Failure of talks on refugees alarming

It is a shame that the meeting that the President and the Prime Minister held with MPs from Rift Valley failed to agree on an immediate solution to one of the most pressing issues of the day.

The fate of Kenyans who were forced out of the province by post-election ethnic violence was never one for a quick fix.

The very fact that violence broke out on such a scale in the wake of a disputed presidential election is testimony to the fact that such bloodshed was just waiting for the trigger.

The power-sharing agreement between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and establishment of a grand coalition government was not an end in itself, but merely part of a long process that should lead to discussion and resolution of issues we have in the past preferred to sweep under the carpet.

The continuing talks aimed at resolving some of Kenya’s deep-seated national problems will obviously pay special attention to the issues of land, historical grievances and ethnic relations in the Rift Valley.

These are issues that will take a long time to resolve. The immediate return of the Rift Valley refugees is not feasible when tension and hostility still persists, and when the Government lacks the means to guarantee security for those who do.

However, the insistence on a resolution of outstanding issues before any return programme is launched is callous to the extreme.

It could take months and years before all the issues are addressed. The signal the MPs are sending is that they actually do not want a settlement.

This can only lend credence to the belief that they were party to an organised ethnic-cleansing programme in the first place.

With goodwill and concern for hundreds of thousands of displaced Kenyans, a solution can be found.

Instead of being seen as a stumbling block, the MPs should team up with the Government to facilitate the resettlement of uprooted people, and embark on peace-building programmes. That is the least they are expected to do.

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