News / Africa

Three Years After Peace, Many Victims Still Waiting for Homes in Kenya

A resident of Vumilia Eldoret Camp with family. Many residents have lived for three years in tents intended to last for six months.
A resident of Vumilia Eldoret Camp with family. Many residents have lived for three years in tents intended to last for six months.
Michael Onyiego

Part 1 of 5-part series: Kenya:  The Pace of Reforms
See Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5


February 28 marks the three-year anniversary of the peace agreement which ended Kenya's post-election chaos. But many are still waiting for help and a chance to begin their new lives.

Three-year annivesary of peace agreement

From late December, 2007 through February of 2008, the world watched as a country once praised for its stability proceeded to tear itself apart.

A dispute between rivals President Mwai Kibaki and current Prime Minister Raila Odinga quickly engulfed the entire nation, opening ethnic fissures which left over 1,300 dead. For weeks, many Kenyans did not leave their homes. National highways were patrolled by armed militias and airplanes bound for the popular tourist destination arrived empty.
The crisis raged for nearly two months, until former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was able to unite the two opponents in a government of national unity. 

“Compromise was necessary for the survival of this country. Support this agreement, for it is the key to the unity of Kenya. It is a foundation for national reconciliation and it is a springboard to economic recovery,” Annan said.

Many still displaced and impoverished

Children inside a tent at Vumilia Eldoret Camp
Children inside a tent at Vumilia Eldoret Camp

More than three years have passed since Kenya’s infamous 2007 presidential elections and the country bears very few physical scars from that period. Kenya’s tourism sector has largely recovered, as has its region-leading economy.

But scattered along Kenya’s new and improved highways are the occasional tent settlements of those Kenyans whose lives were irreversibly affected by the chaos. Years have passed, but many of Kenya’s internally displaced remain without homes.

Kenya’s Ministry of Special Programs estimated that over 350,000 Kenyans sought shelter in one of nearly 120 camps across the country after the violence in 2008. In May of that year, the Government of Kenya launched Operation Rudi Nyumbani - or return home - in an attempt to meet provisions outlined in the February peace deal. In addition to resettlement, the government pledged about $400 to assist those forced from their homes.

But Operation Rudi Nyambani has been roundly criticized by groups such as the Kenya Human Rights Commission, which described the exercise as forced resettlement. During the first phase of the operation, the government simply shut down the majority of its camps. But many residents felt they could not return, due either to ethnic tension or the destruction of their homes. New settlements, dubbed “transit camps” sprang up in response.

Residents of Vumilia Eldoret Camp dry out clothes after a rainstorm destroyed their tent
Residents of Vumilia Eldoret Camp dry out clothes after a rainstorm destroyed their tent

Along one of Kenya’s highways, just under an hour from Nairobi in Maai Mahiu sits one such camp - Vumilia Eldoret camp - which houses displaced Kenyans from the volatile Rift Valley. Vumilia means “patience” in Swahili and the camp’s residents say they are waiting for the government to keeps its promises.

Jane Wanyoike serves as the treasurer of the Vumilia Eldoret Camp. Jane told VOA many of Vumilia’s residents have not received their full payments of $400. Many families still live in tents provided by the UN refugee agency UNHCR. But the tents were meant to last for six months and all have gaping holes in desperate need of repair. One resident told VOA the only food ever supplied by the government was corn.

For now, tent city - a way of life


Vumilia Camp is now three-years-old, and the residents have long given up hope of government assistance. Pooling their resources in 2008, residents of the camp decided to buy the land they had been living on and build a permanent settlement. The residents farm together on small plots growing food to feed their families. Over the past two years, Habitat for Humanity has been helping the residents of Vumilia build houses for the 225 families living there to settle permanently. More than 100 houses have already been built but more than half are still living in tents.

And Vumilia is not the only camp which still exists in Kenya. A report commissioned by the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities - which helped broker the 2008 peace - found that as many as 19,000 had yet to be permanently settled by the Kenyan government. The report also found that 62 percent of Kenya’s internally displaced people  had not received the funds promised by the government to help them return home and repair their damaged properties.

New houses built by Habitat for Humanity in Vumilia Eldoret Camp
New houses built by Habitat for Humanity in Vumilia Eldoret Camp

Tensions are rising across the country as ethnic groups begin to view Kenya’s displaced as foreigners invading local communities. In the Taita-Taveta district of Kenya’s Coast Province, community leaders have rejected a government plan to build a permanent settlement for some 10,000 internally displaced people. Groups such as the Kenya Land Alliance instead demanded the government return communities to their original homes.

But for Jane Wanyoike, there is simply no point in returning to her home in Eldoret. Jane told VOA that after three years in Maai Mahiu, the community had built a new life for itself and wouldn’t benefit from being uprooted once again.

The community is now looking toward the future. Wanyoike says the Vumilia group hopes to buy more land around the settlement in order to produce more crops and perhaps create jobs for their residents.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid