NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan officials backed by armed police are forcing thousands of Kenyans displaced by postelection violence to leave a refugee camp, a resident and an international aid worker said Wednesday.
The head of Doctors Without Borders, Remi Carrier, said local officials accompanied by armed police officers were going from tent to tent Wednesday in a camp housing 9,000 people in the western town of Kitale, and ordering people to leave in a matter of hours.
“The police have removed my tent … put it in the road,” said 42-year-old farmer Ronald Barasa.
Barasa said officials would not listen when he explained that he, his pregnant wife and five young children had nowhere to go. They were squatters on a farm and fear attack if they return, he said. The family left after seeing a neighbor’s young son shot dead in front of them.
“They say we must leave this camp,” Barasa said. “They say they don’t want to see anybody because Kibaki says we must go home,” he said.
The reference was to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The government began encouraging people last week to leave camps, offering them transport and food, but officials said the exercise was voluntary.
Barasa said his wife was at first reluctant to leave. But she changed her mind when she saw a district official beat another woman to the ground with a log when she questioned the order. The woman curled up in the mud as the official rained blows on her for nearly five minutes, said Carrier, the head of Doctors Without Borders.
Barasa said that, after the beating, which was witnessed by hundreds of people in the camp, the woman was hauled away by police.
Carrier said many of the camp’s inhabitants have nowhere to go, and even those recuperating from surgery are being told they must leave.