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Kenya Faces Divisions Over Resettlement of IDPs


The Kenyan government's plans to begin resettling people displaced by post-election violence have encountered resistance from members of parliament representing the Rift Valley region, home to many of the displaced. As Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, lawmakers are divided over how to approach the question of resettlement, highlighting lingering divisions within the coalition government.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and new Prime Minister Raila Odinga are set to visit towns in the Rift Valley province Thursday. The region was at the center of the political and ethnic clashes that followed December's disputed elections. And it is now the focus of some of the thorniest issues confronting the new coalition government, including the resettlement of people displaced from their homes.

Around 160,000 people remain in camps, according to the Kenya Red Cross, with the bulk of these in the Rift Valley. President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga are hoping to determine a plan for resettling these people by next week.

But members of parliament from Mr. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), who represent districts in the Rift Valley, have urged the government to hold off on resettling people. They say the underlying tensions that led to the recent violence - as well as similar clashes in the past - must be addressed first.

"We do not want this thing to be rushed," says Joshua Kutuny, a member of parliament from Cherangany in the northern Rift Valley. "This thing has been coming up always after five years. So even resettling these people without addressing the main cause of the problem will mean that we resettle them today, tomorrow again, they are IDPs. If it is the issue of land we want to understand what is causing this problem. The tribal animosity that is there, what are we going to do."

Much of the initial wave of violence in the Rift Valley following the elections involved attacks from groups from the Kalenjin community on members of the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki. Retaliatory attacks by Kikuyus followed, centered in the towns of Nakuru and Naivasha. Since Kenya's independence, many Kikuyus have resettled in the Rift Valley, on land that many Kalenjins see as rightly theirs.

The debate over resettling IDPs has largely broken down along regional and tribal lines. Members of parliament from the northern and southern Rift Valley - members of the Orange Democratic Movement representing districts with large Kalenjin communities - have called for resettlement to be delayed.

But Rift Valley lawmakers belonging to Kibaki's Party of National Unity - mainly Kikuyus from the area of Nakuru and Naivasha in the Central Rift Valley - have accused those seeking to delay resettlement of using the IDPs as a bargaining chip in addressing grievances over land distribution.

Industrialization assistant minister Nderitu Mureithi, who represents the Laikipia West district, says the Orange Democratic Movement members may also be hoping to gain more representation in the new coalition government.

"I think it's really an issue of selfishness in this whole matter of grand coalition and who gets what position and so on," he said. "I think some segments from the ODM team clearly want to use that issue as a bargaining chip for what they believe maybe they can get by way of positions."

Several Orange Democratic Movement lawmakers from the Rift Valley have expressed disappointment at the lack of consultation in distributing government jobs and have hinted at the possibility of leaving the party.

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