profiled or registered on the national database (OHCHR , February 2012). Given that unregistered IDPs are much less visible and in many cases barely recognised as internally displaced at all, they have been largely excluded from assistance and protection programmes. Those that did receive support, in the form of food aid for example, did so only sporadically (KHRC , 2011). Newly adopted legislation on IDPs is a positive development in this regard, as it foresees the profiling of IDPs within 30 days of any crisis resulting in displacement. Critics, however, point out that registration systems with no due link to a specific purpose such as aid delivery, and without appropriate data protection management, could do more harm than good.
IDPs’ protection issues
IDPs in Kenya face serious protection needs. The fact that the government has almost exclusively assisted those who are registered as displaced by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008, means that the needs of all other IDPs have not adequately assessed or addressed and their rights have largely been neglected. Many IDPs are displaced in areas of the country that are environmentally and economically vulnerable, and as such they enjoy fewer opportunities for integration and development. This in turn increases the likelihood of their living in situations of prolonged displacement.
Even when the government and national and international humanitarian organisations have responded to the displacement caused by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008, a number of serious protection concerns have gone unaddressed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found the protection and assistance provided to be “largely inadequate”, compromising IDP’s basic rights to shelter, food, water and sanitation and their access to basic services such as schools or medical clinics (OHCHR , February 2012).
Given the lack of information on IDPs other than those displaced by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008, the following four sub-sections focus mainly on this group. The needs identified, however, are likely to be also acute among other IDPs.
Food, shelter and sanitation
In the absence of shelter assistance, many IDPs whether on farms or in camps are still living in tattered tents or under tarpaulins five years after their displacement (OCHA , 2009). Their deplorable living conditions leave them exposed to the elements - many suffer from asthma or pneumonia – and increase the risk of rape and robbery, especially among female-headed households. Inadequate sanitation is also a problem. Even IDPs who have received shelter assistance complain that the housing offered is too small and insecure (KHRC, 2011). Some IDPs, particularly women, complain about the lack of supplementary food assistance for lactating mothers and other vulnerable groups, and the absence of infant-feeding programmes (OHCHR , February 2012).
Health care and education
Access to health facilities is often inadequate. Many IDPs live too far away from the nearest clinic and are unable to afford the transport, while other are unable to pay for the medical care itself. The need for psycho-social support has also been highlighted. In terms of education, many internally displaced children have had their schooling repeatedly disrupted. Some have faced difficulties in registering at schools in their areas of displacement, while other are unable to attend as a result of hunger and/or lack of resources. During his 2011 visit to Kenya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs found that schools were often in deplorable conditions, there were not enough teachers and parents were unable to meet the costs of education (OHCHR , February 2012). Primary education is free in Kenya, but many parents are unable to pay for uniforms and books, and IDPs are generally excluded from secondary education by the fees. The marginalisation of internally displaced children in terms of education clearly has a detrimental effect on their prospects for the future.
The national Protection Working Group on Internal Displacement (PWGID) believes that IDPs are exposed to high levels of gender-based violence (GBV), but the lack of an adequate information management system means that accurate statistics are hard to come by. It is clear though that a multi-sector approach to preventing GBV is needed to ensure, for instance, that the location of water, sanitation and shelter facilities does not increase vulnerability (OCHA, 24 July 2012).
Land and livelihoods
Many IDPs live in camps they established themselves in places that are insecure and far from livelihood opportunities. In some cases where return and resettlement has been attempted, the purchase and allocation of land has not been undertaken in a transparent manner, threatening the sustainability of the process. In other cases, some of the land that the government offered for resettlement was considered unsuitable as it did not support agriculture, had inadequate access to basic services such as water, health facilities and schools, and/or exposed IDPs to tensions with local communities (OCHA, 24 July 2012). Many IDPs were forced to leave all their belongings behind when they fled, including farming tools and equipment, and this has prevented them from reassuming their traditional livelihoods either during their displacement or upon their return or resettlement.
Poor security of tenure has forced some, particularly women, to leave their rural homes and seek refuge in rented accommodation in nearby town centres. Those displaced to cities such as Nairobi and Kisumu often find themselves with no option but to live in highly inadequate conditions in informal settlements (UNWOMEN, 2011). Given the lack of adequate low-cost housing for the poor generally, the majority of urban residents in Kenya and particularly in Nairobi live in informal settlements and slums, which decreases their security of tenure and makes them vulnerable to forced eviction. In 2011, for instance, more than 3,000 households were reportedly displaced by the demolition of Nairobi’s Mitumba slums in an operation to reclaim government land that placed further strain on the humanitarian response (IRIN, November 2011).
A broad approach is needed to establishing durable solutions, in which IDPs themselves participate in exploring the potential for sustainable return to their places of origin, local integration in their places of refuge or settlement elsewhere in the country.
Areas where return is possible both in the short and longer term need to be identified as a matter of urgency, and other settlement options considered for IDPs who are unable or unwilling to go back to their former homes or livelihoods. It is essential that inter-communal tensions and land and property disputes are addressed, access to legal redress mechanisms is guaranteed and legal assistance provided where necessary. Host communities should also be consulted and sensitised in order to achieve durable solutions through community-based approaches (OCHA, 24 July 2012).
In May 2008, the government launched Operation Rudi Nyumbani, or “return home” in an effort to close camps and facilitate the return or resettlement of around 350,000 IDPs displaced by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008. A national humanitarian fund was set-up to support the operation by funding the logistical arrangements for IDPs’ movements, farming, the provision of various non-food items and the (re)construction of homes. The international community provided non-food items, shelter and food assistance, supported basic services such as schools and health facilities, and strengthened policing capacity in areas targeted by the operation (Reliefweb, 2008; Saferworld, 2008).
The provision of assistance was, however, criticised as inadequate and too slow. IDPs have complained that assistance did not arrive for months or even years after their displacement, and of the 6,800 households initially targeted, 4,885 were still living in camps as of late 2011 (KTN, February 2012). In the absence of adequate assistance, around 7,000 households who had not owned land prior to their displacement organised themselves into self-help groups, purchased plots of land and settled in 20 tented camps (UNDP , September 2011). Some IDPs remain in transit camps, while others stayed behind in the camps where they originally took refuge. This is particularly true of those who did not own land previously and those who feared new attacks in the absence of meaningful reconciliation with those who displaced them. Many lack the resources to rebuild their lives and are waiting for the government to provide them with the necessary help.
The Rudi Nyumbani operation was also criticised for its bias towards landowners. Pressure put on IDPs to move out of the camps raised concerns about the voluntary nature of the process, more could have been done to secure IDPs’ substantive participation in the planning and implementation of the operation. It reportedly bought land for resettlement without consulting IDPs, who were unable to see the sites in advance in order to assess their viability and security (Kenya National Assembly, April 2012; RCK 2012). Some IDPs have expressed concern about the lengthy nature of the resettlement process, protracted land acquisition procedures and discrepancies between central and local databases (Kenya Aid Programme, 2011). Moreover, state officials have been accused of mismanaging and embezzling funds intended for the resettlement of those displaced by post-election violence (IPS, January 2012).
The issue of reconciliation plays an absolutely crucial role in resolving conflict-induced displacement. There have been some modest initiatives, but confidence and peace-building, particularly at the grassroots level, have been worryingly absent, even in areas where IDPs have already returned or resettled (IWPR, 09 November 2012). Donor attention has very much focused on physical humanitarian needs such as shelter and food, leaving unaddressed grievances among IDPs that could easily fuel conflict during the March 2013 election.
National and international responses
National legal and institutional frameworks
The Protection Working Group on Internal Displacement (PWGID) was established in 2009 by the transformation of the IDP Protection Cluster, which had been set up the year before to respond to the post-election situation. It is chaired by the Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs (MoJNCCA) and the Kenyan National Commission for Human Rights, with a broad membership of national and international organisations in the protection, human rights and legal aid fields and other civil society agencies (OCHA, Kenya 2009). As part of its broader objective to enhance the government’s capacity and response, PWGID was mandated to develop a national policy on internal displacement. The result, the National Policy on the Prevention of Internal Displacement and the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons in Kenya, is largely based on international and regional instruments and standards (Article 19, July 2012).
The policy was published in draft form in March 2010 and was adopted in October 2012 after lengthy consideration by the Cabinet. It provides for a comprehensive approach to addressing internal displacement caused by conflict, other forms of violence, natural disasters and development projects, irrespective of IDPs’ location and tribal affiliation. It outlines the institutional framework, roles and responsibilities for state and non-state parties in all phases of displacement, and articulates measures to prevent, manage and mitigate against it, to assist and protect IDPs and to find durable solutions (OHCHR , February 2012). MoSSP was designated as the institutional focal point, including for the resettlement of IDPs and the coordination of disaster risk reduction programmes (Cabinet, 25 October 2012).
The policy has been complemented by the Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Bill, which for the large part reflects the key principles of protection throughout the displacement process and establishes an institutional framework for IDPs’ protection and assistance. A new body, the National Consultative Coordination Committee on Internally Displaced Persons, is responsible for coordinating and overseeing its implementation (Article 19, July 2012). Finalised by all the major stakeholders in December 2011, it was eventually passed by parliament in October 2012 (Kenya Daily Nation, 6 October 2012) and is now awaiting presidential approval.
A number of other government initiatives aim to prevent or minimise the extent and impact of internal displacement. These include the Evictions and Resettlement Guidelines (2009), the draft National Policy on Peace-building and Conflict Management (2009), the draftNational Policy on Human Rights (2010) and the May 2012 Land Act. The Evictions and Resettlement Bill currently before parliament is also relevant, as it states that the courts cannot authorise evictions that would render a person “homeless”. The 2010 constitution provides protection against arbitrary displacement and human rights abuses during the different stages of displacement (OHCHR , February 2012), which is important given that before adopting the new bill on IDPs, parliament dropped the section on the prohibition of arbitrary displacement.
Kenya also has a plethora of frameworks that govern disaster management, and which are relevant to the prevention of and response to displacement caused by natural disasters. The national disaster management policy developed in 2009 is still in draft form, but a national disaster response plan is already in place, linked to the Vision 2030 d evelopment strategy for northern Kenya and other arid lands. The Ministry of Environment’s national climate change response strategy 2010 refers to displacement as a result of sudden and slow-onset disaster impacts, and predicts an increase in population movements. MoSSP has a national platform on disaster risk reduction, and the country is a participant in the Programme of Action for the Implementation of the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction 2006-2015.
Kenya is member state to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, better known as the Great Lakes Pact, and its protocols. It has yet to ratify the Kampala Convention.
Despite significant progress towards a legal and policy framework on internal displacement and the allocation of funding for IDPs’ protection and assistance, the government’s response needs to be consistent and has to be improved (KNCHR, March 2012). It has focused so far on those displaced by the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008, while the situation of people displaced by earlier or subsequent violence or by other causes has not been adequately addressed.
During his mission to Kenya in 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs remarked that the lack of a clear policy, a legal framework on IDPs and systematic response systems had resulted in ad hoc approaches, causing shortcomings and grievances (OHCHR , February 2012). Even when protection measures and assistance were provided in response to the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008, they almost exclusively targeted registered IDPs and particularly those who owned land, while tending to neglect landless IDPs in urban or semi-urban environments who have been much less visible. Unregistered IDPs have been excluded from any support initiatives or have received only sporadic assistance. This highlights the importance of the 2012 policy and bill on internal displacement being comprehensively implemented.
Donor countries and international organisations have supported and monitored the peace process that successfully brought the post-election violence of 2007 and 2008 to an end and led to the establishment of a coalition government. They contributed significantly to humanitarian efforts in areas affected by the violence with interventions to provide water, sanitation and shelter assistance made through the Kenya Red Cross and other operational partners ( KNCHR and National Network for IDPs in Kenya , February 2011). The African Development Bank supported MoSSP in the distribution of fertilisers and other agricultural equipment to returnees, and in the reconstruction of houses in return areas, which was expected to be completed in 2012. The Office of the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of IDPs and other UN agencies also supported the government and civil society in developing the recently adopted policy and bill on internal displacement.
Displacement is still ongoing and new displacements are taking place, but the level of service provision and donor attention is declining rapidly. Many assume that the emergency has ended, but significant humanitarian needs remain unaddressed. There is a clear gap between short-term emergency measures and the comprehensive medium and long-term initiatives that IDPs need to end their displacement and restart their lives. Displacement that has occurred since 2008, whether triggered by disasters, conflict or other causes, has not been addressed in any meaningful way and the current displacement affecting pastoralists, which is mainly taking place in arid and semi-arid areas, also needs to be acknowledged as there are significant needs and protection concerns.
Recent developments have shown that conflict and violence are on the rise, leading to more displacement. The humanitarian community has begun contingency planning for any large-scale displacement associated with the March 2013 general election, but so far – with the exception of the Kenya Red Cross - it is not fully prepared to respond either to this or to any more localised medium-scale displacement associated with the election in northern Kenya. Some donors have indicated that they are ready to fund humanitarian responses to any potential displacement, but there is little appetite to support prevention efforts or ongoing peace and reconciliation projects. The latter are currently at risk of being cut because of insufficient funding, despite such initiatives being critical to the achievement of durable solutions and the prevention of future displacement, especially in light of the upcoming election.
Displacement of pastoralist communities
As highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs in his latest report on Kenya, there has been a tendency not to consider pastoralist groups as displaced because they are by definition mobile (OHCHR February 2012). Pastoralists too though can be displaced. Their displacement is usually triggered by the loss of livestock due to drought, conflict or a combination of the two factors. Besides their more general protection and assistance needs, internally displaced pastoralists often have specific vulnerabilities. Agencies tend to respond with temporary assistance such as food aid, but little effort is made to implement sustainable solutions based on security and development considerations, and responses are often not devised in consultation with the pastoralist communities themselves. Given that pastoralists’ identity is closely related to their livestock, subsistence rights need to be addressed within the relevant socio-cultural context. Pastoralists also face greater difficulties in obtaining replacement documentation and feel disenfranchised and powerless (ISS October 2012). As the displacement of pastoralists is little understood either qualitatively or quantitatively, they face a greater risk or protracted displacement. There is currently no conceptual understanding of durable solutions specific to Kenya’s displaced nomadic population, and as a result no response that aims to achieve them. It is crucial to sensitise all parties involved to the need to take the rights of pastoralist IDPs into account in the planning, programming and response phases.
Back to top