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Rights Groups Challenge Kenyan Remark on Displaced People

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, centre, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, left, stands with Gen Julius Waweru Karangi, right, Chief of the Defence Forces, as they watch the passing out parade and fly over by the Kenyan Air Force, Oct. 20, 2013.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said all people displaced by post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 have been resettled. Rights groups say that is untrue and accuse the president of trying to paper over the crimes for which he is facing charges at the International Criminal Court.

It was a passing remark, delivered Sunday toward the end of a speech marking Kenya’s Mashujaa Day - a holiday honoring the heroes of independence.
President Kenyatta was describing how his administration was committed to moving beyond a “dark, backward and dangerous past” in which Kenya was torn apart by ethnic violence.

“We have already made important strides in this regard, through equitable appointments in the Cabinet and public service. We have also resettled all internally displaced persons and are doing all we can to allow them to integrate back into society,” he said.

Kenyatta was referring, in part, to more than 500,000 people who were displaced during the inter-ethnic fighting that followed the disputed presidential election in 2007. He and his deputy, William Ruto, are facing separate trials at the ICC for their alleged roles orchestrating the violence, which killed more than 1,100 people.
But rights groups say despite Mr. Kenyatta’s claim, thousands are still living in camps for internally displaced people.

Keffa Karuoya is the program officer with the Internal Displacement Policy and Advocacy Center in Kenya. “We had a meeting just about two weeks ago with all the leadership of the IDPs in the remaining camps. There were about 46 camps, and each camp was ranging between 50 and 100-plus,” Karuoya said.

The Kenyatta administration had previously announced an initiative to resettle all remaining internally displaced people by September 20. Families were to receive cash payments worth $4,700 (400,000 Kenyan Shillings) to help them find new homes.

Nick Omitto, chief executive officer of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Eldoret, Kenya, says the program has been ineffective and that thousands of people are still displaced.

He suspects Kenyatta’s remarks are part of an agenda to “hoodwink” the ICC into thinking the victims of the violence have been compensated.

“It’s creating an image to tell the world the country is at peace and there are no political IDPs on the streets and the post election violence of 2007 has settled - the dust has settled - but I believe that that’s not the true picture,” Omitto stated.

President Kenyatta is due to attend his trial at the ICC court in The Hague November 12.

Trial chamber judges ruled Friday the Kenyan president would not have to attend all of the proceedings in person, but his presence is required for the opening and closing statements of all parties and when victims testify.