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Kenyan refugees in Uganda face uncertainty as ICC dismisses violence case

08 April 2016, 15:35

Kiryandongo (Xinhua) -- Fifty year old Teresia Njeri, a Kenyan refugee in Uganda hurriedly prepares a meal for her husband, Joseph Githu, who is resting under a mango tree just besides their mud and wattle hut.

In the smoky kitchen, Njeri ponders about the happenings back home especially after the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday terminated a case against Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang.

The Court said there was not enough evidence pinning Ruto and Sang as actively participating in the 2008 Kenyan post-election violence that left over 1,000 people dead, thousands homeless and others fleeing to neighboring Uganda.

The ICC acquittal brought tears to Njeri as she wondered who is to answer for lives of Kenyans who were killed in the election violence that turned tribal.

It is the violence that forced Njeri and over 5,000 others to flee to Uganda. They were settled at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in mid-western Uganda.

Although the Ugandan government is now asking the Kenyan refugees to return home, arguing that the conditions there are now favorable, Njeri vows she will stay in Uganda.

She is among over 500 other Kenyan refugees who are also still at the Settlement fearing to go back home.

As Njeri prepares to serve food, her husband Githu joins into the conversation about the political situation back home.

He argued that the tribal question which has dogged Kenya for decades has to be answered if the persistent ethic clashes are to be stopped.

"Our leaders are not finding a concrete solution to the problem. They should diagnose the problem looking at the root causes," he said.

He said he has previously fled tribal clashes in his home country. The 1992 tribal clashes, in which over 2,000 people are reported to have died in the western region, forced Githu to flee to neighboring Tanzania, where he lived for years.

Years after, Githu returned home. When the 2007/8 clashes played out, memories of the 1992 clashes came back, forcing him to flee to Uganda.

Githu, just like the wife, vows never to return to Kenya arguing that the tribal sentiments and land wrangles there are still strong.

Githu and Njeri live in deplorable conditions, a life of literally begging. They like other Kenyan refugees were struck off the list of people receiving food aid from the UN World Food Program.

The Ugandan government has also cut the land acreage it allotted them when they had just been resettled as refugees.

Out of the two acres the Ugandan government had given them, they now have less than an acre. It is this land which they farm in order to get food.

Githu has a son at Makerere University, Uganda's top university. He however can barely pay the tuition fees. He relies on handouts from well-wishers to pay the fees.

Njeri argues that she was one of the Kenyan refugees who had voluntarily returned home after Kenya's Truth and Reconciliation Committee visited the refugees in Uganda promising that they would be compensated if they returned home.

Njeri said she had hoped that the money would be used to pay the university tuition fees for her son. She said when the money was not forth coming she decided to move back to Uganda to join her husband.

Githu said many Kenyan refugees who decided to go back home have returned to the settlement although now they lost their refugee status.

- Xinhua

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