Refugees have to wait for new Cabinet – Raila

ODM leader Raila Odinga addressing a press conference in Nairobi. (Picture by wire agencies)People who fled their homes due to political violence following disputed elections will not return until a coalition government is in place, Prime Minister designate Raila Odinga, said during the weekend.

Speaking in Eldoret which is among the towns worst affected by political and ethnic clashes, Mr Odinga said only a coalition cabinet will discuss how the internally displaced refugees will return to their former homes. Mr Odinga said that followers of his Orange Democratic Party (ODM), which is popular in Eldoret, have specific grievances against immigrant communities that fled the area following disputed elections. Mr Odinga said that his party and President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) should address these complaints before immigrant communities are allowed back to their homes in Eldoret.

Immigrant settlers, most of them ethnic Kikuyu, bore the brunt of election related violence in Eldoret. They were perceived as supporters of President Kibaki who is a Kikuyu. The town of Eldoret has a majority Kalenjin population and they gave mass support to Raila Odinga in his bid for the presidency in last December’s General Elections.

Following the declaration of President Kibaki as the winner amidst claims by the ODM of rigging, violence between pro-Kibaki and pro-Odinga ethnic groups erupted, resulting in the deaths of 1,500 people across Kenya. About 500,000 people became internal refugees though this figure is now estimated at 300,000 after some of the displaced found new homes.

Mr Odinga was speaking during the funeral for the late Daniel Kipruto Cheruiyot, father to William Ruto. Mr Ruto is a key alley of Mr Odinga. Mr Ruto happens to be Member of Parliament for the town of Eldoret and has been accused of complicity in ethnic clashes that rocked the area. Ruto has already been questioned by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission which is investigating the clashes. William Ruto, Member of Parliament for Eldoret.

Top on the list of grievances against the presence of Kikuyu immigrants in Eldoret and other areas of Kenya’s Rift Valley province is the ownership of land. The Kikuyu migrated during the early 20th century from their ethnic homelands around Mt Kenya after losing their land to British settlers. The Kikuyu were forced to seek work in other parts of the country as farmhands, clerks, teachers and administrators. Many of the Kikuyu settled in their new environment and even bought land there.

Today, with indigenous communities facing land pressure due to population increase, the Kikuyu find themselves the target of hostility. They are accused of settling in the ancestral lands of other ethnic groups. In Eldoret, the Kalenjin say they are fighting to regain the land of their forefathers hence the violent expulsion of the Kikuyu.

The Kalenjin gave Mr. Odinga mass support during the last elections making them a voting block he cannot ignore. His statements about delaying the return of internal refugees until the Coalition Cabinet is established should thus be viewed in this light. However, Mr Odinga is likely to find himself facing tough questions from his Luo ethnic group.

Thousands of Luo were hounded out of their homes in the Kikuyu heartlands for supporting Mr Odinga. The expulsion of the Luo was also in revenge for the expulsion of the Kikuyu in ODM dominated areas. Like the Kikuyu, there are many Luo who had left their ethnic homeland around Lake Victoria decades ago. They had invested in their new homes and have suffered heavy losses in life and property.

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  1. […] Refugees have to wait for new Cabinet – Raila […]

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