Nowhere to call home for Coast’s displaced people

By Elly Odhiambo

Rukia Wanjiru is not afraid of monkeys any more. She used to fear them when she settled in Diani in 1978. But she displaced them and built a house.

Originally from Subukia in the Rift Valley, Wanjiru moved to Kiambu when she got married and then, with her husband, lived in Tanzania for eleven years until 1977 when the couple decided to start a new life in Diani, a monkey-infested settlement scheme.

“This place was a forest full of monkeys,” says the 60-year-old grandmother. “We cleared the place, built our house and the monkeys went away, but still, I can never call this place my own.”

It is not because the monkeys always come back to reclaim their original home, but it is the locals who live in some sections of the settlement scheme and around it who want her out.

“They keep telling us to leave and I have run away on more than one occasion, but I came back because I have a title deed to this place,” she says.

With a title deed in her name, Wanjiru can count herself lucky. Those who want her out don’t have title deeds to the parcels they occupy, and they have been evicted many times from places they thought they could call home.
Their problem is compounded by the fact that they do not know who is supposed to resettle them and every time they seek help from government offices, they hit brick walls.

No one understands the strength of these brick walls better than Mary Wanjiku who was evicted from Mbunguini in Kwale District in 1997 by the locals who deemed her a squatter even though her grandfather had occupied the land she was living on. He had no title deed.

She then moved to Likoni where she did not stay for long since she was again evicted, and forced to flee to the settlement scheme in Diani, where she rented a house.

Wanjiku is an internally displaced person, one of the many whose plight political leaders and government officials from the Coast do not want to address.

“I was informed that all the while, we were just squatters,” she says. “And when we went to the Provincial Administration to seek assistance, we were promised help but that is yet to come.”

Wanjiku is not the only one facing this predicament. Eliata Mathe has been from one government office to another in search of a title deed for the piece of land from where he was evicted during the Likoni clashes of 1997.

Thousands evicted

There are thousands who were evicted during that period, and while some went to live with relatives in other parts of the country, many like Mathe remained at the Coast since that is the only home they know.

“We don’t know who will eventually help,” Mathe says in desperation. “I can’t remember the number of offices I have been to or the number of times I have been to the Lands office. All I get every time are promises, empty promises.”

Says Mathe: “We get tossed from one office to another, or we are told to wait as the matter is being sorted at the highest level. We have even approached politicians, and they also tell us to wait but our patience is running out.”

One of the local political leaders who is sympathetic to their cause is Lillian Adero, a councillor of Timbuani ward in Likoni, who says her hands are tied because the administration has refused to recognise Coast IDPs.

“The Government says it does not have any records.”

In the hope of gaining bargaining leverage through their numbers, the IDPs formed a self-help group, and appointed Mathe as their representative. That role is also taking its toll on him.
“We are many,” he says. “Some of us met at the Likoni Catholic Church where we were camping in 1997 and there are those who had been evicted earlier and had also been seeking assistance. We came together to try and get assistance or title deeds.”

One of their members is Asha Juma, a mother of three who was displaced from her farm in Likoni District in 1992. She then moved to a rental house in Kona Mpya, a market place along the Mombasa–Diani road where she became a victim again during the Likoni clashes. She is yet to be resettled.

No IDPs in coast

“In 2003, we went to Sheria House in Nairobi and we were told that our issue will be solved by the Internal Security ministry,” she says. “But a few months later, we were informed that there were no records that we are IDPs.”

In 2004, they tried to plead their case at the Ministry of Special Programmes but they were told the same old line: There are no IDPs at the Coast.

Two years later, the group approached the Coast Provincial Commissioner and he told them that he was going to form a ‘local’ task force, made up of village elders which would do proper profiling of IDPs since they were better-placed to know of any people who had been displaced.

Since they are still seeking assistance, it means not much was achieved by the supposed profiling.

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