Refugees vow to stay put outside Parliament to push for compensation
It’s a group of weather-beaten people of all ages camping outside Parliament Buildings vowing not to leave until their grievances are addressed.
They are Kenyan refugees who fled the country at the height of the 2007/08 post-election violence, but were repatriated in May last year.
Last week, there were about 100 families camping in solidarity, braving the chilly Nairobi nights and the unforgiving sun during the day.
WOMAN GAVE BIRTH
Even a woman giving birth on Saturday night did not weaken their resolve, but rather strengthened it.
“Anything may happen here, we have vowed not to leave, some of us are sick, like I’m asthmatic and at night it gets very bad,” says their treasurer, Mr Stephen Mwangi.
“The woman who gave birth was taken by a passer-by, to Kenyatta hospital. We do not know how she is doing and whether she is getting treatment and food,” he answers when asked what became of the woman.
In February, Deputy President William Ruto said that the last batch of internally displaced persons had been compensated and Sh1 billion released from the Treasury to that effect.
But the refugees are yet to be compensated and many of them say they are suffering as the government neglects them.
The refugees said upon leaving Uganda, government officials gave them, for a family of one to three members, Sh100,000, families of five to 10 members were given Sh150,000 while others were given Sh10,000.
WAITING FOR COMPENSATION
The money was meant to help them look for housing and at least put food on the table while waiting for the rest of compensation.
But Mr Stephen Njoroge, the deputy chairman of the group, said the government had promised to give them Sh400,000 or resettle them like the IDPs but nothing had been forthcoming so far.
He said the officials had told them to go and that they were to be followed up later.
On Monday, the refugees met officials from the Interior ministry to discuss their fate.
“They told us that the list they have does not match ours and that we should leave and they will sort out our problem within two weeks,” said Mr John Njoroge their secretary.
A source inside the Refugee Secretariat, who refused to be named, said: “We have taken their claims, you know when someone comes up with such, you have to study it first before giving a comment. But we are doing everything in our power to ensure they decamp from Parliament.”
He denied knowing that some had been compensated partly.
Richard Kimungui, 52
I had lived at Chepkube in Mt Elgon for more than 20 years. I was a farmer. On the day the violence started, there were people at the polling station who were checking who you had voted for. They were checking to see if you had voted for the right candidate.
Later that evening, youth were sent to our houses. They surrounded us saying they were going to kill us, but I called the OCPD who sent policemen who took us to the district officer’s compound where we camped with other families who were targeted.
I walked to the Uganda border the following morning through Mt Elgon because people had started attacking the DO’s compound as well.
Life was very okay in Uganda, we were given land to till, our children went to school and food was enough. But I have been suffering since I came back. I don’t even have a house and was taken in by a well wisher in Bungoma, I did not want to go back to Mt Elgon.
Rosemary Wekesa, 52
I was chased away because my husband was from a different tribe. I had lived at Malaba border for four years doing scrap metal business. We could have been killed but one person in the group that was attacking us knew me and sneaked us out. Even the police vehicle that came to pick us up was being pelted with stones.
Someone tried to poison us when we were at St Jude School in Uganda before we moved to our camp. They put poison in beans and in flour. It was as if someone was really keen on seeing us die to the extent of following us to poison us.
Henry Ndung’u Nga’nga 78.
I had lived in Nambale for more than 40 years. On the day the violence started, a friend of mine told me people were looking for me to chop off my head because I had campaigned for a person they did not want. So I sneaked out and slept behind the police station. My wife and children joined me later at night after chaos started and police went to get them.
I moved back to Nambale after we came back from Uganda and put up a small house on a plot I owned, but life has not been easy. I can’t find any work because no one wants to employ an old man.