Letter from Chaloka Beyani, March 2013
Dear Friends and Supporters of the IDP Mandate,
Kenya has been much on my mind these past few weeks as the country prepared for elections which were held on 4 March. When the last election at the very end of 2007 occurred, a wave of post election violence swept over the country, particularly the Rift Valley, leaving over 1,000 dead and 600,000 as internally displaced persons. Displacement that took place over several days – and in some cases over a number of hours – has taken years to resolve. This year, millions of Kenyans participated in the elections which for the first time ever ballots being cast for presidential, Senate and County elections. Although there was some initial confusion over digital ballots and some violent incidents, particularly in Mombasa, the careful preparations seem to have paid off. At the time I am writing this letter, the official results were announced, and it seems that there will not be a repeat of the post-election violence of 2007-08. This is hugely encouraging and I hope that the new Government of Kenya will continue to resolve the situation of the remaining internally displaced persons.
I’m also deeply troubled by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. As the number of refugees swells, I worry about the growing numbers internally displaced persons inside Syria who are less visible than refugees crossing borders into neighboring countries. It is increasingly difficult for aid agencies to reach those displaced within the country. As the violence intensifies, there are reports that more and more people are fleeing their homes and communities. While the official estimates are that 2.5 million people are internally displaced in the country, the fact is that we just don’t know how many people are displaced inside Syria. Roy Gutman reports from Turkey that the UN figures may dramatically underestimate those in need of assistance as well as those who are displaced. This week’s humanitarian situation report on Syria by OCHA reports that half of the Palestinian refugees inside Syria may be displaced OCHA, UNHCR, the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society and many other national and international organizations are struggling to do their best to provide some assistance to those who are displaced, and I encourage them to continue to do so and try to meet even the basic needs of most of the country’s IDPs.
In the coming weeks, I will be traveling to Washington, DC to work with my colleagues at the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement to engage in detailed planning of our activities in the coming year as we move to implement our new strategic plan. But even as we work to translate the strategic plan into activities to uphold the rights of IDPs, my thoughts will remain with the internally displaced persons in Syria and many other places where displacement disrupts – or threatens to disrupt the lives of 26 million or so children, women and men.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
Co-Director, Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement