Over the past week, aid workers for the international medical humanitarian organization 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 place 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, head of mission for MSF in Kenya. On 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 per cent of the camp’s original population of 9,000 have 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 that 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 to 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, who is working with MSF. When questioned, many of these displaced people say they were pressured to leave the camp and are now waiting to receive assistance from the government. They say 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 neighbour 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.