According to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1996), “Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are persons or a group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid effects of armed conflict, situation of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised State border”. There are more IDPs in the world than refugees. Globally, there are an estimated 30.5 million IDPs.Internal displacement in Kenya is attributed to the following key factors:
- Conflict including politically instigated violence and resource-based conflicts
- Natural or man-made disasters (such as fire, floods, landslides and drought)
- Violations of human rights causing arbitrary displacement (such as development induced displacement and reforestation)
IDPs are different from refugees as they have not crossed an internationally recognised State border. They however require specific assistance and protection as refugees in regard to their displacement status. An IDP is said to have found a durable solution through either voluntary return, integration or resettlement. One ceases to be an IDP once they access a durable solution.
Legal instruments guiding the protection of IDPs
At the international level the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998) serve as an international standard to guide governments as well as international humanitarian and development agencies in providing assistance and protection to IDPs. The Principles identify the rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of the internally displaced in all phases of displacement. They provide protection against arbitrary displacement, offer a basis for protection and assistance during displacement and set forth guarantees for safe return, resettlement and reintegration. Although they do not constitute a binding instrument, these Principles reflect and are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law and analogous refugee law.
The Pact on Peace, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region (commonly known as the Great Lakes Pact) entered into force on 21st June 2008. The pact provides a legal framework governing relations between the member states, which are: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The content comprises of ten protocols of which two are directly related to IDPs and in coherence with the UN Guiding Principles:
- Article 11: Protocol on the Prevention and Suppression of Sexual Violence Against Women and Children
- Article 12: Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons
In October 2009, the African Union adopted the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, (also known as the Kampala Convention). Building on the Guiding Principles and the experiences, laws and policies of African states the Convention is the first regional instrument in the world to impose legal obligations on states in relation to the protection and assistance of IDPs. Since its adoption, the Convention has been signed by 29 countries and ratified by two. A number of AU member states are working towards ratification. The Convention will come into force once it has been ratified by 15 of the 53 AU member states. Kenya is yet to ratify the Convention and domesticate it.
At the national level Kenya still has not adopted a legal framework recognizing and providing for the protection and assistance of IDPs. The 2010 Constitution of Kenya articulates a Bill of Rights that protects the basic rights of IDPs. A Draft IDP policy currently under consideration by the cabinet seeks to elaborate on these rights. It was drafted by the Ministry of State for Special Programmes with the support of the Protection Working Group on Internal Displacement (PWGID). RCK is the convener of the advocacy sub-group of the PWGID.
The concept of internal displacement is not new to Kenya, though the 2007/2008 post-election violence brought the phenomenon to wider attention as it displaced more than 650,000 persons. Kenya experiences displacement as a result of various factors:
- Conflict-induced displacement
- Natural and man-made disasters
- Human rights violations causing arbitrary displacement
Conflict-induced displacement may be politically instigated such as the displacement resulting from the general elections of 1992, 1997 and 2007/2008. It may also be as a result of a competition for scarce resources.
The announcement of the Presidential election results on 30 December 2007 led to widespread violence across Kenya. The violence which took on an ethnic dimension lasted for nearly two months and left Kenya facing an unprecedented level of displacement of its own people. The Ministry of State for Special Programmes, in its most recent update on the status of IDPs states that 663,921 people were displaced from the violence. Of that number, 313, 921 IDPs fled to host communities and integrated within those communities for months to come. The other 350, 000 internally displaced sought refuge in 118 camps. Thousands still remain displaced. An estimated 78, 254 houses were burnt countrywide. The government further estimates that 1, 300 lost their lives in the post-election melee. Furthermore, thousands of Kenyans fled to Uganda and Tanzania and became refugees. UNHCR estimates by October 2009, 1990 Kenyans were registered refugees in Uganda, out of which 449 have returned back to Kenya as at 4th February 2010.
Kenya faces multiple natural and man-made disasters that lead to displacements. Kenya’s yearly short and long rain seasons leave thousands of families temporarily displaced to schools, community halls and host family homes. In 2009, flooding in the short rains season (October-December) alone led to the short-term displacement of 58, 000 people, according to the government’s coordination body, the Crisis Response Centre.
Whilst most of the displacements from flooding tend to be short-lived and temporal, the affected populations are recognized as internally displaced.
The Mount Elgon land clashes between the Sabaot Land Defence Force Militia, the community and the military in western Kenyan that erupted in December 2006 led to massive population movement displacing nearly 45, 000 people in neighbouring districts as well as to neighbouring Uganda. Several hundreds were injured during flight or were caught in gunfire and machete attacks. The IDPs fled to churches, market places or sought refuge with family or friends. Through efforts of the government and humanitarian partners, the situation stabilized after several months and most families returned to their homes. There remains an unknown number of displaced people in the Mount Elgon region.
The eviction of illegal squatters from the Mau Forest Complex in November 2009 has left 12, 000 people displaced to makeshift camps in the peripheries of the forest.
Authors and Publishers
Commonly referred to as ‘Haki House’ (Right House) by refugees, Refugee Consortium of Kenya is a national non-governmental organization that was established in 1998. RCK’s mission is to promote and protect the rights and dignity of refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and other forced migrants in Kenya and the wider East African region. It was established as a response to an increasingly complex and deteriorating refugee situation in Kenya and the region.