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"Kenya’s election violence: Why the ICC ruling might not matter"
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"Kenya’s election violence: Why the ICC ruling might not matter"

Simon HartA decision by the International Criminal Court to try those suspected of inciting Kenya’s worst election violence may be a step in the right direction, however those displaced as a result of the conflict still face a bleak future. Simon Hart, 27, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Britain living in Nairobi, reports.

This month the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed four prominent Kenyans would face trial over their role in the 2007 election violence, which left 800 dead and 600,000 more displaced as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) – refugees within their own country.

During the violence, politicians and influential media members were accused of whipping up tribal hatred and dividing Kenya along ethnic lines for their own personal benefit. Given that two of the ICC suspects are popular candidates for the upcoming Presidential race, the news has strongly divided Kenya.

The court case can be seen as a step in the right direction for those displaced in Kenya’s worst election violence. However Kenya’s IDPs still face a bleak future no matter what outcome is reached at the Hague, and justice is not likely to have any substantial impact on their lives.

The government promised each IDP would receive 10,000 Kenyan shillings (about US$100) to help resettle in the aftermath (returning to their original land was not even discussed), as well as taking measures to protect Kenyans in future elections.

There have been some positive stories. Recently I visited a former IDP ‘camp’ which has transformed itself into a blossoming community. Each IDP had received their compensation, and had combined together to purchase enough land for homes and farmland. International donors have helped build schools, hospitals and nurseries and people are beginning to shape a secure community.

However, this is a rare example. One camp I visited has not changed since the day IDPs settled there. People still live in UN tents, still lack any form of hospital or school, and the land they live on is too dusty to farm and too isolated from public service. Only a handful have received compensation, and the government’s refusal to sell them the unused land has forced some to relocate again, faced with this insecurity.

In another camp, residents have received some compensation and live in a fertile and safe area of Kenya. However, they are technically squatters on land owned by a local MP, who (despite not using it and owning vast acres), has agreed to sell the land for an extortionate fee, one which the IDPs will never be able to afford even when combining all of their assets. They remain at risk of being thrown off the land, and are unlikely ever to escape from such insecurity.

Overall, those displaced in the violence remain in an equally perilous and uncertain state as they did in 2007. Families will continue to struggle against this sudden poverty trap for generations, not to mention the psychological trauma and insecurity that has been left as a result of being violently removed from their homes.

The recent ruling from the ICC therefore, whilst beginning to bring justice to those displaced, is unlikely to change significantly change the lives of Kenya’s political IDPs.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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