From Ballots to Tents: Highlighting the suffering of the Internally Displaced in Kenya's 2007 Post-Election Aftermath"


 Okeke Victoria Ogochukwu

"Kenya violence has a five-year life cycle with elections serving as the incubators"[i] Adeagbo and Iyi.

Internal displacement is when people are forced to leave their homes due to a coercive condition, but remaining within the borders of their country.[ii] Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their varying numbers are found in different states. Kenya is not an exception. Internal displacement of persons is brought about by different factors including natural disasters, poverty, armed conflict or violence, ethnicity, scarcity of resources, climate change, and political instability.[iii]

Political violence is considered a major cause of internal displacement in Kenya. It has been a disaster every five years after the general elections since the reintroduction of a multi-party system in 1991.[iv] After the 1992 elections, there were approximately 300,000 displaced people, 150,000 in 1997 and 20,000 in 2002.[v] Its peak was the 2007 post-election crisis which forcibly displaced over 600,000 people and claimed the lives of over a thousand.[vi] The 2007 post-election violence (PEV) is believed to have its remote cause in the 1991 reintroduction and its immediate cause in the announcement of the re-election of Mwai Kibaki as the President of Kenya on 27 August 2007.[vii]

Men, women and children uprooted from their homes in the course of the struggle for power are exposed to a great level of substandard livelihood daily. They face physical and mental problems as a result of various factors.[viii] These factors range from the violent experience that resulted in their ejection from the comfort of their homes, their losses, and to their present state. They transit from well built houses in a serene environment to congested tents lacking many necessities.

The internally displaced from the 2007 PEV are subjected to difficult conditions. They lack basic requirements for healthy living. They are exposed to starvation which is resulting in their children's retarded growth and development. Illnesses resulting from malnutrition for instance kwashiorkor are highly prevalent.[ix] Being housed in overcrowded tents highly risks the spread of communicable diseases in their camps. Healthcare facilities are also not readily available within the reach of members of this group. Although they have been forcibly displaced, they remain humans and citizens and are entitled to full enjoyment of their rights. Unfortunately, some of these rights have been violated. Their right to property has been violated due to the destruction of their homes, properties, and sources of income during the post-election violence. Displaced women and children are subjected to physical and sexual abuse.[x] The children also, as a result of their poor state have no access to learning institutions.[xi]

In a bid to bring solution to the devastating situation of these IDPs, the government in September 2009 developed a peace building curriculum for primary schools. This curriculum has been piloted in schools within regions affected by the post-election violence.[xii] The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) was also established in 2009 to prevent violence and displacement by monitoring hate speech and mobilization for political violence.[xiii] The Kenya Red Cross equally provided food to some IDPs integrated in Rift valley. Non-governmental organisations, the church, and other international organisations also provided assistance to the internally displaced.[xiv] In 2009, the government also took practical steps to ensure IDPs exercise their political rights.[xv] However, while they have the right to vote, IDPs displaced by the 2007 PEV face difficulties in participating because of trauma suffered during the last elections. Most of them associate voting with violence and displacement: "I am in the tent because I voted; why should I vote if it means this?"[xvi]

Furthermore, the state used excessive force through the police to quell the protesters, resulting in numerous deaths, during post-election violence.[xvii] Since most IDPs are victims of political struggle, it is argued that the government views them as opposition. This is evident in the facts that the post-election violence attacks are targeted at the opposition group.[xviii] Therefore, finding a lasting solution to their state is viewed as 'opening a wound' which they are reluctant to.[xix] Nevertheless, peace must be restored for the national value of unity to thrive.[xx]

This paper urges the government to take practical steps to improve the state of life in IDP camps. Ameliorating housing, provision of clean water, making education accessible to children, provision of adequate food and security are all practical measures that could be adopted in bettering living conditions of IDPs from the 2007 post-election violence. They hope on the government to perform its constitutional duty in Articles 20 and 43.[xxi] The state should also provide security in the IDP camps, as well as in their homes so to ensure their safety both in, and after they have left the camps. The report that the Kikuyus at Rift Valley on their return were threatened by Kalenjin youths show that unless the political unrest is settled, the safety of the IDPs is not guaranteed.[xxii] I believe that provision of adequate security will not only make them voluntarily leave the camps but also move back to their homes. Furthermore, providing infrastructure and job opportunities will go a long way to support them as their source of income may also have been affected in the course of the crisis.

The current state of the internally displaced in Kenya calls for the attention of the government. This paper raises the voice of post-election violence victims to urge the government to ensure resettlement of IDPs countywide.[xxiii] It appeals to the government to actively seek the welfare of these bona fide members of the society, protect their rights and most importantly, bring to an end the root cause of their situation.

[i]Adeagbo Oluwafemi Atanda and Iyi John-Mark, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya and internally displaced persons:

A critical appraisal', 4 Journal of politics and law, 2011, 1.

[ii] United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, accessed 20 May 2023.

[iii] Jakob Kellenberger, 'Root causes and prevention of internal displacement: the ICRC perspective', 23 October 2009.

[iv]Adeagbo and Iyi, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya', 1.

[v] Prisca Kamunge, Municipal authorities and internally displaced persons outside of camps:

The case of Kenyan integrated displaced persons, 29 May 2013, 3.

[vi]Kamunge, Municipal authorities and internally displaced persons outside of camps,3.

[vii]Adeagbo and Iyi, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya', 1.

[viii]Ojo Stephen and Fanto Shendam, 'Challenges of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and peace building process',

research gate net, DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.36155.92960

[ix] Adeagbo and Iyi, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya', 4.

[x] Adeagbo and Iyi, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya', 4.

[xi]Adeagbo and Iyi, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya', 4.

[xii] Prisca Kamunge, 'National Response to Internal Displacement: Achievements, Challenges and Lessons from Kenya',4.

[xiii] Kamunge, 'National Response to Internal Displacement: Achievements, Challenges and Lessons from Kenya', 6.

[xiv] Kenya Red Cross, 'Kenya: Most IDP camps closed', 5 September 2008.

[xv] Kamunge, 'National Response to Internal Displacement: Achievements, Challenges and Lessons from Kenya', 19.

[xvi] Interview with a displaced woman at the Pipeline IDP Camp in Nakuru, 20 November 2010.

[xvii]Opolot Okia, 'The role of the police in the post-election violence in Kenya 2007/08', 28(2), Journal of Third world studies, 2011, 1.

[xviii] UN Human Rights team issues report on post-election violence in Kenya, 18 M

[xix]Prisca Mbura Kamungi, 'The politics of displacement in multiparty Kenya', 27(3), Journal of contemporary African studies, 2009, 3.

[xx] Constitution of Kenya (2010), Article 10.

[xxi] Constitution of Kenya (2010).

[xxii]Adeagbo and Iyi, 'Post-election crisis in Kenya', 3.

[xxiii]Post-election violence victims to urge the government to conclude resettlement of IDPs countywide, K24 TV,

19 October 2021. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1186631488527234 on 13 October 2023.

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