Accessibility links

Displaced in Kenya Hope for Justice Without ICC

  • Gabe Joselow

The more than 100 families at the Kihoto camp outside Naivasha, Kenya, were displaced by ethnic clashes that followed the 2007 presidential election, and they've been waiting since then for compensation or resettlement.

Those clashes led to International Criminal Court charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto. But now that ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has dropped the charges against Kenyatta, some think the government will be more free to help the displaced families.

A camp leader, Geoffery Mwaura, wants the charges against Ruto dropped as well, saying the cases have distracted the country from more important issues.

“If they will drop the charges and hold the government of Kenya responsible to resettle all IDP [internally displaced persons], that could work,” Mwaura said.

At first, many victims welcomed ICC investigators, hoping the court would bring closure to a tragic episode in Kenya's history. But some say the process was too political and prosecutors went after the wrong people.

“Ms. Bensouda has wrong suspects, wrong evidence and wrong witnesses," Mwaura said. "And the three wrong things cannot make charges to succeed.”

More than 600,000 people were displaced by the violence that followed the disputed election between then-President Mwai Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga. Of those displaced, some 40,000 are still unsettled, an issue that was not discussed enough by the ICC, according to Keffa Mageni, program coordinator for a Kenyan nongovernmental organization working with IDPs.

“We have dealt with the question of suspects — that is OK, the case has been dropped," Mageni said. "I do not know the consideration they took into focus, but now there is also the question of the victimhood, so I should say the question of victimhood has been ignored all along.”

At another IDP camp called Pipeline, residents are better off than at Kihoto. The government has already given them money to rebuild better homes. But they say they are still waiting to get access to land set aside for them.

Phyllis Muthoni, a displaced person, said she expects Kenyatta to live up to promises to resettle those displaced.

“We are happy because our lives are going to change," she said. "He is supposed now to work for the people, without any distractions.”

The case against Ruto is still underway at the Hague court. But for many victims, trust in the court has faded, and any justice that can be delivered may be too little, too late.