Kenya Elections 2013: New President Must Resettle IDPs

General elections are about to take place in Kenya. The media can't stay away from stories about lots of bloodshed in African countries, and after 2007-2008’s violent election, has been waiting with bated breath for this big showdown. It is the hundreds of thousands still without financial restitution and displaced in camps from the last election (unlike the aforementioned hopeful spectators), who have a real stake in today’s outcome and whose resettlement could add to the continued effort to unify the country. 

Whoever becomes Kenya’s next leader must either create and maintain momentum for the nascent government resettlement program, Operation Rudi Nyumbani or Go Back Home, or institute — and follow through with — another analogous campaign. Besides providing much needed aid to hungry and displaced citizens, resettlement and restitution would add to the growing sense of harmony the country is working hard to instill.    

The people who fled their homes during the violence of the last election took nothing with them, and have been living with little more than that since. According to a UN estimate, more than 600,000 people were displaced in the 2007/2008 clash. Reporting for the Associated Press, Tom Odula wrote about the 624 people living in the IDP camp called Hope Camp, where full meals and baths are hard to come by, and some residents earn less than $2 a day working as laborers in nearby farms. 

The refugees fear ushering in a new administration will cause their pressing issues to be swept under the rug. Of additional concern are those requiring government assistance, who worry they will lose eligibility under new leadership.   

Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1963, Kenya has been wracked by the tension that plagues many countries in Africa because of the long lasting, horrific impacts of hundreds of years of colonialism. In Kenya, the British governed from a distance and maintained control through a “divide and rule" strategy, allocating power, resources and opportunity to a few who were then indebted to the British to maintain their livelihood. This set off a process of differentiation and class formation, leading to stagnant poverty and disenfranchisement that continues to resonate. This remains the underlying cause for any discord today. 

A leader who ignores party and ethnic affiliation and works to resettle those still living in abhorrent conditions from the last elections will set a precedent for continued peace, one which, thought the media has been loathe to cover, has already been set into motion. 

A number of reforms, including the amicable passing of a new Constitution in 2010, have been initiated to address the flawed processes of the last election cycle. The International Crisis Group writes of the “remarkable determination of most to avoid a repeat of 2007-2008.” From Nairobi, Rodney Muhumuza reported “Clerics across Kenya gave sermons dedicated to peace on Sunday, and urged the country to prove wrong the "prophets of doom" who predict violence.” 

It is vital that the Kenya’s next president take all necessary measures to work toward resettlement for those still displaced. This would send a message to the country and to the international community. It is a great opportunity, moreover, for Kenya’s next leader to work on healing imperialism's ravaging impact on the young nation.

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Amanda Sperber

I research media/communication, development and humanitarian crises.

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