Displaced Kenyans live in limbo as aid lags

By Jeffrey Gettleman

New York Times News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya — Clinton Masheti, 8 years old and all alone, sits on a wooden bench rolling snakes out of clay. When the men came and started burning down houses in his village, his parents ran away — without him.

He now lives in the Nairobi Children’s Home, a place with cheery paintings on the wall and lots of blank little faces. He is among thousands of children lost or abandoned during the fighting that followed Kenya’s disputed election in December.

If Clinton’s parents are not found by August, he will be put up for adoption.


"My father was a farmer," he said. That seemed to be all he knew.

In another part of town not far away, Jane Wanjiru has been living in muddy uncertainty since January.

She and about 200 other displaced people are camping just up the road from one of Nairobi’s fanciest malls. Their tents and clotheslines are curious sights so close to the Mercedes-Benzes and mansions, a reminder in case anyone here needs one that the issue of displaced people is not isolated to the Rift Valley, where most of the election-related bloodshed was, but has crept into the capital, Nairobi.

Still, very little has been done about it. More than 300,000 people remain homeless, living in camps or staying temporarily with relatives, but top politicians have been preoccupied with haggling over cabinet posts and forming a coalition government.

Officials recently announced that the new government would include 40 ministries, a Kenyan record, and many people fear that the money for salaries, cars and staff for the bloated Cabinet will eat into what the displaced people need.

Donors have pledged millions of dollars to build homes and resettle people, but most of that is in limbo. And now it is the rainy season.

Nearly every day, the skies crack open and the water gushes down. Tents collapse, latrines overflow, firewood gets soggy, food goes uncooked and diseases like malaria and the flu flourish. Many of the displaced people are farmers, and the same rains they would have prayed for, had they not been violently driven off their land, are now a curse.

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