Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2018, 08:28 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Kenya

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Kenya, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 26 April 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsAbout 250,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 0.6%
Start of current displacement situationUndetermined
Peak number of IDPs (Year)650,000 (2008)
New displacement50,000
Causes of displacementGeneralised violence, human rights violations
Human development index143

There have been several distinct situations of internal displacement in Kenya, each varying in terms of its cause, duration and the number of people affected.

The largest displacement in recent years followed the disputed presidential election of December 2007. When the results were contested, widespread politically motivated violence displaced over 660,000 people. Many of them were still displaced at the end of 2011, with large numbers still unable to return home or rebuild their lives in the place they were displaced to or elsewhere. Despite government efforts to return and resettle the majority of those displaced, a number of IDPs still remained displaced, either among host communities or in the few remaining camps, settlements and transit sites.

In 2008, the government of Kenya, through "Operation Rudi Nyumbani", resettled a large number of IDPs in so-called "transit sites" near their places of origin. However, some have remained trapped in the camps they first sought shelter in, and efforts to resettle them have been hindered by corruption and resistance from communities on whose land the government wanted to relocate IDPs. For example, Masai politicians have opposed the resettlement of Kikuyu IDPs on what they claim is their ancestral lands.

A 2011 study comparing the situation of IDPs in Nairobi with that of longer-term residents and also people who had migrated there voluntarily found that IDPs were worse off in several respects. Long-term residents were in the best situation, and in some aspects IDPs and migrants shared similar experiences. However, IDPs were most likely to live in inadequate housing in high-risk areas, with worse access to essentials such as drinking water. IDPs were also less securely employed than others.

In 2011, most new displacement was a result of localised violence and incursions into northern Kenya by armed groups from Somalia and Ethiopia. In March, over 20,000 people were displaced from the town of Mandera by fighting between the Kenyan armed forces and members of the Somali Al-Shabaab group who had crossed the border from Somalia to engage in criminal activities in Kenya. The Ethiopian army crossed into Mandera to support the Kenyan forces, but its intervention caused further displacement as civilians fled the area for fear of reprisal attacks.

In Isiolo in central Kenya and in the northern town of Moyale, inter-ethnic violence over scarce water and pasture resources caused the death of over 50 people and displaced thousands of families. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an Ethiopian armed group that has been fighting the Ethiopian government for the independence of Ethiopia's Oromiya Region, reportedly also took part in the fighting in northern Kenya. The OLF operates in southern Ethiopia and at times seek refuge in northern Kenya.

There was no national data on IDPs available in 2011; the government has not carried out an exercise to profile their number and locations in most parts of the country. A report published in February 2011 by the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the National IDP Network found that the profiling that had taken place was flawed and affected by corruption; many IDPs, in particular the so-called "integrated IDPs", had been excluded from the figures and thus the assistance due to them.

The government and its partners made progress in 2011 towards implementing a national IDP policy. After the government and the Protection Working Group presented a draft policy in March 2010, the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Resettlement of IDPs prepared a bill for its adoption, to go before parliament in 2012. Incorporating the Guiding Principles into domestic legislation and policies was an obligation for Kenya as a signatory to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region and to its Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons.

An outstanding barrier to the resolution of displacement in Kenya is that its perpetrators have long enjoyed impunity. The government has not repealed the 1972 Indemnity Act which shields security forces from prosecution for human rights violations including killings of nomadic Kenyan Somalis in the 1960s which caused massive displacement. Nor have the instigators of the violence that led to displacements in the 1990s in the Rift Valley and other parts of the country been brought to justice.

In 2011, however, in a landmark in the fight against impunity, the ICC brought cases against six high-profile figures who allegedly bore the greatest responsibility for the post-election violence, including charges of instigating and financing violence.

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