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UN Expert Calls for Renewed Efforts to Protect and Assist Kenya’s Internally Displaced Persons as Essential to Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding



Nairobi and Geneva, 27 May 2008 – “At this crucial beginning of recovery, special efforts by the government, humanitarian agencies and the donors are essential if the return of those displaced by the post-election violence is to be sustainable and compatible with international human rights standards. In the absence of substantially increased efforts, we will jeopardize the fragile process of building and restoring of peace in displacement affected communities.” This is the main conclusion of Walter Kaelin, the Representative of the UN Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, at the conclusion of his working visit to Kenya, from 19 to 23 May 2008.

The Representative commended the Government of Kenya, the Kenyan Red Cross, the international humanitarian organizations and the people of Kenya for the effective assistance and support provided to those living in camps since they were displaced by the post-election violence of December 2007 and January 2008. Today, the government’s effort to return the displaced from camps to their fields and homes (Operation Rudi Nyumbani) create particular challenges. These challenges include ensuring that returns are safe and voluntary, providing humanitarian assistance in the areas of return and at the transit sites, and restoring full protection of the IDPs’ human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

“While reconciliation efforts are under way and there is an increased police presence in affected areas, more robust reconciliation measures involving returning IDPs and the local communities must be undertaken to address the underlying causes of the displacement. Local elected officials and political leaders from all sides must demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation. Without true reconciliation and fair transitional justice measures, the risk of renewed violence against returnees remains high”, the Representative remarked. After visiting returnees at transit sites in Molo and Uasin Gishu districts, the Representative expressed concern that despite welcome efforts by the government, the present speed of the return operations has left some returnees without adequate humanitarian assistance, clean water and sanitation, access to education and basic health services, and basic tools to resume farming or other livelihoods. “Returns must be better planned and coordinated if we want to avoid regression into a new emergency situation. We run the risk now that the displaced persons will return to camps and urban areas in increasing numbers because life at transit sites may become unbearable.” The Representative also highlighted the difficult situation of those among the displaced who leave their camps and host families without a place to return to, in particular agricultural workers, tenant farmers, squatters and small businesspersons. These individuals have no real property and lack the means to resume their economic activities and regain self-sufficiency.

The Representative acknowledged the difficulty of transitioning from an emergency phase to a situation in which the displaced can resume their normal lives: “Experiences from other countries indicate that if we do not get this transition right in the next few weeks and months, the lack of durable solutions for the displaced may jeopardize the present process of reconciliation and conflict resolution. Even worse, it could foment a new round of violence. During this critical phase, I am concerned that the lack of funds is hindering humanitarian agencies in effectively assisting the returnees and helping them to regain their livelihoods. I call on the government and the donors to support the necessary efforts to strengthen recovery. These efforts are essential to protect the human rights of the displaced and to build peace in Kenya. For example, the use of constituency development funds and other decentralized funding sources for early recovery activities benefitting all communities, regardless of their vote, would send a powerful message that it is time for communities to reconcile”. The Representative recommended that the government adopt a comprehensive IDP strategy, as well as the laws necessary to implement it. “Kenya’s ratification of the Protocols on IDPs and on property restitution adopted by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region provides a unique opportunity to fully equip this country with the instruments necessary to resolve past and future displacement situations”, he remarked.

In Nairobi, the Representative met with the Minister of State for Special Programmes, Honorable Naomi Shaaban, UN agencies, the Kenyan Red Cross, and non-governmental organizations. He visited Nakuru, Molo, Eldoret and Burnt Forest where he met with local authorities and humanitarian organizations and visited both IDP camps and transit sites for returnees.

Mr. Kaelin assumed office in 2004 and is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to enter into dialogue with governments and international actors in order to enhance the protection of the human rights of internally displaced persons. In support of his mandate, he undertakes working visits and missions, including most recently to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Azerbaijan and Côte d’Ivoire. For more information on the mandate see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/idp/index.htm

For further information, please contact UN OCHA –Kenya, tel: +254 20 7624443.

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