Assisted by UN agency, displaced Kenyans assess conditions for returning home

Assisted by UN agency, displaced Kenyans assess conditions for returning home

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Some of the Kenyans displaced in the post-electoral violence that erupted in the East African country several months ago today embarked on a visit, with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to assess the situation in their home villages and the possibilities for return.

The “go-and-see” visit for representatives of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nakuru, organized by UNHCR, comes a day after the Government launched a resettlement programme – known as “Operation Rudi Nyumbani” (Operation Return Home) – for those displaced in the violence, sparked by contested presidential elections in late December.

The crisis resulted in the displacement of an estimated 350,000 people – 90 per cent of them in the Rift Valley – and the deaths of some 1,200 people.

During their daylong visit to their villages in Uasin Gishu and Koibatek districts in the Rift Valley, the IDPs will assess the security situation, infrastructure and livelihood possibilities.

“They are expected on return to share their impressions about the visit with other IDPs,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told journalists in Geneva today. “It’s all part of our efforts to provide the IDPs with objective information about conditions in their villages so they can make an informed decision about return.”

The IDPs will meet local authorities and representatives of other communities in the area as part of the reconciliation process, as well as inspect their homes. Ms. Pagonis noted that in many cases, houses have been burned to the ground while others have been vandalised, and roofing material have been stolen.

In many locations in the Rift Valley, people have started to move back closer to their villages. Many displaced farmers have shown an interest in returning, especially with the onset of the planting season, but only if their safety can be ensured. UNHCR plans to organize more “go-and-see” visits to help IDPs decide about their return.

Meanwhile, in Uganda, UNHCR has begun the transfer of some 1,800 Kenyan refugees from a transit site near the Kenya-Uganda border to Kiryandongo – a long-established Ugandan refugee settlement. The first set of 460 refugees arrived in Kiryandongo last evening.

On Friday the agency is planning to repatriate another 200 Kenyan refugees who wish to return to their homes, mainly in the districts neighbouring Uganda.