Kinna IDPs - They Had Forgotten We Are Kenyans
Around the country most of IDP camps that stood after the 2007/8 election violence have been dismantled and the people resettled. The victims have started piecing together their lives often with the help of a grant from the Government. The country has moved on and now concerns itself with the tragedies and fallouts from more recent elections.
In Isiolo County one such camp slipped through the cracks during the IDP resettlement process and is a reminder of our horrific past.
In Kinna, IDPs still struggle to get recognition and compensation from the Government and they are stil seeking justice more than a decade after the country’s bloodiest conflict. The Nagele IDP camp was formed in the wake of the 2007/8 post-election violence from around the country. It is home to victims of violence from counties as far south as Mombasa and as far west as Kisumu.
It is made up of more than 400 families who came together, cleared the surrounding bush, and built their supposed temporary homes. A decade later, three elections down the line and families are still living in the same camps.
Godana Yatani, an elderly man from the camp, explained to us why they chose to settle in Kinna. “It is not as dry as Marsabit, we have a few rivers here that can sustain us,” Yattani said.
Yattani was born in Isiolo, however he has not lived there for almost 40 years. He worked as a milkman in Nakuru County from 1976 to 2008 to support his wife and children.
“In 2008 everyone around us was being attacked. Our neighbours fled after their houses were burnt. Others had died. I feared for the life of my children and decided to move to Nanyuki to live with my eldest daughter. After living there for a short while I decided to move to Nagele Camp” Yatani said. In the camp he lives with seven of his children complains that they often fall sick.
“The problem with this camp is the lack of food. They stopped bringing food aid in April 2017. We also do not have a school close by. There is no medicine for children and it is so dusty,” the sixty seven year old father of fourteen explains.
IFA team in Isiolo came across the camp by chance. During a routine screening in the area of the film “Unikumbuke” about Kisii County IDPs, a member of the public informed IFA Isiolo team members that the locals faced similar challenges. IFA Isiolo team then went to the camp conducted film screenings, civic education and helped them form a Community Action Team to fight for their rights.
“We created a register of the victims and helped them forward it to the authorities,” Asha Muktar head of the IFA Isiolo base said, “they then took a petition and the names to Deputy County Commander (DCC) in charge of Garbatulla.”
The DCC then visited the camp and wrote to the Ministry of Special Programs about it. After a year of waiting the government pledged to compensate the victims. Of the Sh200,000 promised only a quarter was distributed to families and even then some missed out in circumstances that are yet to be fully explained.
Of the 407 families in the camp only 368 received Sh50,000 compensation. The amount is less than half what other IDPs have received around the country a fact not lost on the locals.
“The Government does not treat us as Kenyans,” Halima Ali, a forty year old mother of five says.
“No politician has ever come to listen to us even during the presidential elections of 2017,” Ms Ali says.
She was born in Nakuru and had lived in the County all her life. But when the violence started she was forced to relocate to her mother’s ancestral home in Isiolo.
“My mother suggested we move back to Isiolo because she thought we would be able to reconnect with family,”Ms Ali explained.
After settling in Nagele camp they were unable to reconnect with members of their family. Halima’s mother passed away six months after they made the move. She attributes her mother's the death to stress caused by losing their home. Ms Ali says that she tried going back to her house in Nakuru but found that it had been demolished and another built on her land. She could not afford to go to court and had lost a copy of her title deed when they were uprooted.
“I used to live in a house I own. I had a gas cooker but now I am forced to forage for firewood. I do not even have a kitchen and now must cook in the open. As a family we used to have three meals a day and now must survive on one. We eat at one o’clock every day and stay hungry. I feel like since the 2007 election my life is going backwards, not forwards.”
“The money we were given is Sh50,000. They have promised us an additional Sh150,000 which we do not know when it will come. Other IDPs from the Rift Valley got more than Sh400,000. Have they forgotten we are Kenyans?” She asks.
She used the Sh50,000 the government have to take one of her sons to secondary school.
“The money was useful in sending my son to form one. Almost nothing else was left to help the other children,” Ms Ali said. Even with the calm returning to the county she grew up in.
“I cannot go back to Nakuru, there will always be an election coming up,” Ms Ali says.
IFA field base director Asha Muktar thinks the government’s insensitivity to the plight of the Kinna IDPs stems from their hailing from a marginalised community.
“Most Kenyans think IDPs are from the large communities like Luo, Kikuyu and Kalenjin. They do not know that there are IDPs in Isiolo. In fact some think that it is impossible to displace people pastoralists since they are thought not to own permanent homes,” Asha explains.
She says that years of marginalisation has left the IDPs unable to demand their rights like other Kenyans for fear of reprisals. The locals have been victims of marginalisation, ethnic profiling, camps, torture, raids and imprisonment.
“Pastoralists are always viewed as the Northern other, barely Kenyan citizens. Cushites in particular are suspected of paying allegiance to foreign countries. Most of the locals here are drawn Borana community and wouldn’t dare demanding for government services,” Ms Muktar explained. “The fear was that if we demand compensation the camp could be destroyed or the people arrested.”
Their recent success at getting recognition and part of the compensation promised has emboldened the locals to demand even more services from the government.
“After the visit by the Deputy County Commissioner we organised and got the County Government to sink us two boreholes,” Ralia Nura, a forty year old mother of three said. Ms Nura fled from Limuru in Kiambu County where she had a shop.
“My shop in Limuru was very successful. I used to sell Khat and would finish the day's stock by midday,” Nura says “It has bee difficult adjusting to living in a camp”. She fled when her neighbour was murdered.
“We first stayed at a mosque in Limuru but left for Isiolo when the situation did not quiet down.” She used the compensation to take her first-born to Secondary school.
“We have been given little money because we are Borana. IDPs in other counties have gotten more money. But I have hope that the rest of the funds will be distributed to the IDPs. We even voted for the government hoping that it would remember to release our funds,” Ms Nura says.