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Kenyans Still Living in Camps From '07 Elections

A child sit on a donkey cart after they were handed food at a World Food Program compound in a displacement camp in Dadaab, Kenya. (file photo)

A child sit on a donkey cart after they were handed food at a World Food Program compound in a displacement camp in Dadaab, Kenya. (file photo)

As Kenya enters 2012, an election year, there are still thousands of Kenyans languishing in temporary settlements, having been displaced by the violence of the last elections in late 2007. These Kenyans are calling for the government to resettle them once and for all.

Peter Kariuki has been living in a tent with his wife and three children since running away from violence and chaos in early 2008.

Their tent is in a settlement called Mawingu, near the town of Nakuru, a couple of hours from Nairobi. More than 12,000 people live in 2,300 tents at the site.

Three years ago the Kenyan government promised to purchase a large tract of the land for the Mawingu community, on which they could build houses, as many members did not feel safe to return to their homes.

They are still waiting for the land.

“It has been so painful, because within those three years we have lost around 122 people in the camp," he said. "They died due to high blood pressure, some of them pneumatic, some of them - diabetes. This is due to [the fact that] all that we had was lost.”

Minister of Special Programs Esther Murungi was not available for comment when contacted by VOA.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission estimates that more than 660,000 Kenyans fled their homes in the days and months following the December 2007 elections.

Much of the fighting was ethnic based, where communities turned against one another following the disputed election results. Later investigations carried out by different organizations accused politicians of whipping up ethnic sentiments for political gains.

Since 2008, the Kenyan government has conducted a number of programs and offered funds for people to return to their original homes or start up new lives elsewhere. But there are about 20 settlements like Mawingu where people are living in temporary shelters.

Commissioner Fatuma Ibrahim is with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, another government watchdog.

She says she thinks the government has done an effective job of resettling most people displaced by the post-election violence, especially with the challenges of defining who is eligible for assistance and whose cases are authentic. But, Ibrahim says, those still waiting for land face many hardships including inadequate shelter and poor nutrition and health.

She says she thinks the Kenyan government has failed to resolve underlying issues that ignited the post-election violence.

“I see the leaders have not honestly addressed the problem of internal displacement as a result of conflict related to elections or politics," said Ibrahim. "The government has not brought the politicians to the table in terms of saying that yes, people cannot go back to their farms for these reasons and these reasons, and punishing individuals at the local level.”

Currently, the Hague-based International Criminal Court is determining whether to proceed with the trials of six suspects, mostly government ministers, for their alleged roles in masterminding or financing the post-election violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

Kenyans are to go to the polls in 2012, although it is unclear whether the elections will be held in August or December.