Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Four months on and far from stable

Four months have passed since Kenya’s rival political leaders shook hands and formed a government of national unity, but for some of the victims of the post-election violence there is still a long way to go before their lives return to normal.

About 600 000 people fled their homes to escape the ethnic violence that erupted after the disputed election results were made public. At the height of the violence there were 350 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in various camps around the country.

The majority of the IDPs have returned to their homes, but some are still afraid of losing their lives. ”If I go back I will be killed,” says Susan Wambugu (24) from Uasingushu in the Rift Valley Province, the epicentre of the violence.

”We are going to meet the same people who evicted us from our houses after living peacefully side-by-side for decades. It shows that they are not our friends anymore. They will still do what they did to us.”

Wambugu, who is now in Mathare Chief Camp on the outskirts of Nairobi, thinks the government should not force people to return to the areas in which they lived prior to the crisis.

She wants to settle in an area where her tribe, the Kikuyu, is in the majority. ”My tribe inhabits the central province and that is where I want to go,” she said.

Wilfred Ndolo, director of resettlement for the Kenyan government, insists that the government is doing everything it can to help the victims. But he also acknowledges that some IDPs do not feel it is safe to return and says the government remains ready to help them when they decide to go back.

”We do not want to force people into an environment where there is an issue with security,” said Ndolo. ”If the IDPs decide to go back to their homes we will assist them with transport and a month’s worth of food.”

One obstacle the IDPs face is that some communities are making the release from custody of youths responsible for the violence a precondition for allowing IDPs to return home.

There are reports that in the Rift Valley Province local residents are demanding that these youths be granted amnesty in exchange for accepting the return of the displaced families.

Some youths have also threatened to abduct returnees and use them as hostages.

The government says it is not willing to negotiate on these terms. ”If the crime is serious then the law has to take its course,” said Ndolo.

Peter Kenneth (28) is a father of three whose house and business were destroyed in the post-election violence. He says that he feels it is safe to go back but he is waiting for the government to compensate him.

”We are not feeling good about staying here. Our life is totally zero,” said Kenneth. ”Peace is prevailing, so if the government gives us financial assistance we will go back today. We have children who are supposed to go to school.”

But John Nderitu Wachira, chairman of IDPs in Eldoret in the Rift Valley Province, is critical of the government’s attitude to the victims of the violence.

”We hear through the media that the government is doing something but it has done nothing to help us,” said Wachira. ”We are stuck here. We left our houses with only our clothes so how should we go back? We have nothing to rebuild our lives.”

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Canna-business deal for Ingonyama Trust land

Foreign investment has been lined up for a joint venture with the Ingonyama Trust Board, which administers tribal land for the Zulu monarch

NPA ‘refuses’ to prosecute Oscar Mabuyane

The Hawks have accused the NPA of ‘dragging its feet’ despite voluminous evidence against the Eastern Cape premier

More top stories

ANC Durban election candidate shot dead while on door-to-door campaign

One other man was shot dead and two others were rushed to hospital with gunshot wounds

Rule of law drops globally, including in South Africa

Security and corruption prevents the country from ranking higher on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index for 2021

Slice of life: ‘I can read nine or 10 books...

David van der Westhuizen, a street bookseller based at the KwaZulu-Natal Society of the Arts Gallery in Durban, tells Paddy Harper how he survives unemployment

South Africa opens up vaccinations for 12 to 17 year-olds

Vaccinology researcher Professor Shabir Madhi said young people were being vaccinated to reduce the number of people who could transmit the virus and the focus should instead be on people over the age of 50

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…