29 January 2016

Kenya: Does Kenya Still Have IDPs in Camps? Many People Are Unsure

In this week's press review we look at why so many Kenyans are suspicious of claims that there are still some genuine IDPs left to be resettled eight years after the PEV.

The Kenyan cases at the ICC tend to suck all the oxygen of publicity out of the room whenever there's big news coming out of The Hague. It's always an easy headline grabber whenever the judges make an important decision or when the prosecutor does something unexpected or when William Ruto - in all his deputy president glory - deigns to make an appearance at the ICC. So it takes some doing to win the attention of the local press when such things are happening.

Unless, of course, you're a PEV victim who has been living in a squalid IDP camp for the last eight years. Two weeks ago, while lawyers for Ruto and his co-accused Joshua Sang made oral arguments for why the case should be terminated, thousands of angry IDPs gave us a master class on how to grab a headline: you block a major highway and march on the seat of power - the State House in Nairobi.

2,000 IDPs block Nairobi-Nakuru highway in march to State House over delayed resettlement https://t.co/mxptEu7jvY pic.twitter.com/1DSovLkawm -- The Star, Kenya (@TheStarKenya) January 13, 2016

The stunt got the IDPs what they wanted: lots of attention from the press and the general public. There's just one tiny problem for our budding headline-grabbing geniuses: many Kenyans are not sure that there are still any genuine IDPs left to be resettled.

Do we still have IDPs in Kenya? I thought all were settled! https://t.co/l0FSkCKix7 -- apolinaris wafubwa (@ApolinarisW) January 14, 2016

@citizentvkenya There are still IDPS in Kenya?..?*.? -- Ethan Bauer Bosire (@IGNateM) January 15, 2016

I thought @WilliamsRuto and @AnneWaiguru settled all #IDPS in Kenya ? Or where did the money go to? https://t.co/qRcikO7GEw -- #njihiakelvin (@njihiakelvin) January 13, 2016

So even as the IDPs are killing it in the public relations game, they're coming up against much skepticism from the public. Where does this impulse to doubt the genuineness of the IDPs' plight come from? Well, funny story. It appears to be rooted in the same political differences (read: ethnic divisions) that sparked the 2007/08 PEV in the first place. For years, the government has been accused of tribal bias in how it resettles IDPs. It's widely believed that IDPs from the ruling Jubilee coalition's political strongholds have gotten a better deal than those from the Opposition's.

The march on State House a fortnight ago was undertaken by IDPs from central Kenya, a region where support for the government is strong. So what explains that? According to Baringo South MP Grace Kipchoim, an ally of deputy president William Ruto, the IDPs where sent by the Opposition to embarrass the government.

"It is not just a coincidence that this is happening just two days after the deputy president left the country for his trials in The Hague. We believe that there is someone behind this and it is clear that the Opposition had hired them to demonstrate. Everyone could see that they were not genuine IDPs but hired people to tarnish the name of the Jubilee Government. We will not allow this to happen under our watch"

So there you have it. The reason why the IDPs can't be taken seriously in Kenya in a nutshell: deeply held resentments stemming from politics. But if politics is the reason why the IDPs are regarded with such suspicion, it's also likely going to be their redemption. Put simply, the 2017 elections are coming up and every vote is up for grabs.

No matter what reservations it may have about the genuineness of the IDPs, the government has to pay up to look good. We already saw some movement towards this reality this week. The Star reported that the new Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri announced that the government will roll out a cash payment programme to resettled 5,800 IDP families in the next 20 days.

5,800 IDPs to be resettled in 20 days - CS Mwangi Kiunjuri https://t.co/uXGtiYm8Mf pic.twitter.com/RGkGG6fZ1z -- The Star, Kenya (@TheStarKenya) January 26, 2016

But the money isn't going to just anybody. The Star quoted the CS as saying that the IDPs are going to be subjected to strict vetting: "The government is keen on ensuring only genuine displaced persons remain on the list. Any bogus IDPs identified to have been included in the list will not only be deleted but will also be prosecuted"

Tough talk. Something tells me that the days of IDPs blocking roads and marching on State House are still not behind us. Call it an educated guess.


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