LETTING THEM DO IT THEMSELVES: ADVOCACY FOR INTERNALLY
DISPLACED PERSONS IN NDATHO CAMP LOWER SUBUKIA
Br. Joe Masumbuko ofm
I beg to share our experiences with a community of Kenyans who celebrated their Christmas in the same old tents donated to them as a result of the events that took place around the same time in the post election violence of 2007. A few months ago I was asked by my minister provincial to direct the office of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Franciscans Africa. It is a programme of the Franciscan Family Association in Kenya, but with an African mandate. One of the challenges on our hands has been that of our internally displaced brothers and sisters. We are associated with one of such camps in Lower Subukia.
Three years of advocacy for IDPs in Kenya seems to be starting to pay off, not only because many people are concerned, but also because the IDPs are increasingly speaking for themselves. The minister for Special Programmes Hon.Esther Murugi announced on Friday, September 2, 2011 that 1000 families would be settled the following week. This would effectively drop the number of internally displaced persons’ families still in camps to a little below 3000 families. It is not clear whether the motivation to act then was due to the coming general election in 2012, or to the intending visit of the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons that was due for October 2011.
Either way, the office of JPIC Franciscans Africa has been involved in advocacy for IDPs in Ndatho camp and we are keen to share this experience gained in the last three years. Actually the minister’s promises saw delivery of some building materials, such as poles and door hinges, at the camp to the effect that the memo presented by these IDPs to the Special Rapporteur contained a level of thankfulness and optimism that progress was being made in the search for a permanent solution for them However, unfortunately, that’s where it all ended. The IDPs had to organize a serious demonstration to exert pressure on the government.
On the morning of November 30th, they marched; men, women and youths, accompanied by rain almost 5 kms to the main road between Nakuru and Nyahururu. With their Peace flag flying above them, they dragged one of their badly tattered tents to the highway, showing to all who passed by the gravity of their actual situation. Promises of speedy resettlement were indeed forthcoming from the authorities but without actual implementation Then quite unexpectedly just last month, another group of almost 2,000 more IDPs were brought in by government to the same semi-arid area of Lower Subukia, putting further pressure of uncertainty upon all involved.
Ndatho is the name of the deceased owner of a farm that is now the site of the IDPs camp located 50 km from Nakuru town. Located on the border between Lower and Upper Subukia, the area is ministered to by the Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM). It is on this basis that the office of JPIC Franciscans has been involved in advocacy for these IDPs. It is for these IDPs and others that Franciscans spent a week of prayer and fasting at the freedom corner in the fifth week of lent in
This camp is unique for its composition and history. They were a total of 113 families. The records as at the time of settling at Ndatho showed 840 persons in all. Of course several changes have occurred in the last three years. Some of the able bodied have moved on to cities to find work while babies have been born into this community.
These persons were displaced as a result of the 2007/08-post election violence. The families received from government, the first installment of their resettlement package upon which they decided to pool it together in order to collectively buy a piece of land for themselves. However, the land that they acquired turned out to be marshland and uninhabitable. Still, that was all that they could afford from the amount of money they had been given. The government intervened by acquiring for them a disused farm, but nevertheless habitable from the known descendants of Ndatho in the area. Since then they have been living in tents on this land for almost three years now, without specific allocation of plots to grant them the title so much needed for a settled life and development.
Search for a durable solution
The guiding principles on internal displacement provide that “displacement shall last no longer than required by the circumstances” (principle 6). The right of internally displaced persons to a durable solution is articulated in Principles 28-30. A durable solution is achieved when internally displaced persons no longer have any specific assistance and protection needs that are linked to their displacement and can enjoy their human rights without discrimination on account of their displacement.
The office of JPIC Franciscans Africa found that the IDPs in Ndatho camp could not be reintegrated in the places of origin before displacement and neither could they be integrated in the places where they sought initial refuge (the marsh land they had purchased). A permanent solution would, in the circumstances, be arrived at by achieving sustainable integration in this area where Ndatho camp is
Arriving at a sustainable solution does not come easily, since it is the role of government and local authorities to provide a durable solution. JPICFA could only complement the government efforts. JPICFA has to some extent employed the rights based and community based approaches in addition to age and gender mainstreaming as a way of complementing the government’s effort to find a lasting solution.
The IDPs of Ndatho camp have a local leadership constituted from among them.
It is this leadership that JPIC Franciscans Africa has empowered to pursue their right to resettlement by themselves. Mr. Lucas the chairperson of the community and his team of five represent the community at the various meetings that we help to set up with government officials. The leadership is however largely composed of males. While this seems objectionable from the gender perspective, we could not undo this since the process of choosing the leaders was participatory. The women in the camp however have a prominent role.
When it comes to sharing any donation brought to the camp, it is worth noting that this largely male leadership leaves the distribution of the donated items to the women in the camp. It would therefore seem that the key advocacy issues are left to the men while questions of charity are left to the women. “The women know better who is most disadvantaged among us, for this reason we let them determine the mode of distribution of the donations” says Lucas.
On the world environment day, the gender roles played out very clearly. JPICFA had aided the purchase of tree seedlings and the cost of digging of the holes for planting as a way of contributing to income generation for the youth in the camp. As the men planted, the women fetched the water for irrigating. We had however carried in our vehicle, second hand clothes gathered from well wishers in Nairobi. At first it was not clear how these were going to be shared out. However,
Lucas later informed us that a balloting system, in which only women were involved, allowed for an acceptable sharing of these items.
The rights-based issues here stand out very clearly. The government acquired this piece of land after their displacement, but the process of demarcating the land for distribution via balloting has taken more than two years. To date the IDPs are still living in torn tents issued to them almost three years ago. The demarcation of the plots was complete, but the IDPs who participated in the process realized that only 90 out of the 113 families would get land in that location. This delay in balloting and uncertainty is denying some of our brother
And sister IDPs the motivation they need to work for the development of this new community. Housing and sanitation are also a big challenge. Moreover the demarcated plots are not evenly distributed. Some are in marshland; others on rock, while others are on arable land. Families that will ballot the non-arable plots may be condemned to a life of food insecurity.
Another outstanding rights issue is the right to education. As at 5th June 2011, the camp had over 90 children of school going age. More are still being born and the only home they have known is the camp. The nearest school is almost 5 kilometers from the camp. This could be manageable for the older children but definitely challenging for the younger ones. The new Constitution places the obligation for early childhood education on the county governments, but the counties are yet to be operational. The community has decided to start a kindergarten for themselves. With a blackboard under a tree, a form three graduate mother of three takes the children through the alphabet and numbers.
Although as of January 11th this year 2012 the government has assured the IDPs they will be resettled by February, still the fact remains that due to the persistent dragging of feet by the government, the community does not yet have a clear idea of where the school will be located. So they cannot yet construct any classrooms.
The lessons we have learnt from this experience are limitless. The displaced persons should not be perceived as victims but survivors. The latter perception is more empowering than the former. The latter solicits not sympathy but empathy, not only charity but justice. When IDPs are treated as survivors, they will take charge of their situation and claim their rights the best way they know how. The role of any civil society organization or even the faith based groups is not only to donate food and blankets but to open advocacy avenues for the IDPs.
We are all very much aware that this year is an election year. The IDPs are voters too even though many of them regret having voted in the last election.. They should actually be encouraged to vote. A camp of almost 100 families may have well over 100 voters. The IDPs should continue to be helped to claim their space.
If their votes count, then anyone seeking their vote should show they have the will and capability to ensure a permanent solution for them. Still, this can only happen if IDPs themselves are active participants. They should only be aided in
this advocacy process, not replaced.
With hope & confidence in the courageous resilience of our brother & sister IDPs
& in our government’s long -awaited response to their ongoing plight.
Br. Joe Masumbuko ofm