Kenya's displaced suffer inhuman conditions - U.N.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 27 Sep 2011 14:20 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI, Sept 27 (AlertNet) - Kenya needs to resettle thousands of displaced families who are living in dire conditions almost four years after being forced from their homes during post-election violence, a senior United Nations official said on Tuesday.

Some 1,220 Kenyans were killed and more than 660,000 people were displaced when violence flared between supporters of rival presidential contenders, fuelled by historical grievances between different ethnic communities.

This month, the International Criminal Court is holding hearings that will determine whether six high-profile Kenyan politicians and senior officials should stand trial for crimes against humanity related to the violence, including murder, rape and forcible transfer of people.

Chaloka Beyani, the United Nations&${esc.hash}39; Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), called on the government to resettle the displaced ahead of Kenya&${esc.hash}39;s next election in 2012.

"The visit was timed . to make sure that as we approach 2012, the issue of IDPs is addressed urgently," he said at the end of a nine-day mission to Kenya.

"A lot is at stake in terms of the future political stability of the country."


Beyani said those displaced could be vulnerable to attack if election violence flares again in 2012 without resettlement and reconciliation within the community.

Government figures show that 6,713 families remain displaced, but the figure is likely to be much higher since those who fled violence without identity cards were not registered as displaced.

Children have been most affected by the conditions in the camps, mainly concentrated in the Rift Valley, opting to live on streets of nearby towns instead, scavenging for scrap metal.

"There is a generation of people that is growing up which is illiterate and which has grown up in conditions that are basically inimical to human existence," said Beyani, who met several street children in Eldoret in western Kenya, which was at the epicentre of post-election violence.

Primary education is free in Kenya. But many IDP children are missing out on school because their parents cannot afford to pay small sums for uniforms, chalks and books.

Families of up to eight people live in small tents, issued to them four years ago. The tents are torn and leak as they were designed to last for just six months.

They subsist on irregular government supplies of maize and beans and suffer from respiratory infections due to lack of shelter, clothes, blankets and health care.

"When it rains, those tents get wet. The water percolates down. When it is hot, there is no shelter that can actually keep out the sun," said Beyani, who has to report back to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2012.

He said most Kenyans were unaware of the suffering of displaced. The country is also grappling with drought, which has left 3.75 million people in need of food aid.

"They feel completely disconnected, disenfranchised, as if the rest of the country is not concerned with their welfare," Beyani said.

(Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Yara Bayoumy)