Official: Kenya's postelection aid program failed

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2009 11:09 AM

A government program intended to aid tens of thousands of people displaced by Kenya's postelection violence has failed because of widespread corruption and inefficiency, a top human rights group said Monday.

A report by the Kenya Human Rights Commission said the government has failed to meet basic standards required to assist thousands of people who escaped the 2007-2008 violence.

The report, released Monday, came days after the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said government officials had misappropriated $2.7 million in funds meant to help victims of violence relocate.

Instead, the victims have been forced to beg and some sell sex in return for food and money, said Tom Kagwe, the deputy executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

More than 50,000 people who escaped election violence are living under torn tents with no sanitation facilities, food or water following the failure of the government's resettlement program, he said.

"In my general assessment if I were to grade (the government resettlement program) on a scale of 1 to 10, I would hesitate and give them a very kind 1.5 out of 10," Kagwe said.

More than 1,000 people died and 600,000 others were displaced during the postelection violence following a contentious presidential election in late 2007. In May 2008 the government began a program to resettle those displaced.

Kagwe said the resettlement process was mismanaged because it was rushed, in part because the government was embarrassed about images of people living in tents being broadcast around the world.

Research by the commission found some cases where internally displaced Kenyans had received far less than the $480 in government aid they should have received to help them move back home. Some of the displaced were being charged to register to get the government grant, money they can ill afford to pay.

Bernard Ndege, a 53-year-old fisherman, saw all 11 members of his family killed _ two wives and nine children _ when his home was set on fire by a neighbor in January 2008 in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha.

Ndege, who escaped the fire with second degree burns, said he has received only $150 of the promised $480. He said government officials have refused to answer his questions about why he hasn't received the rest of his aid. Ndege said he is too traumatized to go back to Naivasha, where he ran a successful fishing business for 30 years.

Kagwe said many victims are afraid of going back home because they have not reconciled with those who they fought. He said reconciliatory initiatives by government and religious groups have had little or no impact.

"If you go and find somebody milking a cow he had stolen from you. How would you react?" Kagwe said.

Andrew Timpson, an official in the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for refugees, said the numbers of internally displaced people threaten Kenya's security. Timpson said there are more than 300,000 internally displaced people from clashes in the 1990s who have been abandoned.

"A continuing residue of internally displaced people will always cause resentment, always cause tensions in communities and does not bode well for a peaceful future," Timpson said.