Kenya’s displaced question the wisdom behind voting

Nakuru IDP 1As voter registration began in Kenya last week, the inhabitants of the Nakuru Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp were keen to underline that most of them would not be voting in the 2012 elections.

The sentiment is one mirrored in many other sections of Kenyan society. Two years after the post-election violence that shook the country to it’s core, none of the original grievances have been addressed and thousands of people are still languishing in makeshift camps.

“I am afraid to vote again,” says Joseph Kimajoroge, 40. “Anyway, the government doesn’t even campaign here. They are too embarrassed.

I come from Mau Narok (a town to the South East of Nakuru), before the elections I had a house and a job as a bus driver. Now I have nothing, not even the money to go into town to look for a new job”

Beyond a cluster of basic latrines, the Nakuru camp lacks the most basic forms of sanitation. Nakuru IDP 5

There is no hospital, a flimsy school set up underneath an old gazebo and the tents, made up of tarpaulins donated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), were not built to repel the heavy rains that have been battering the country for the last couple of months.

Lea Wajilu, 49, points out the puddles that have formed inside her tent and indicates how, when it rains at night, she must continue to prod the water out of the sagging roof, if she is to prevent it from cascading into her muddy inhabitation.

“If I had the materials I would build a house in the place of this tent,” she says: “anyway, I have nowhere else to go. If the government cared for us maybe I would vote but like this? Would you?”

Wajilu lost two of her nine children to the violence and, like many others, was evicted by her neighbours from the only place she had ever known as home.  “The government gave us money (10000ksh about £90) after the clashes and we put it together to buy this land. I do not have a title for this plot though and this causes a lot of discussions,” she added.

Nakuru IDP 2The inhabitants of the Nakuru camp do not have any self help groups nor do they have elected officials with which to communicate to the government. “It’s everyone for themselves here,” says Stephen Karanu Kimani who, at 45, is one of the few people in the camp lucky enough to have a sister in Germany who can afford to pay the bills for his two daughters’ boarding school education.

“We don’t make any decisions, we just wait for donors to decide that today they are going to help us” Kimani’s sentiment is echoed throughout a lot of the camp: people seem unwilling or unable to organise themselves so as to face the hardship as a unified group.

The development Nakuru’s IDPs so crave from the government does not look as if it is on the horizon. These people who proudly stood for hours in line to vote in a hopeful election two years ago, are now unsure whether it is worth their safety to have a voice at all.

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