The Forgotten IDPs
In the urgent rush to assist the displaced people
concentrated at camps centred in Rift Valley Province,more than
25,000 IDPs have been largely forgotten, despite having been
chased from their homes since 2006.
African and world media coverage has been focussed on Kenya these
past four months, and the centre of this attention has been on the
hundreds of thousands displaced as a consequence of post-election
As a result, tented cities have been erected, much-needed food
supplied, temporary schools established, and socially conscious
companies and international agencies have brought to these
desperate people a range of services and support. Bedding and
clothing, counselling and prayer sessions, toys and play therapy,
all manner of assistance has been provided from a caring Kenyan
But throughout all this, tens of thousands, almost all children
and mothers, have been living under plastic covers, sleeping
without bedding, shivering without warm clothing, and going hungry
for almost two years. These are IDPs too, but no ambassador or
high commissioner has visited. No presidential or even ministerial
visit has been made to see them. In fact, over 9000 school age
children have gone without education among these people since
Where, you ask? Who?
High on Mount Elgon, at altitudes of about 3000m, over 25,000
Ndorobo cling to life in an environment which does not permit
farming. Over 90 per cent of these people fled here in the face of
murder and rape, maiming and looting, arson and persecution. They
came from the disputes at Chepyuk in 2006/7. They ran from the
post election mayhem at Saboti and Kwanza and Eldoret earlier this
There are no ordered, tented camps here. Instead, stretched across
an area of 600 sq kms, the wretched mothers and their children,
together with some old mamas and wazee, cluster in small groups in
makeshift mud or bamboo shacks, or even under the trees, protected
from the elements only by some pieces of plastic hung from
The government refused access for NGOs to erect temporary schools
in 2007. Sheets of mabati still sit in the district headquarters
town of Kapsokwony, unused donations from well-meaning churches
and international relief agencies.
It is only today, at the end of these people’s 16th month living
out in the exposed cold and rains of the high mountain, that one
agency – Plan International, through a Grant from the European
Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) – has been able to bring some
woollen sweaters and underwear for infants and children. This is
the first clothing delivered to the Ndorobo in all their time
living out in the wild.
Now there is light at the end of these people’s miserable tunnel.
The elders of the Ndorobo met today with the Mount Elgon District
Commissioner and presented to him a resolution unanimously agreed
to by them all and intended for President Kibaki and Prime
Minister Odinga. It is the Ndorobo’s proposal for a final
settlement of the land issues which have dogged this marginalised
community since Kenya’s independence.
“Our people never wanted to move to Chepyuk,” said Kirui Maru aged
85 years, a senior elder speaking on behalf of the Ndorobo peoples.
“We are pastoralists. But we were forced to accept resettlement
because all the infrastructure – roads, schools and the dispensary,
which served our community was destroyed or allowed to rot by the
government throughout the period from 1970 to date.
“Now we have been chased back to where we began by force of arms
of the so-called Sabaot Land Defence Force. So we say, let the Pok
community have Chepuyk if they want it so much. Leave us alone in
Chepkitale and rebuild our schools and a clinic. Give us a little
land on the eastern slope of our mountain – the area from which we
were displaced by the white settlers under an agreement we signed
with them in 1911.”
The elders insist that they have never taken up arms against their
neighbours, but preferred to seek refuge in their ancestral homes.
They are angry that while the community which protected the SLDF
and from which its members were recruited have been getting
regular support from agencies such as Kenya Human Rights and the
Red Cross, little or nothing has been done for the Ndorobo – whom
they see as the innocent persecuted community in all of this
“It seems that if you carry a gun you get attention, but if you
seek no confrontation and prefer to turn the other cheek you are
ignored and allowed to die,” said Mr Kirui Maru.
While the Ndorobo continue to wait to be heard, the children still
shiver and the mothers die in childbirth. MSF Belgium and a local,
expatriate doctor are the only regular visitors giving succour to
these, Kenya’s longest lasting and most ignored internally
They hope they can survive long enough for some of them to be
alive to see some action on the part of the political chattering
classes of Kenya.