News 2008


600,000 forced to leave their homes in Kenya crisis - UN

Monday, February 11, 2008

The UN's humanitarian chief John Holmes said today that up to 600,000 people have been forced from their homes in Kenya during weeks of violence that has killed 1,000 people.

``There are something like 300,000 people displaced in camps ... (and) beyond those 300,000 there are probably just as many who are not in camps who have gone back to their homelands ... or are sheltering with friends and neighbours somewhere else,'' Mr Holmes said.

The UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs said that many of the displaced who were classified as living in camps were staying ``in many cases, simply in police stations or prisons or churches or other government buildings taken over temporarily as places of shelter by people forced from their homes.''

Mr Holmes left Kenya today after visiting several camps in the west of the country, scene of some of the worst violence.

He said the displaced were living in 300 camps nationwide - too many for aid organisations and the government to be able to upkeep and provide sufficient help.

He did not say how many camps would be ideal, but added that ``it would certainly be less than a hundred.''

``Clearly what we all hope is that people will be able to go home as soon as they can, but it's clear from talking to people, for many of them, for a vast majority of them, it's not something that we can contemplate in the near future,'' he said.

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, who accuses Mr Kibaki of rigging the presidential election, have been negotiating to find a solution to the political crisis and to end the violence aided by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

They have come under enormous international pressure to consider sharing power as a way to resolve the dispute in a country once seen as a model for economic stability and democracy in Africa.