MR. PRESIDENT, WHO DO WE BELONG TO? KIANDUTU INTEGRATED IDPS ASK.

As Thika Town Today was covering a function in the sprawling Kiandutu Slum, we came across this group of integrated IDPs who have been living there since 2008.

According to their group chairperson Mr. John Njuguna, these people came to Thika Town after they were flashed out from various regions of this country immediately after the 2007 elections. Some of them rented rooms in the slum as others got hosted by relatives and well-wishers in various parts of this town.

Immediately upon arrival, they were registered at the the DC's office and had their first meeting with the then provincial administration on 11th January 2008 where they were assured of all the necessary assistance from the authorities. Originally, they were about 400 of them but due to various reasons, challenges and even deaths, some of these people left to other places, leaving behind about 280 of them.  

Mr. Njuguna added that all the members of this group had the relevant documents to prove their case. He informed us that they were duly registered with the DC then and later at the Ministry of Social Programmes in Nairobi. 

All these offices promised them of compensation as well as resettlement, but that was the last thing they heard from them. They were completely abandoned by the authorities and given a real blackout.

Given that these IDPs are much less visible and in many cases barely recognised as internally displaced at all due to the fact that they do not live in camps, they were largely excluded from assistance and protection programmes by both the Government, national and international humanitarian organisations. None of them has ever benefited from the resettlement programmes or the financial assistance that the government was extending to those who were in the camps, perhaps arising from the fact that they sought refuge into their relatives or some in the slum.

They complained of being shortchanged by those in authorities especially during the 'Operation Rudi Nyumbani' exercise in 2010 when the government had set aside sh10,000 to be given to all the IDPs in the country. According to the records, 390 people in Thika District benefited from the allocations. The sad reality on the ground is that only one of these beneficiaries was a genuine case. The officers had colluded with unknown people to defraud them and the government. The ID cards of those who got the money indicated that these people were from Ruiru, Githurai and such places. 

Mr. Njuguna wondered who signed to authenticate their payments since he had declined to do so as chairperson of the group. According to the laid down rules, it was mandatory for the chairperson as well as one member of the IDPs to sign these document as proof that those who benefited were genuine IDPs. This did not happen but people got paid. Therefore, according to this group, the beneficiaries were frauds and cons planted there to collect money on behalf of the government officers responsible in the disbursement of the aids. 

While reading the 2015/16 budget statement, Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury Henry Rotich announced that the government had set aside a whopping sum of Ksh 1.2 billion for their resettlement of all remaining IDPS. He said that the government was committed to ensuring that the IDPs are resettled once and for all, and provide social protection for the displaced persons who have been categorised as 'disadvantaged'.

This may seem music to the IDPs' ears but this lot has generated resentment by holding the perception that the government has totally neglected them. They claim that they are used to the same script issued by the government.

"The president this year told us that there was money to settle IDPs. Until now, nobody has even communicated with us about the money. We feel as though we are no longer Kenyans. We want the president to know that we are slowly starting to get fed up with empty promises," Njuguna said.

This statement from the government has also been complicated further by the registration of a group of fake IDPs. This group is made up of locals from Kiandutu with intent to defraud the government. The IDPs' greatest fear is that since these people have access to the authorities by virtual of their networks, this may spell more doom to these unfortunate families.

Majority of them cannot access to health services since they are unable to afford medical care. There has been too many cases of depression related ailments among these people, including that of their chairman, as a result of what they witnessed during the clashes and from the hardships they are now undergoing, considering the fact that most of them had a stable means of livelihood in their previous homes. Some of the children are said to suffer from nightmares especially if they witness houses burning and considering that this is a slum set up, incidents of fire outbreaks are very common. These children too cannot stand the sight of blood which is quite impossible to avoid considering the fact that slaughtering of chicken and goats is a common feature in the slum. Depression has led a number of these people to succumb to their ailments and pass on. This calls for counseling services which is hardly available..

The inability of majority of them to generate income, has led to so much suffering. Some now claim that their hosts have started getting tired of their baggage. Others are being evicted from their rented houses due to lack of rent. Their landlords believe that they are only refusing to pay since they believe that the government has a paid them some compensation.

Their children are no longer in school especially those in high school. Their parents are too poor to raise the required fees and this is forcing some of the girls into survival sex. Their parents are being denied educational bursary from the local leaders who claim that they are outsiders.

The administration too is being accused of denying birth certificates to children born of these IDPs since their parents' IDs show that they come from other localities.

They are now appealing to the president to help them get any kind of assistance. They have been unable to obtain capital to restart their livelihoods.  It should be remembered that most of them were forced to leave all their belongings behind when they fled their homes. This has prevented them from re-assuming their traditional livelihoods. They are therefore calling on the government to lend them an ear and listen to their plight. Some are willing to go back to their land but fear that those who evicted them might turn against them in case they returned. This is the dilemma they are in right now. 

Mr. Njuguna says that if it was possible, the government should resettle them elsewhere or seek another solution to their case. Areas where return is possible, both in the short and longer term solutions need to be identified as a matter of urgency together with consideration of other settlement options for IDPs unable or unwilling to go back to their former homes or livelihoods. It is also essential to address inter-communal tensions and land and property disputes which drive displacement or create obstacles to durable returns.
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