The Kenya Land Alliance Open Letter to the Government on Internally Displaced Persons Crisis

Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) is a Network of Civil Society Organizations and Individuals for Effective Advocacy for Land Laws and Policy Reforms in Kenya.

The Kenya Land Alliance, KLA, joins the global community in marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR adopted by state members of the United Nations in 1948. The adoption of the UDHR 60 years ago marked a critical milestone in human history towards the official codification, recognition and commitments to the protection of all human rights for all human race.

In the same vein, the member states of United Nations adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR, in 1966 that sets out among others, the rights to adequate housing, food, education, health, and social security among other social, economic and cultural rights.

Having ratified both the UDHR and the ICESCR instruments, the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR is of particular importance to Kenya and the world as a whole as it is the year in which UN Member States were finally expected to approve the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, that ought to guarantee a balanced protection to these rights as with other rights stipulated in other equally important international Human Rights Instruments.

Consequently, KLA reminds the Government of Grand Coalition that basic survival and enjoyment of a sustainable livelihood in Kenya by all Kenyans depends greatly on secure access to land as a safety net to the majority poor people. Thus, the Government stands reminded that the resettlement of the recent and old Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is a transitional justice issue that will confirm the Government's resolve and commitment to permanently address the breakdown of law and order in our country.

Most critically, the continued languishing in IDPs camps, of thousands of Kenyans displaced as a result of the contested Presidential elections of December 2007, illustrates the stark failure of the Government to uphold the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing and housing as affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 25, and ICESCR Article 11.

KLA wish to point out to the Government at this appropriate time that although the UDHR does not specifically mention "land" or "natural resources", the realization of a number of its various rights is dependent on secure access and use of land and other natural resources, as indeed is the realization of other rights stipulated in other International Human Rights instruments.

As we mark this year's Human Rights Day today (10th Dec 2008), KLA wishes to bring it to the attention of the government that secure access to land and other natural resources is one of the fundamental factors for the realization of the right to food, and right to housing. This is not to say that KLA is unaware that the right to food does not always necessitate an automatic right to land as the aim of access to food for all may be achieved through other means such as formal employment or off-farm income.

However, in the Kenyan situation where such other means are limited or insufficient, and the majority of the people living below the poverty line are mostly dependent on land for basic livelihoods especially in rural areas, the rights to land and other natural resources are crucial in order to realize the right to food. And in all circumstances, the production of food for sale in the market for wealth creation requires secure access to land. I

t is for this reason that KLA wished the government good tiding in dealing with the IDPs crisis. But having monitored the "Operation Rudi Nyumbani" since May 2008 when the government embarked on resettling IDPs back to their homes, the true situation is that IDPs have been moved from large IDPs camps only to end up and continue to live in worn out tents in poorly equipped and serviced 'transit' camps close to their farms, a situation that further aggravates their right to shelter, personal development and dignity, sanitation, and security.

On this Human Rights Day we join other human rights groups and organizations on calling the government to bring the whole exercise into line with accepted international standards on comprehensively addressing the Internal Displacement issue.

It is unacceptable that the government up to date has failed on its UN Habitat Agenda commitment on the objective of providing legal security of tenure and access to adequate shelter for all people, including women and children living in IDPs camps all over Kenya. Indeed the right to property was affirmed by the UDHR, Article 17, which stipulates:

..that everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others; and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of property; a position well domesticated through our own Constitution.

The protection of property rights was equally reaffirmed in the convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal People (Article 16); the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 11, General Comment 7); the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Article 15); the Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons ("The Pinheiro Principles") (Principles 5 and 7); and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Article 14) which are central to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement on resettlement matters.

KLA therefore takes this opportunity to point out to the government that while these instruments do not make explicit reference to land and other natural resources, with the exception of the Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the Pinheiro Principles, the reality of most Kenyans is that their most valuable property is their land and the houses and structures that are built on it, and the contingent natural resources associated with it.

Thus, KLA puts it to the government that responsible governance of land tenure must guarantee the realization of the fundamental rights of adequate food and shelter, and of property. Good land tenure system that eliminates a rise to violent conflicts is relevant to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Specifically the government need to note that secure access to land and other natural resources is a direct factor in reducing hunger and poverty (MDG 1), promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women (MDG 3) and to ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG 7).

The government in dealing with IDPs crisis need to understand that it is responsible and accountable for its actions and omissions, vis a vis its population (citizenry). The present state of affairs demonstrates that the political will of the state clearly prioritizes the interests of minorities instead of the welfare of overwhelmingly poor majority of the Kenyan population. As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights these priorities must be set straight.

KLA, the human rights network for land rights calls on the Kenya Government to:

1. Meet its obligations under Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Human Rights Law, by taking urgent action to settle once and for all, the Internally Displaced Persons as a sure means of respecting, protecting and fulfilling their rights to adequate shelter, and to feed themselves.

2. Take immediate measures to support the finalization and implementation of the National Land Policy, which contains provisions that guarantee redress to land problem of the Internally Displaced Persons and safeguards against recurrence of displacement.

3. Ensure coherence of all food related policies as an obligation under the right to food. In particular, policies on agriculture, trade and investment, development and energy, should contribute to promote and never undermine the full realization of the right to adequate food as is the case today in Kenya.

4. Impose an immediate moratorium on land grabbing and transaction in land and property left behind by the Internally Displaced Persons until their safe return to their homes is guaranteed and/or until such a time that they can transact with it under no duress.

Signed by;
Odenda Lumumba National Co-ordinator,
Kenya Land Alliance 10th December 2008
C.K. Patet Building, 6th Floor Kenyatta Avenue,
P.O.Box 2177 - 20100 Nakuru.
Tel. 254-051-2210398 Fax 254-051-2215982
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