Thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) affected more than a decade ago remain destitute despite at least Sh25 billion in compensation budgets directed to what is now an abyss.
Taxpayers have been perpetually footing costs in the unending saga that seems to benefit government officials and cunning representatives of the victims, the Sunday Standard can report.
Officially, there would no more budgetary allocation for the victims but then again, the narrative has been told repeatedly.
“That Sh1.9 billion we were given in the Supplementary Budget is the last. It will take care of the remaining integrated IDPs in the last 14 counties,” Resettlement Committee chief executive Patrick Njagi says.
But with the compensation programme having admittedly taken a political dimension, it has complicated what should have been a noble response to the madness that followed the disputed 2007 presidential elections.
In Nakuru and Eldoret, the Sunday Standard was connected to brokers who claim they can include you on the IDP list for a fee. Once you get on the list, you are either enjoined to the dozens of cases in court seeking compensation for the victims or be part of the names awaiting money from the government.
“If you want to be an IDP, just bring Sh5,000 and you will be in the list. There are like five cases in the courts in Nakuru and you will be part of one,” said one broker from his office in the town.
Initial plans had it that all victims would be either resettled or compensated for losses suffered in the days after President Uhuru Kenyatta assumed office in the first term in 2013.
This claim has been made repeatedly by President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who have time and again said they have resettled all the victims. The last such claim was made by Ruto in June while on the campaign trail. “From tomorrow, this money will be available in the IDPs’ bank accounts and we expect that by Monday, no one will be remaining in the camps and they will all be closed,” he said in Kisii.
The next week, the Treasury released Sh1.9 billion meant for compensation of victims in the sixth tranche, with indications that many deserving claims have not been addressed.
Resolving the crisis is complicated by the fact that no one has accurate data on the victims, enabling the creation of corrupt schemes to fleece the taxpayer, helped by the obscurity in the compensation programme which is now in its 11th year.
The International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) says at least 650,000 people were displaced during the 2007/2008 post election violence. Before then, at least 250,000 people had been displaced in previous elections and due to various reasons like drought, floods and inter-communial violence.
The government, however, says it is difficult to know the exact number of IDPs in the country. “The government has no records before 2007. The scenario I have painted for you shows it is impossible to have records because if you are displaced, people disperse,” says Njagi.
Hiding behind the unwritten provisions on confidentiality, the government officials are able to reward cronies at the expense of legitimate cases since the list of beneficiaries remains closed to scrutiny.
In Nyamira County where the ongoing compensation has repeatedly been halted after the authenticity of the beneficiaries was raised, Governor John Nyagarama dismissed the exercise as a sham.
“That was fraud on genuine victims,” Mr Nyagarama said last week. His aides claimed that the money was paid to community influencers to fund the recent political campaigns. The governor’s office has been kept in the dark on the intended beneficiaries for compensation at the rate of Sh50,000 each.
Hundreds of individuals thought to be victims of displacement have been camping in the compound shared by County Commissioner and the Governor for years demanding compensation. Frequency of the silent protests has, however, been erratic over the years, likely because time has worn many out, to once a week.
Nyamira County Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru acknowledged that the compensation has faced a myriad of challenges citing that “everyone wants to be a victim so they can qualify for compensation”.
But in a rather absurd admission, he said the list of beneficiaries is prepared in Nairobi to lend credence to concerns that the actual victims could be left out.
“We only come in to advise on areas where there could be errors, but we do not prepare the list,” Mr Nakoru said.
The intended beneficiaries were uprooted from their homes following the violence but have opted to move back to their rural homes, thus classified as integrated IDPs.
But the problem is much wider and extends to the 33 counties that were affected in the chaos.
In Nairobi where the resettlement committee sits, fresh names of victims are regularly received before a blanket closure was effected.
In Eldoret, the epicentre of the violence, Joseph Githuku is confident that his amendments to the list of victims from his Kiambaa neighbourhood would be accepted on the list of beneficiaries. “Some of these victims lost property and families but have not been compensated due to clerical errors during registration,” said Mr Githuku who lost two family members in the infamous church razing incident.
While he moved back to his home that was also razed and started life afresh, many of his neighbours chose to stay away held back by the horrific events during their eviction over 10 years ago.
Personal details including names and identification numbers of the victims were inaccurately captured, said Githuku who claims to be area victims’ representative, leading to rejection of previous claims.
“We have now resolved the errors,” said the now grandfather who once worked as a casual labourer in Nairobi’s Runda estate before settling in Kiambaa, Eldoret. He is hopeful that the about 200 fresh cases would be admitted and compensation eventually settled. Githuku is among the 120 representatives for victims countrywide, some of whom have been blacklisted over claims that their requests were fraudulent.
Resettlement committee chief executive Patrick Njagi told Sunday Standard that it was impossible to compensate every victim of the violence, citing that many of the integrated people may have already moved on, albeit painfully. He said that the budget for resettlement of the post-election victims has been permanently closed. “We had a budget and it is not elastic,” Njagi said.
Thousands of families native to the then Nyanza and Western Provinces were badly affected in the violence, he said, but were able to be helped back to their feet by their relatives.
“Compensation and resettlement is a very touchy issue because they have never been helped yet other communities are seen to have beneficiaries,” Njagi said in reference to the forgotten victims that have since been integrated back to community. Several court cases challenging the compensation are ongoing, opening wide the possibility of additional claims should the courts agree with the petitioners.
Among the cases before court is whether it was fair for the State to discriminate the different groups of victims by offering varying levels of compensation.
In the first batch of compensation, victims like Mr Gichuki whose homes were burnt down were offered Sh25,000-worth of aid in a two-roomed mud house with a 300-litre water tank, and Sh10,000 in cash.
However, in subsequent phases, thousands more were offered cash ranging from Sh10,000 to Sh400,000. “There lacks accountability and consistency in allocation of the Sh10,000 and
Sh25,000 to IDPs. The government is not even sure whether it is compensating or
merely facilitating IDPs – some IDPs have received nothing at all. The whole process is seriously murky,” said the Kenya Human Rights Commission of the first phase of IDP resettlement.
Many other victims are living as squatters because the land bought by the State for the resettlement was contested.
At the Kisima Farm in Njoro for instance, two sons of former police boss Bernard Hinga are in court fighting over the 1,205 acres which was sold to the State. It is reported that the younger son sold the entire farm to the State at an estimated Sh600 million four years ago for the resettlement of IDPs.
Each of the beneficiaries was to receive 2.25 acres but the subdivision cannot be executed before the matter in court is dispensed with.
But as the suit drags on in court, subdivision for the land was scuttled, ensuring that the estimated 600 intended beneficiaries remain squatters while the promise of restarting their lives seems so near yet so far.
Samuel Njuguna, who is the spokesman for the group, shared his frustration along the lengthy journey to the promised resettlement, having previously rejected another farm acquired by the State near Narok town.
Leaders from the Maasai community declined to have the IDPs resettled on the parcel of land known as Rose Farm, which has since remained idle. In yet another controversial transaction, the acquisition of an 800 acre-farm for resettlement of IDPs was successfully challenged by individuals who claim to be the legitimate owners.
Patrick Githinji, who sits on the resettlement committee representing the IDPs, said the Sh400 million spent on the acquisition may have been lost since the court ruled in favour of the claimants.
A hurried resettlement process after Kenya faced the ugliest political crisis in early 2008 led to major blunders in the acquisition of land and documenting the victims, to sum problems that could dog the country for years to come.
Mr Njagi reckons that officials in the Provincial Administration including then district commissioners, district officers and chiefs who handled the initial phases of resettlement were the main beneficiaries in the first cash disbursement following the poll violence.
Lack of checks meant the officials would include non-existent people, cronies and family members in the list of beneficiaries, ensuring the compensation programme started on a wrong trajectory. An estimated Sh1.5 billion was spent in the first phase dubbed ‘Operation Rudi Nyumbani’ targeting people who owned land to go back even though most had their homes razed during the chaos.
Every subsequent budget since has been growing to the Sh6 billion allocated last year – which was also earmarked as final.