NAIROBI/BRUSSELS - May 16 - Over the past week, aid workers for the international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have witnessed the forced return and resettlement of displaced people living in Endebess camp, western Kenya. Inhabitants of the camp are being threatened and told to leave, although many of them fear returning to their places of origin or have nowhere to go.
“While MSF is aware of the importance of the eventual return and the resettlement of those who were displaced during the post-election violence in Kenya, we firmly believe that it has to be voluntary and done in an organized way. In Endebess this is clearly not the case,” says Rémi Carrier, MSF Head of Mission in Kenya.
On Wednesday May 14, MSF staff saw government officials and armed police going from tent to tent threatening people and pressuring them to leave. MSF staff have also witnessed arrests and beatings in the camp.
In the past week, around 80% of the original camp’s population of 9,000 has left. Some left following government promises of security, shelter, seeds, food and money upon return, while others left under the threat of violence. Of the 1,200 IDPs who remain, most are either too traumatized or terrified of what may happen to them when they return home, or have no home to return to.
During visits to villages near Endebess camp, MSF staff found that a number of people with tents had pitched them in fields or by the roadside. Some found refuge in a school. “Hardly anything has been prepared for the people pushed out of the camps. Access to water, latrines and basic commodities is scarce. We are concerned about the health follow-up of these people,” says Dr. Natasha Ticzon of MSF.
When questioned, many of these displaced people say that they were pressured to leave the camp and are now waiting to receive assistance from the government. According to them, they have received limited support from the government, despite promises of a resettlement compensation package, and little has been done to address the root causes of their displacement. One man in Endebess camp explains: “It was my neighbor who drove us away. He’s still there and he still has his panga (machete) in his house. How can we go back in these conditions?”
MSF will continue to assist the people affected by the post-election violence in and around Endebess and calls on the authorities to ensure that any return and resettlement is done in a voluntary, well-planned and respectful manner.