A refugee leader in Nakuru was last weekend abducted and tortured for allegedly frustrating government efforts to close the camp.
While protesting the disappearance of their leader, two male refugees were shot by police on Saturday and are admitted to a Nakuru hospital in critical condition. The abducted man, Mr Peter Kariuki, re-emerged on Monday bearing horrific acid burns on his face. The refugees blame police for torturing Mr Kariuki, a claim that the government has denied.
Mr Kariuki says he was taken to a forested area, beaten and acid thrown into his face. His abductors accused him of inciting refugees against returning home. However, the refugees in Nakuru say they are unable to return to their former homes in the Rift Valley due to threats from the people who evicted them early this year. Many refugees are also demanding compensation from the Kenyan government, saying they have no homes to return to.
Reports from Kenya’s media indicate that the Nakuru District Commissioner has launched investigations into the incident when it became clear that the police were involved in Mr Kariuki’s ordeal.
The Kenyan government is eager to close refugee camps in the country, fearing they could become hotbeds of popular discontent. The camps consist of people displaced or evicted from their homes during ethnic and political clashes that erupted following disputed elections in December 2007.
By March 2008, about 1,500 people had been killed and 500,000 made homeless due to the violence. The violence began in the Rift Valley pitting the Kalenjin against the Kikuyu, Kisii and Kamba tribes. Ethnic clashes later spread to Western and Nyanza provinces where the Luo and Luhya evicted large numbers of Kikuyu, Kisii and Ugandans. Retaliatory attacks were launched in Nakuru, Naivasha and Limuru with the Kikuyu attacking and evicting Luo, Kalenjin and Luhya from those towns.
International mediation resulted in a coalition government between President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a Luo. However, there remains conflict in the giant coalition over the circumstances relating to the violence. The President wants perpetrators of violence to face trial, while the Prime Minister wants them to be unconditionally released as, “warriors of democracy.”
The Kenyan government has been accused of forcibly closing down refugee camps and pushing people into areas of insecurity. In many instances, Kikuyu families trucked into their former homes in Kalenjin strongholds have been attacked.
The Kalenjin are demanding the release of youth arrested for participating in ethnic violence. In Eldoret, the Kalenjin have vowed to resist the return of refugees until their own people are released from police custody.