Internal Displacement

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), defines internal displaced as a situation “when people are forced from their homes but remain within their own country and the key characteristics are its coercive nature and the fact that affected populations do not cross an internationally recognized border”. While according to the Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act 2012, “internally displaced person” means a person or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, large scale development projects, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border”.

Causes of Internal Displacement

The most common causes of displacement in Kenya are politically and ethnic violence, natural or man-made disasters, resource based conflicts, and evictions. For many years, displacement in Kenya has caused devastating consequences, untold suffering and violations of human rights of many IDPs. Unfortunately, accurate statistics on displacement are hard to establish.

Causes of Internal Displacement in Kenya:

  1. Politically instigated violence and ethnic clashes-Politics of ethnicity existed during the colonial and post colonial era but became more intensified in the early 1990s with increased competition for political power under a multi party democracy. Major waves of political violence and ethnic clashes occurred in 1992, 1997 and 2007/8. Underlying the violence is the colonial legacy of land alienation and subsequent policy  of land redistribution and resettlement under the independent government. In addition to this, the underlying feelings of injustice and marginalization among some communities and the exploitation of ethnicity by politicians, has led to violence conflicts among communities in Kenya.
  2. Natural disasters-Disasters in Kenya occur from a number of hazards including, fires, floods, terrorism, development, technological accidents, diseases and epidemics. The climate change phenomenon has increased disaster risks due to floods and drought. This has increased the risk of displacement of persons living in areas prone to floods and drought.Floods are common during the long rains season (which is experienced between March and May) and the short rains seasons (which are common from October to December)3. Flood plains are located in Western part of the country and Tana River County. Flash floods are common in arid and semi arid areas. Some of the worst floods in the country were recorded in 1961-62 and 1997-984. The specific areas that experience floods almost annually include: Kano plains, Nyakach area, Rachuonyo and Migori in Nyanza, Budalangi in Western, Kilifi, Kwale and the Tana River Basin in the Coast, Garissa, Wajir, and Ijara in North Eastern and Urban Centres such as Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kisumu.
  3. Resource based Conflicts and Insecurity-Resource based conflict take various forms depending on the location. Conflict over access to water and pasture are common in the pastoralists’ areas in Northern parts of Kenya. Cattle rustling and banditry are more pronounced in the North Rift region, parts of the Eastern and North Eastern regions of Kenya. The raids are mainly for purposes of replenishing herds depleted by severe droughts, disease, raiding or other calamities but some incidents are believed to be driven by hatred, political instigations, unscrupulous commercial activities, general crime, and availability of firearms.
  4. Other types of conflicts include cross border conflicts which are common particularly along the Kenya -Ethiopia border, Kenya - Somalia border and Kenya-Uganda. Agro-pastoralists conflict is common in areas where pastoralists border agro-pastoralists and farmers in Rift Valley, North Eastern, Coast, Western and Nyanza regions. Most ranches and national parks in the country are also found in this environment. A common feature of this agro-pastoralist interface is stock theft which involves the stealing of livestock and is usually carried out by a lesser number of raiders than cattle rustling. Internal conflicts related to boundary disputes between adjoining administrative units often arising during the creation of new administrative or political units.