After a failed attempt to settle on a farm in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have camped outside a district commissioner’s office, demanding resettlement before Christmas, officials told IRIN.
The IDP families, displaced during the country’s post-election violence in 2007-2008, moved out of transit camps on 16 December to Mumoi farm in Subukia, 40km north of Nakuru, the provincial capital, but their convoy was blocked by policemen. The IDPs then camped outside the Subukia district commissioner’s (DC) office although some reached the farm.
“I cannot afford another Christmas in an IDP camp; this will also mean another election year  there,” Margaret Wangui, an IDP, told IRIN.
Wangui, 80, has been sleeping in the open. “If sleeping in the cold will help me to get a piece of land, so be it; after all, even the tents we had were too tattered to make a roof, let alone the walls.”
Another IDP, Lucia Wairimu, a diabetic, said she had not had her insulin injections in the past two days as she had to eat before injecting herself and had no food.
“Upon hearing the announcement by the camp’s leaders that people would be moving to a piece of land bought by the government, I packed hurriedly; I had no food to carry,” Wairimu, 55, said. “I am ready to do anything, even risk my health, for a place I will call home.”
Wairimu, who was evicted from her home in Kericho in December 2007, said the government should fulfil its promise of resettling all IDPs.
According to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), between 1,500 and 2,000 IDP families have moved to the DC’s offices.
The KRCS Nakuru branch manager, Patrick Nyongesa, said the KRCS had yet to establish the exact number of IDPs as counting was ongoing and the figures were swelling. He said the IDPs were in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
He said a group of IDPs had invaded private land in Mumoi following rumours that the government was to buy the land and resettle them there.
“There are [IDPs] living in [the bush] at Mumoi farm in Lower Subukia, sleeping in the open with no sanitation,” Nyongesa said, adding that waterborne diseases were likely to break out as the people were relieving themselves in the open and drinking water from a nearby stream.
On 20 December, the KRCS delivered food and non-food items to the IDPs camped at the DC’s office, as well as to those who had entered Mumoi farm.
“KRCS will have a team of mobile medical experts as well as a team from the sanitation department to help the displaced,” Nyongesa said.
The Subukia DC, Mwangangi Mwania, who was caught off guard by the IDPs, said he had no information from the Ministry of Special Programmes – which is responsible for IDPs – about whether any were to be resettled in his area of jurisdiction.
“The vehicles which were ferrying the IDPs were stopped by police officers working at my office, who demanded to know where they were going,” Mwania said.
He claimed a politician had hired vehicles to transport some IDPs to Mumoi farm without ascertaining whether or not the government would purchase the land for the displaced.
“Someone hired the vehicles and directed them to this area; it must be for some political mileage,” Mwania said.
Large numbers of IDPs displaced during the post-election violence remain in transit camps more than three years later, despite government promises to resettle all IDPs.
Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi said her ministry was not involved in moving the Subukia IDPs to Mumoi farm.
“We have not purchased Mumoi farm and are not in the process of purchasing it,” she said.
Bathromeo Gichuru, manager of Mumoi farm, said the owners feared losing the land to the IDPs. “If their [IDPs’] concern is where to spend Christmas, then they can spend it here but where do I take them if the government does not buy this land?”
Gichuru said the large number of IDPs streaming into the farm had overwhelmed him, adding that he hoped the government would come up with a lasting solution.
He said government officials had in the past inspected the land with an aim of buying it to resettle IDPs.
“But the furthest they [government officials] went was evaluation, they never said they would buy or made any payments; for now, it is still privately owned,” said Gichuru.
However, IDP leader John Ndungu said he was optimistic the government would buy the Mimoi farm to resettle IDPs, especially those who were already there.
“We are hoping the government will open its eyes and see to it that we are comfortable within this farm. If we do not push for ourselves, then who will?”
Ndungu declined to confirm claims that a politician hired transport to move them to the farm.