Internally displaced persons and the dilemma of the right of return : a case study of vumilia Eldoret, jikaze and fumilia Narok IDPs in Maai Mahiu in Kenya's Rift valley province, 2007-2010
Displacement of people due to armed violence is a traumatic condition for the victims, on account of the instability and bleakness of makeshift life away from home. It is to be expected that displaced persons should return to their former homes when the turbulence that dislodged them settles down. Yet even when the turmoil of armed violence has seemingly settled down, it is not always that the displaced have gone back to their former homes. Why? In Kenya internal displacement has occurred regularly since the multiparty General Elections of 1992. The Rift Valley Province has borne the brunt of both the violence and displacement. 1 This has been despite strong official pronouncements by the State against acts of violence and disruption of people's lives by such violence during elections. With each cycle of violence, more people have been displaced and in particular during the post election violence of 2007 - 2008, that arose out of the worst political conflict in Kenya's history. The atrocities experienced by most victims made some of them to look for new settlements elsewhere, instead of returning to their former homes, in spite of pressure and even incentives from the State and from the international community. Some of these IDPs bought land in areas which they believed would be safe for them to settle in. Among these were the members of Fumilia Narok, Vumilia Eldoret and Jikaze Villages, all of which are in the Maai Mahiu region ofNaivasha, where this research was carried out. Violent conflict and displacement in Kenya's Rift Valley has usually taken on a distinctly ethnic character. In order to try and unravel the ethnic factor in the displacement and next to that the reasons why IDPs elected not to return to their former homes, this research was tasked first with trying to establish the patterns of ethnic composition and settlement in the areas where the IDPs . Kenya promulgated a new Constitution in August 2010, which at the time of the writing of this project paper was in the process of changing the administrative structure of the country, to restructure the system of administration known as Provincial Administration to conform to and respect the devolved government structure that the new Constitution introduced. It was likely at the time of writing that the restructuring could abolish provinces and replace them with a yet to be known arrangement. But throughout this study, administrative units are referred to as they were prior to the August 2010 change of the Constitution of Kenya. were scuttled from. The study, therefore, starts by discussing settlement of diverse peoples in the , Rift Valley Province of Kenya as a curtain raiser to ethnic conflict. It then moves on to discuss 2'f1,l.e history of displacement in Kenya and in Rift Valley in particular, to appreciate how this ~presaged the 2007 - 2008 election violence and displacement and the impediments to return ~·thereafter, despite the right of return. This research is cast in the conceptual framework of the right and dilemma of return of displaced persons it then examines the nature of the legal protection given to returnees, and whether this protection affords sufficient safeguards for the protection of all returnees, including IDPs. Further, the work examines the impediments to IDP return and the possibility of conditions under which IDPs could consider to return. In order to examine these issues, this study assesses the protection afforded to the IDPs under the international legal regime. We examine domestic responses to the issues involved in the return considerations. The analysis emphasizes the lack of a distinct protection regime under international law and the failure of the Kenya Government to domesticate and effect the limited protection provided in international law and programmes in the aftermath of conflict. We conclude with emphasis on the need for both an elaborate protective legal regime for IDPs and observance of whatever legal protection exists, to preclude self-feeding cycles of displacement and impunity.