31 December 2013 |

Kenya: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013


Since its independence, Kenya has experienced numerous waves of internal displacement caused by generalised violence, disasters and development projects. The largest displacement in recent years followed the disputed presidential election in December 2007, when widespread violence forced more than 650,000 people to flee their homes. Around 314,000 of those affected took refuge with host communities, becoming so-called “integrated” IDPs, while the rest sought safety in camps, mostly in the Rift Valley region.

No comprehensive and up-to-date national data on IDPs was available as of December 2013. The government undertook a registration exercise in 2007 and 2008 for those displaced by the post-election violence, but the methodology was often inaccurate and inefficient. Many IDPs, including “integrated” ones, were not registered and so were not eligible for assistance. The government began the verification of available data on IDPs in 2012, but no related information has been made public.

The UNHCR’s last estimate of the number of IDPs in Kenya was 412,000 as of January 2013. The figure is for people displaced by ethnic and political violence and land disputes since the 1990s, and who sought refuge mostly in camps. Many will have returned, integrated locally or settled elsewhere in the country over the years, but no official assessment of their number and their outstanding protection needs has been carried out. UNHCR’s estimate does not include those who took refuge with host communities or were forcibly evicted in urban areas.

Kenya’s pastoralists have also suffered displacement. No figures are available, but they have been displaced by a complex mix of violence, cattle rustling, disasters and both state and private interventions. Their displacement is intrinsically linked to the loss of livestock and their lack of access to land, resources and markets.

Data gathering in Kenya generally focuses on fresh displacement, and there is little information on dynamics after IDPs’ initial flight. According to verified reports, around 55,000 people were newly displaced in 2013 as a result of political and inter-communal violence and disputes over resources. Marsabit and Mandera were the worst-affected counties. The 2013 general election was relatively peaceful, but many people were displaced as a result of inter-communal clashes that escalated in the run-up to the vote.

Those newly displaced by violence in 2013 faced inadequate access to shelter, food, water and livelihoods. Many cited insecurity as a major obstacle to their return and their ability to restart their lives. IDPs living in protracted displacement identified inadequate access to land, basic services and livelihood opportunities as their protection concerns. Some were still living in tattered tents or under tarpaulins five years after their displacement. Many IDPs are displaced in areas of the country that are environmentally and economically vulnerable, and as such they have fewer opportunities for integration and development.

In 2008, the government launched Operation Rudi Nyumbani to facilitate the return and resettlement of registered IDPs, providing emergency assistance with the support of the international community. In October 2013, the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced that all IDPs had been resettled. Rights groups, however, reported that some were still living in camps and host communities.

Kenya has made progress towards putting a comprehensive legal and policy framework on internal displacement in place. The cabinet endorsed a draft national policy on internal displacement in October 2012 and parliament adopted a new Act on IDPs in December of the same year. Since then, however, there has been no progress in implementing the Act or moving the national policy beyond the draft stage. The implementation of such frameworks is essential to improving the government’s response to the protection needs of IDPs and other affected communities. Kenya is also still to sign and ratify the Kampala Convention.

The level of service provision and donor attention to IDPs in 2013 was insufficient, and a clear gap remained between short-term emergency measures and the comprehensive medium and long-term initiatives they need to restart their lives.