News 2008


Kenyan minister booed by refugees

NewVision (Kampala)

Tuesday, 12th February, 2008

By Daniel Edyegu


DRAMA ensued at Mulanda transit centre in Tororo district on Monday when Kenyan refugees booed their home minister for special programmes, Dr. Naomi Shaban, when she tried to downplay the security situation in Kenya and urged them to return home.

Shaban holds a child while talking to Kenyan refugees at Mulanda transit centre

The minister, while reacting to a memorandum from the refugees to the Kenyan government, said calm had returned to some parts of the western province following heavy deployment of security personnel.

According to humanitarian agencies, there are about 12,000 Kenyan refugees in Uganda.

The refugees had asked the minister to explain the security situation at home since more refugees were being ferried to the centre, the education plans the Kenyan government had for their children and how the victims of the violence would be helped.

"In Busia-Kenya, the situation has normalised. Some of you who stay along the border can go back home," Shaban said before she was booed.

Infuriated, she responded: "Even if you boo me, it will not help. Those who want to come back home can do so. If you feel it is safer in the camp, that is okay. We are not going to force anybody to return home."

The refugees were dissatisfied with the explanation the minister and her delegation gave about the compensation for the victims of the violence.

They said most of them had lost property and were not certain whether their former communities would peacefully accept them back.

"You are telling us to go back home, but where do we start? Some of us had property, land and houses in Kenya but they were destroyed. We cannot be sure of calm back home when more refugees are being brought to Mulanda," Peter Karanja, a refugee, said.

John Njoroge Wanaina, 69, said he saw gangs burn houses and loot property in Marachi while the Kenyan police watched.

"The police would only shoot in the air after the damage was done. Have you reshuffled these policemen for our safety?" he wondered.

Shaban said President Mwai Kibaki's government had set up a resettlement scheme to cater for the refugees.

"The verification exercise is on. There are people who claim they lost property yet they did not. We can only ascertain what you lost and start compensation after the exercise is over and people have resettled."

Shaban was in Mulanda to assesss the living conditions of the refugees.