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Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 17:39 UK

Homeless Kenyans face grim return

People in displaced camp

By Josphat Makori
BBC News, Molo

After spending the past four months in a tent in a camp for the homeless, Mary Wambui, a Kenyan mother five, jumped at the chance to return home.

"Life here is so miserable. We live in the same tent with our children; you literally have to jump over each other, to get in," she told the BBC.

We are not livestock to be taken back to the slaughter
Homeless Kenyan

"Look around, there are no toilets, bathrooms or anything else. it's been unbearable."

She and her family were among the first to take advantage of the government's programme to resettle the 140,000 people still displaced by the violence following last December's elections.

But others in the camp in Molo are not convinced that the inauguration of a power-sharing government last month really means the violence is over.

"We are not livestock to be taken back to the slaughter," one old man said.

"Yes we want to go back home but we want to go and stay. So let the government first facilitate meaningful peace talks and then we can be comfortable to return."

Some say that while the politicians have agreed to share jobs - and power - some of the underlying issues such as land disputes and poverty have not been tackled.

'Scared'

Mrs Wambui is from the Kikuyu community of President Mwai Kibaki. On New Year's Day, a band of youths, armed with arrows, clubs and machetes attacked her home and razed it to the ground.

They also raided her storehouses and made away with her food stocks. Other Kikuyus living in the area were also targeted.

Girl looking through ashes of her home
This girl is looking through the ashes of her home for valuables after returning

The attackers were from the rival Kalenjin group, who insist that the entire Rift Valley province is their ancestral home and that other Kenyans are "outsiders".

Mrs Wambui was fortunate to have survived with her entire family.

When the buses and military trucks provided by the government arrived, she was one of the first people to get on board.

"This is like a miracle, I feel like I have been released from prison," she told me cheerfully.

But that does not mean she is convinced of a warm welcome when she returns to her farm just 15km from the camp in central Molo.

She says she is still very scared of her neighbours who attacked her and chased her from her home.

And others in the camp are so apprehensive that they are not ready to return.

New police station

''I will accept to go back home only if the government provides security for us - if we go back alone, we fear we might again be attacked by the same people who forced us to leave," said Joseph Mureithi, a father of two displaced from Muchoroini in Rift Valley.

Let the government compensate us so that we can buy pieces of land elsewhere and rebuild our lives
Protester

"These people are still there and they are many compared to us. So unless we see the presence of police we are not going."

The government, however, says security is no longer an issue, as it has deployed numerous security officers in the affected areas and built a new police station.

Some argue that peace cannot be imposed through the barrel of a gun.

They say talks must be held between the rival groups to achieve real reconciliation.

Grave

At the Agricultural Showground in the Rift Valley capital of Nakuru, hundreds of homeless people have taken to the streets to protest against moves to take them back to their homes.

The protesters, most of who were displaced from the western town of Eldoret where more than 40 people were burnt in a church, vowed not to return until their safety is guaranteed and compensation made for what they lost.

map

'Where do they want us to go? We'd rather die here. Let the government compensate us so that we can buy pieces of land elsewhere and rebuild our lives," demanded one demonstrator.

For those who have returned, there was a mixture of anxiety and fear.

Many came face-to-face with the immense loss their had suffered for the first time in four months.

The places they were returning to now are a far cry from the homes they knew before the ill-fated presidential elections.

Mary Nyokabi, a resident of Kiambogo farm in Molo, sobbed uncontrollably at the sight of her husband's grave.

The husband was hacked to death during the post-election violence.

Though going back home, many of the returnees had to be issued with tents that they will live in until they are able to rebuild the houses destroyed during the violence.

Although the government programme has now begun, there is no indication as to how long it will take to resettle all of them.

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