Saturday, May 31


Last week, I spent a day in Molo district in the Rift Valley, a few hours northwest of Nairobi. It's one of the places that's been hit hard by tribal-based land clashes, not just this year but in previous election years as well - 1992, 1997. Members of the Kikuyu tribe who have settled in the area in the years following independence were driven off their land by Kalenjin gangs, claiming the land is historically theirs. Some Kikuyus in turn targeted Luos and Luhyas, who aligned with the Kalenjin in voting for Raila Odinga in December's elections, and many of whom work in shops or rent rooms from Kikuyus, particularly in Molo town. Here's the picturesque Molo countryside. The building in the middle was a church that was burned down (this one fortunately, without people inside).

A few weeks ago, the government launched "Operation Return Home" to try and send the hundreds of thousands displaced by January's violence back to their land. Some have gone back, particularly in the more heavily-Kikuyu parts of the district. Here members of a Kikuyu family that has returned to their farm contemplate the site of a house that was burned down following the elections. A house in the same spot was burned down after the '92 elections.

Others have been moved to smaller camps closer to their plots, where they work on the farms in the day and sleep in the camp at night. Here's one of the small camps:

Many others are still in the main camps. Some of them were renters and don't have a home to go to. Others simply say they don't feel safe going back to their former homes. Nobody I spoke to in the Molo camps said the government had forced anyone to leave, as Human Rights Watch and others have suggested is happening, but most did say that it seemed like the government wanted them to leave and that food and other services were being scaled back or stopped. The Kenya Red Cross says it's still providing its services but that many of those in the camps are IDP impostors.

Nobody I spoke to thought the government has come close to addressing the underlying land disputes and inter-tribal tensions that motivated the clashes, and that could well lead to similar violence in 2012 or whenever the next elections are held. My report for VOA is here.

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