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Kenyan reconciliation jeopardized without bolstered efforts, warns UN envoy

Kenyan reconciliation jeopardized without bolstered efforts, warns UN envoy

IDPs at a shelter in the Rift Valley Province (file photo)
Stepped-up measures are crucial to ensure the sustainable return of those forced to flee their homes by post-electoral violence that swept through Kenya earlier this year, a United Nations envoy cautioned today.

“In the absence of substantially increased efforts, we will jeopardize the fragile process of building and restoring peace in displacement affected countries,” said Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, at the end of his 19-23 May visit to Kenya.

He commended the Government, the Kenyan Red Cross, international aid organizations and the people of Kenya for their assistance to those internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.

But the Government faces challenges in its efforts to return the displaced to their homes, including ensuring that the repatriations are safe and voluntary and providing humanitarian assistance in areas of return, the Representative noted.

“While reconciliation efforts are under way and there is an increased police presence in affected areas, more robust reconciliation measures involving returning IDPs and the local communities must be undertaken to address the underlying causes of the displacement,” he said.

Mr. Kälin said that “without true reconciliation and fair transition measures, the risk of renewed violence against returnees remains high.”

While in Kenya, he visited transit sites in the Molo and Uasin Gishu districts, noting that the speed of the repatriations have left some without adequate humanitarian assistance, clean water and sanitation, access to education and basic health services.

“Returns must be better planned and coordinated if we want to avoid regression into a new emergency,” the Representative observed. “We run the risk now that the displaced persons will return to camps and urban areas in increasing numbers because life at transit sites may become unbearable.”

He said he recognizes that converting from an emergency phase to one in which IDPs can resume their lives is difficult, but warned that if this transition is not handled appropriately, there is a chance that a new round of violence could break out.

Mr. Kälin – who during his visit met with Government officials, UN agencies, the Kenyan Red Cross, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and stopped at IDP camps – voiced concern that the lack of funds is impeding the ability of aid agencies in assisting returnees, and called on the Government and donors to provide the necessary support.

He also appealed to authorities to adopt a comprehensive IDP strategy and the laws needed to implant such a plan.