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January 21, 2019

We won’t go to a graveyard: Why Lamu IDPs refuse to return home

The IDPs are now encroaching on other people's lands and setting up such structures.
The IDPs are now encroaching on other people's lands and setting up such structures.

At least 400 IDPs are still in camps at Kastaka Kairu area in Lamu West, one year after they were ordered out and the camp declared closed.

Residents of Pandanguo, Jima, Poromoko, Kakathe, Maleli and Nyongoro villages had fled to the camp after a series of al Shabaab raids left several people dead and houses torched.

Others had been told to move to the camp to pave way for a security operation that had been mounted in pursuit of al Shabaab militants believed to still be hiding inside Boni forest.

However, in October last year, the national government ordered the IDPs to head back to their homes saying security had been tightened.

The majority obeyed the directive but a good number, especially those from Nyongoro and Maleli, have remained, saying the security is still poor.

Mariam Kachimbi, a mother of four who lost her husband during an al Shabaab attack last year said she will not risk taking her children back to the village.

“I come from Maleli and unlike other villages, it’s notorious for frequent al Shabaab raids and murders. I can never go back there."

"At the moment, no amount of words can make me leave this camp. Even if they throw us out, I will never go back to that village. They killed my husband and can as well decide to come for me and the children,” she said.

Rama Kahindi, another IDP, accused the government of cruelty for wanting them to go back to ‘open grave yards’ and with nothing to start over with.

He said the government must first compensate them for time wasted in the camps and for the losses incurred in their farms and homes for the entire period they have been in camps.

“The government knows the life of an IDP very well since we are not the first in Kenya and they equally understand that you can’t just wake up and tell us to go back home empty-handed."

"They must sort us out so we know we have somewhere to start from when we decide to finally leave,” he said.

Concerns are, however, rising concerning th recent behaviour of the IDPs who are now said to be influencing those who left to come back.

Katsaka Kairu chief Kaviha Karisa said the IDPs were now encroaching and grabbing land belonging to locals and setting up residences.

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