Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 17:20 GMT

Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Kenya

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 29 April 2013
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Kenya, 29 April 2013, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
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.
Number of IDPsAbout 300,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 0.7%
Start of displacement situationUndetermined
Peak number of IDPs (year)650,000 (2008)
New displacement in 2012118,000 reported
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
x Internal armed conflict
x Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
x Criminal violence
✓ Political violence
Human development index145
Kampala ConventionUnsigned

In 2012, 118,000 people were estimated to have been newly displaced in Kenya as a result of inter-communal clashes and violence linked to struggles over natural resources, compounded by ethnic, economic and political factors. Local conflicts became more frequent and intense ahead of the March 2013 general election. Cattle rustling and conflicts between pastoralist communities led to displacement in the Tana River, Turkana, Moyale and Samburu counties. These tensions, which were also said to have had a political dimension, arguably constituted the most neglected humanitarian and development problem in Kenya. Tens of thousands of people were also displaced across the country as a result of natural disasters.

Kenya's largest displacement in recent years followed the disputed presidential election of December 2007. When the results were contested, widespread politically-motivated violence displaced more than 650,000 people. About 300,000 IDPs sought refuge in host communities, while the remainder fled to around 100 camps. In 2008 the government launched Operation Rudi Nyumbani, or "return home", in an effort to close the camps and facilitate IDPs' return or resettlement. The number of people who are still internally displaced as a result of the post-election violence as of the end of 2012 is unclear, and the results of a planned verification exercise are still to be released.

Large numbers of IDPs were unable to return home or rebuild their lives elsewhere, especially those who did not own land and those who, in the absence of meaningful reconciliation, feared new attacks from the people who displaced them. Many were still living in tattered tents or under tarpaulins. The government and national and international humanitarian organisations have responded to displacement, but some serious protection concerns have gone unaddressed. In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs found that the protection and assistance provided had been "largely inadequate", compromising IDPs' basic rights to shelter, food, water and sanitation and their access to basic services such as schools and health clinics.

There was no comprehensive national data on IDPs available in 2012. A registration exercise was undertaken in 2007 and 2008 for those who were displaced by the post-election violence, but the methodology applied was often inaccurate and not disaggregated, and some Kenyan rights groups questioned the transparency of the process. Since unregistered IDPs are much less visible and often barely recognised as internally displaced at all, they have been largely excluded from assistance and protection programmes or have received support only sporadically. Nonetheless, it was estimated that in December 2012 around 300,000 people were still living either among host communities or in the few remaining camps, settlements and transit sites.

The government made laudable progress towards the establishment of a legal and policy framework on internal displacement. The National Policy on the Prevention of Internal Displacement and the Protection and Assistance to IDPs in Kenya was adopted by Cabinet in October 2012. This comprehensive policy was complemented by the Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Bill, which set out an institutional framework for IDPs' protection and assistance.

Despite the fact that 2012 saw both new displacements and the continued displacement of many of those previously displaced, the level of service provision and donor attention have declined rapidly, leaving significant humanitarian needs unaddressed. A gap remained between short-term humanitarian measures and the comprehensive medium and long-term initiatives that IDPs need to restart their lives and achieve durable solutions.

In April 2012, the humanitarian community began contingency planning for any large-scale displacement associated with the March 2013 elections, but by the end of the year it was not fully prepared to respond to this or to more localised medium-scale displacement in northern Kenya. Some donors indicated that they were ready to fund humanitarian responses to any potential displacement, but there was little appetite to support prevention and preparedness activities. Ongoing peace and reconciliation projects were at risk of being cut because of insufficient funding, despite such initiatives being critical to the achievement of durable solutions and the prevention of future displacement. Especially in light of the 2013 elections, there were fears that unaddressed grievances among IDPs and longstanding issues such as inequitable distribution of resources and land could easily fuel new conflict.

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