Community resilience and social capital in the reconstruction and recovery process for post-election violence victims in Kenya

Dr Julius Kinyeki specialises in Governance and Development, particularly in post-conflict reconstruction and recovery. He graduated with a Ph.D. from the School of Governance at Witwatersrand University, South Africa, and a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Nairobi. He works for the South African High Commission in Nairobi, after he previously had a post at Laikipia University in Kenya.


This study addresses three questions: how Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) following the post-election violence of 2007/2008 in Kenya are recreating their community resilience capacities; how the Kenyan government and non-state interventions are influencing the victims’ livelihood strategies towards their reconstruction and recovery process and how social support and social capital have accelerated their reconstruction and recovery process. The study adopted qualitative research methodology, and primary data were collected since January 2015, continuously and concurrently with data analysis. The key finding was that ownership of land is identified and perceived as a milestone in the process of post-conflict reconstruction and recovery, and as an avenue for community resilience. The study found that after the rather short-term programmes of the Kenyan government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), the main means of livelihood for IDPs still is casual labour and other menial jobs. However, many IDPs, especially those who were not placed in camps or resettled on farms, but integrated with host communities, developed new emergent norms to support each other. The key recommendations are that government should evaluate the economic loss of every integrated IDP, and that those resettled in government procured farms should be provided with legal ownership documents. There should be an urgent re-profiling of IDPs in camps and a definite commitment to follow the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004). The findings of this study bring to light new knowledge on the theory of social capital. It shows how victims of displacement develop new emergent norms, values and culture to support each other, which eventually creates a new society/community.

1. Kenya’s genie of tribal politics

The post-election crisis of January 2008 brought Kenya close to collapse. The abrupt proclamation of Mwai Kibaki, the retired president, as victor in a highly contentious presidential election, led to either planned or spontaneous eruptions of ethnic violence (see Kagwanja 2009:365–387). According to an investigative report on 2007/2008 post-election violence, popularly referred to as the Waki Commission 2008 report, there are several deep-rooted causes of the post-election violence, such as poverty and unemployment, but ethnic disputes relating to land and dating back to colonial times (notably between Kalenjin and Kikuyu in the Rift Valley) and the formation of political parties around Kenya’s 42 ethnic groups were the immediate causes of the violence (Akiwumi Report 1999; Waki Commission 2008; Kagwanja 2009).

Towards the election date, ethnic tension was further heightened by the opposition campaign, critically shaped by the rhetoric of ‘forty one against one’ (the Kikuyu) and ‘Kenya against Kikuyu’. The message to the voters was to isolate one tribe (Kikuyu) against the other forty one tribes in Kenya by voting as a tribal bloc. This demonstrated that though multiparty elections in 1992, 1997 and 2002 were also conducted along ethnic lines, ethnic polarisation reached fever pitch in the 2007 elections. According to the Waki Commission (2008) and Adeagbo (2011:174–179), deep-rooted land disputes, economic and political inequality, impunity, the role of the media, and ethnic animosity played a key role in the post-election violence.

At independence, Kenya had only two parties: Kenya African National Union (KANU) and Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). KANU was dominated by the Kikuyu ethnic tribe and KADU by the Luo ethnic tribe. At Independence, the country still had adequate levels of economic resources, and the perception of ethnicity was not evident. Politicians conducted politics around national identity, and thus candidates were voted for regardless of ethnicity. However, from the 1990s multiparty period in Kenya, ambitious politicians discovered they could win votes by appealing for ethnic support and promising improved government services and projects in their areas. They created an ethnic solidarity, enhanced perceptions of ethnic favouritism, and to some extent caused increased post-election violence (see Kagwanja 2009; Kagwanja and Southall 2009; Kanyinga 2009; Waki Commission 2008; Akiwumi Report 1999; Kiliku Commission 1992; Kiai 2008:162–168).

Tribal identity, kinship, and clan or ethnic considerations largely determined how people voted henceforth, and especially in the 2007 general elections (Waki Commission 2008). This means ethnicity has been one of the significant variables under Kenya’s multiparty democracy, since competition for state resources has made it hard for politicians to devise alternative bases for political organisation such as class (Kwatemba 2012). Hyden (2006) acknowledges this point when he argues that the influence of ‘community-centred networks’ in African politics has been due to the inability of class-based identity to dislodge kinship ties.

At the continental level, the re-introduction of multiparty politics in the early 1990s led to a worrying trend of increasing election-related violent conflict that threatens democracy, peace and stability. These threats are manifested through increased electoral violence with an ethnic dimension. According to Kagwanja (2009:365–387), the electoral violence in Kenya quickly metamorphosed into a deadly orgy of ‘ethnic’ slaughter, rape and plunder reminiscent of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, about which Wolff (2006:31) notes:

Ethnicity acquires enormous power to mobilize people when it becomes a predominant identity and means more than just a particular ethnic origin; it comes to define people as speakers of a certain language, belonging to a particular religion, being able to pursue some careers but not others, being able to preserve and express their cultural heritage, having access to positions of power and wealth or not. In short, when ethnicity becomes politically relevant and determines the life prospects of people belonging to distinct ethnic groups, it is possible to mobilize group members to change a situation of apparently perpetual discrimination and disadvantage or in defence of a valued status quo.

In Kenya today, ethnicity has become more than just an expression of cultural identity: it gets connected to social status; it determines people’s fortunes in life and becomes politicised. It makes it possible for those who feel aggrieved as a result of discrimination and those in power who want to protect their privileges, to invoke ethnicity (Kwatemba 2008; 2012). This elicits a sense of optimism due to wide participation, but increases cases of electoral violence in a country like Kenya with forty two ethnic groups. Indeed, the 2007/2008 post-election violence proved the weaknesses of many electoral institutions since independence (Khadiagala 2008:53–60; Waki Commission 2008; Abuya 2009:127–158).

With the ethnic and electoral institutional challenges during every election, Kenya’s political history has become very dynamic and unpredictable. For example, the country promulgated a new constitution in 2010 and conducted peaceful 2013 elections – although the presidential results were contested at the Supreme Court. The court upheld the results in its 30 March 2013 ruling. Though Raila Odinga and the elected opposition leaders criticised the casual way in which this ruling was made, they nevertheless accepted the outcome. The 2017 general election was peaceful, but the presidential election results were again contested at the Supreme Court. This time the court, in its 1 September 2017 ruling, annulled the results and ordered a second vote. This was conducted against the backdrop of a boycott by Raila Odinga (Daily Nation 2017d; Standard 2017).

To a large extent the opposition stronghold never participated, but only called for mass protests and economic boycotts. Indeed on 30 January 2018, Odinga took an oath at a public rally in Uhuru Park and was ‘sworn in’ as the people’s president. But on 9 March 2018 he decided to support Kenyatta’s government leaving his supporters and government leadership surprised by the move popularly referred to as ‘handshake’. He termed the cross-over a Building Bridges Initiative. On 20 October 2018 he was appointed African Envoy for Infrastructure Development by the Chairman of the African Union. This adaptive transformation of Odinga has led political commentators to question if he will vie for the presidency in the 2022 general election, with this new mandate and also his advancing age (Daily Nation 2018).

2. The scale and impact of internal displacement

The post-election violence led to the death of 1 133 people and the displace-ment of over 600 000 (Waki Commission 2008). At the end, there were 118 IDP camps across the country (Waki Commission 2008). According to the global survey of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2011), 40.8 million people around the world have been forced by armed conflict and generalised violence to flee their homes, and were living in displacement within the borders of their own country at the end of 2015. This is the largest number in the last ten years. In 2014, there were 38 million people displaced, 33.3 million in 2013, 28.8 million in 2012, 26.6 million in 2011, 27.5 million in 2010, 27 million in 2009 and 26 million in 2008.

In sub-Saharan Africa, there were 12 million IDPs across 22 countries, with Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria being the most affected. By the end of 2015, Kenya accounted for 309 200 people living in internal displacement. These statistics, and those of previous years, show that internal displacement is a problem which is increasing each year, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

During the violence in Kenya, IDPs lost community support structures which members of the community had helped build in their lifetime. Many self-employed community members lost business income and livelihood, while those in gainful employment lost their jobs. Social networks such as families, neighbours, friends, co-workers as well as informal social support mechanisms were destroyed. Although some of the above community social structures were reconstructed, many were not, and others were entirely abandoned as community members became resettled in new areas.

Social capital, defined as the capacity of individuals to command scarce socio-economic and political resources by virtue of belonging to a social network (Portes 1998; 2000; Nakagawa and Shaw 2004) was disrupted or destroyed. Many families remained separated, and informal support systems such as women credit systems, record keeping and micro-finance banking structures were disorganised and damaged. This has prevented social capital from playing its crucial role in the process of reconstruction and recovery. Research in social psychology has revealed that the primary source of help and social support for IDPs is their own informal social support networks (Hernandez-Plaza et al. 2006:1151–1169).

Although some of the IDPs have been resettled in new areas by the government, it has been difficult for them to recover their socio-economic livelihood, which had been previously achieved through applying the unique adaptation, absorption or transformation coping strategies of social support (Alvarez-Castillo et al. 2006:78–87). The process of reconstruction and recovery spearheaded by the Kenyan government and non-state actors is on-going, but many IDPs are yet to bounce back resiliently to their pre-conflict situation. The government’s approach is costly, but merely ad hoc and ineffective (Daily Nation 2017c).

The hope that IDPs were to receive reparation and either restorative or retributive justice, in order to bounce back by adapting, being absorbed or transforming, was short-lived as the Kenyan parliament referred the post-election violence cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC commenced pre-trial hearings for crimes against humanity by six Kenyans – Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, Hussein Ali, William Ruto, Henry Kosgey and Joshua Sang – and recommended prosecution for being most culpable for the violence. By 2016, however, all the cases had collapsed. Successful prosecution would have paved way for secondary cases with regard to compensation for the IDPs.

The ICC pre-trial hearings became complicated when in 2013 two of the suspects, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were elected president and deputy president respectively, which brought to light the question of the Kenyan government’s degree of co-operation with the ICC. To date, Kenya has not established any internationally recognised justice system to try any emerging cases related to the post-election violence, and nobody has been successfully tried and convicted of such crimes (ICC 2009; 2015).

While various processes have been applied in the management of the post-election violence, such as national intelligence gathering, security mapping, early warning and response, preparedness, prevention and mitigation (Kumar 1997; Krisch and Flint 2011; Alexander 2002; Coppola 2007), the resettlement of IDPs, part of the reconstruction and recovery process, stopped in 2012 (Daily Nation 2015b; 2016b; 2015c; Standard 2015). This was the period coinciding with the end of the term of the coalition government and the ushering in of campaigns for another general election in March 2013. But during the 2017 general election campaigns, President Kenyatta allocated an amount of Kenyan Shillings (Kshs.) 358 million as compensation to Integrated IDPs in Kisii, Nyamira (Daily Nation 2017b; 2017a). Still, when it was stopped in 2012, the reconstruction and recovery process of IDPs was yet to be fully completed.

3. Research design and methodology

To understand how the various interventions assisted or limited community resilience of IDPs, the researcher used Interview-Guides, Focus Group Discussions, Key Informant interviews and Review of secondary data as tools to collect data.

Interviews for camp-based IDPs were limited to Kamara IDPs camp in Kuresoi North District, Nakuru County, and Mumoi IDPs camp in Subukia District, Nakuru County. These two camps were picked as they are the oldest and hence have a rich history of IDPs issues and also hold the largest number of IDPs. Ten respondents were picked – five from each of the two camps. The first five adult IDPs were picked from the Ministry of State for Special Programmes lists of the two camps.

Interviews for government-resettled IDPs were limited to five areas: Muhu Farm in Mirangini District, Nyandarua County; Ngiwa Farm in Rongai District, Nakuru County; Kabia/Asanyo Farm, in Kuresoi North District, Nakuru County; Gakonya Farm in Molo District, Nakuru County; Haji Farm in Subukia District, Nakuru County. These five out of the current eighteen farms for government-resettled IDPs (part of about 28 government-procured farms) were picked deliberately because of their large numbers and long histories.

From each farm’s list, as maintained by the Ministry of State for Special Programmes, the researcher picked three respondents, taking every fifth name. In this category there were therefore fifteen respondents.

Interviews for integrated IDPs were conducted in Ndunduri in Mirangini District, Nyandarua County, Bahati Centre in Nakuru District, Nakuru County, and in Nakuru Township in Nakuru District, Nakuru County. These are the areas with the largest number of integrated IDPs country-wide. Nine respondents were picked in the same way as in the previous case.

To check on the validity and reliability of data from the primary respondents, key informant interviews and focused group discussions were conducted, and relevant reports and documents were reviewed. The key informants included: the programme co-coordinator for IDPs resettlement in the Ministry of State for Special Programmes; the programme co-coordinator for IDPs affairs in the Integration and Cohesion Commission; the 2007/2008 post-election violence IDP Network Leader; the programme co-ordinator for Kenya Red Cross Society, IDPs reconstruction and recovery programme; one local chief each within the two main IDP camps; and one Member of Country Assembly representatives from each of the two main IDP camps.

Six IDPs were considered for the focus group discussion in each of the three categories of IDPs. Individuals for the focus group discussions were picked through purposive sampling based on their perceived knowledge of the themes under discussion. Three focus group discussions were conducted with, in each case, two men, two women and two youths picked from the relevant list of the Ministry of State for Special Programmes – camp-based IDPs, government-resettled IDPs and integrated IDPs. The researcher created groups that were balanced according to age and gender. The discussions were scheduled for about forty-five to sixty minutes. The researcher used personal and professional attributes to create a conducive environment for optimum input on topics under discussion.

Additionally, to cross-check for details given in other techniques, this research reviewed: school admission/enrolment registers for the two main schools concerned; programme budgets from local NGOs implementing post-election violence projects; progress reports from Kenya Red Cross Society; progress reports from the Ministry of State for Special Programmes; and progress reports from the Cohesion and Integration Commission. Such records are presumed to be as objective and unaffected by emotions as possible.

The fieldwork provided answers on livelihood capacities and on the role of land in community resilience, as well as on the roles of social support, the ICC, and the Kenyan State and other actors. The purpose was to reveal ‘what works and what does not work’. Together with the fieldwork component, however, the study intended to unpack the empirical, theoretical and conceptual contributions of new knowledge to the post-conflict reconstruction and recovery discourse.

4. The findings

It became clear that means of livelihood and ownership of resources, especially land, played a key role in the reconstruction and recovery of the IDPs.

4.1 Land ownership

Legal ownership of land is identified and perceived by IDPs as a socio-economic asset to their reconstruction and recovery, making it the backbone of community resilience. Land ownership was linked throughout by respondents as the avenue for more successful recovery. Government made an effort towards the resettlement of IDPs on parcels of land, but never provided legal titles. These parcels can therefore not serve as a safety net (absorptive capacities), and the IDPs cannot actively engage in changing land policies (transformative capacities). Lack of legal ownership denies IDPs an asset and a means of long-term recovery. This was explained thus:

We are told the land is ours, the house is ours … but we don’t have the title. We are not 100% sure of tomorrow in case of violence. But at least we have something. If it was possible we would borrow money with these (land and house) as surety, but no bank or co-surety would agree an arrangement without legal documents (Male, Kabia/Asanyo farm).

IDPs have no capacity for credit systems and cannot make alternative investment options, such as selling the land or building rental structures. IDPs continue to suffer the loss of economic growth, stable means of livelihood and equitable distribution of income and assets within populations. Land, raw materials, physical capital and accessible housing create the essential resource base for a resilient community. Land is so significant that even IDPs who never owned land before the violence looked forward to owning a piece by courtesy of the ad hoc and ineffective resettlement process. It would help the victims to rebuild a base for their socio-economic lives by building up income and assets. Also, if the land is fertile, and there are houses, water, roads, electricity and other physical infrastructure, its market value would increase further. As a community asset it can help creating diverse kinds of socio-economic livelihood for legal owners.

After the violence, the government developed a resettlement framework such that an IDP was to be allocated 2¼ hectares of land, of which the ¼ hectare was to be used for building a house, while the 2 hectares were to be used for farming. Seeds and fertilizer for the first planting season were also provided. Such a piece of land, barely equivalent to the land individual IDPs had lost, is not adequate for profitable farming. The resettled have to depend on seasonal rain for cultivating maize and beans, but the rain is unpredictable in volumes and patterns. Season by season, the harvests continue to be poor as the IDPs have no capacity to invest in modern farming technologies or budget for fertilizer or manure. And without enough food, IDPs cannot be resilient. They explained:

Each one of us was allocated 2¼ hectares, each house is built on a ¼ hectare while each household farms the remaining 2 hectares (Female, Ngiwa farm).

We owned big chunks of land back at home, here we were allocated 2 hectares each … how much food can one grow in that piece? It cannot even feed the entire family. One must look for other means of sustaining the family, hence casual labour to the host community (Male, Ngiwa farm).

By the end of this study, it was not possible to establish the actual number of IDPs resettled as there was no clear data on how many IDPs have been allocated farms. After allocations, the government discontinued any socio-economic or political support. The argument has been that once resettled, victims cease being IDPs. However, the resettled continue to perceive themselves as IDPs and are identified as such by the host communities. This has hindered reconstruction and recovery as they continue to look forward for economic and social support from government and NGOs. In fact, they lament over how the government has not been visiting them in the resettlement. A key finding among camp-based IDPs is that due to the long stay in the camps, they have developed a ‘beggar culture’, which has continued to limit their view of opportunities. But in reality this study has found that these IDPs do not fit the definition of beggars. One of them captured their situation as follows:

… just idle around in the camp. There is nothing to do. We just sit talk whole day, waiting if one can get some casual labour in the field … can wait for weeks or months (Male, Kamara camp).

We have hope that one day we get paid what we lost. But for now we are at zero. I came here with nothing, having lost everything. When government gives us land and build houses for us like it has done to some other IDPs, is when we can look forward for a new beginning (Male, Kamara camp).

When they were asked about their means of livelihood and occupation, the majority gave the following kind of response:

… Casual labour … could be farming in the host community farms, domestic work in their houses, fetching water, washing clothes … any ‘kibarua’ (casual labour) available. When you have nothing you cannot choose … It is also not available all the time. For example, I have been out of any ‘kibarua’ for the last two weeks. If I am lucky I can be on ‘kibarua’ for a month, and also can be without for as long (Female, Kamara camp).

There were no adequate consultations between the IDPs and Government before resettlement. This is against the UN guiding principles on resettlement (Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement 2006; Brookings Institution 2008; 2011). Government presumed that all IDPs were farmers or could be farmers even when they had previously been business people. This is manifested in the allocated farms where the idea of farming is abandoned and IDPs rent out part or all of the 2 hectares provided by the Government. They use the money for other socio-economic business ideas which they think may bring about resiliency.

An interesting finding has been the claim that weather and climate in these farms are too extreme for any profitable livelihood. As such IDPs spend a lot of time hoping for alternatives which are unlikely to come. The land allocated is in isolated locations and in harsh climatic and environmental areas. IDPs perceive direct allocation of land by government or provision of cash to buy land on their own as the only avenue towards adaptation, absorption or transformation pathways. On weather an IDP said:

Here the weather is very harsh … in the morning it is fog … one old man died here because of the weather (Female, Muhu farm).

4.2 Means of livelihood and external effort

Before the violence, IDPs’ assets included animals such as cows, sheep, goats, pigs and donkeys. They cultivated foodstuff such as maize, beans and peas for family consumption and sold the surplus, and they also had small businesses in townships. The pool of assets (animals, money saved, land, foodstuff, home structures etc.) acted as safety net for emergencies. They were able to acquire credit for emergencies from friends and structured financial institutions. They lived in a family set-up (wife/husband and children) and in community (neighbours, friends, co-workers).

Now, however, they are faced with limited opportunities and options for any economic livelihoods, which are also unsustainable – especially in the case of, for instance, casual labour (Jacobsen 2002). The social support system network of IDPs operates only amongst themselves, hence is economically weak. This is an emergent norm, similar to that of Colombian IDPs who relied on each other for social support (Zora 2009:133–151; Tardy 1985:187–202). Without external livelihood assistance, IDPs remain vulnerable for a long period of time – having lost their entire social support system provided by family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, professionals, norms, culture, values, institutions and more.

Some IDPs have been able to create new social support through emergent norms, cultures and values. But these new social support systems have not helped to accelerate their reconstruction and recovery processes, especially among camp-based IDPs, as they are mostly concerned with voicing their vulnerability. They are mainly for emotional and informational purposes. They lack financial ability to support each other. For example, IDPs responded:

My brothers and sisters are struggling like me … they have their own families. It will even be a bother to ask for help from them. Our neighbours are also IDPs. It’s only government which can help us by giving us some land (Female, Mumoi IDP camp).

… even if they (family) wanted, maybe they send airtime. They cannot afford any other help. They are as needy as I am … (Female, Mumoi IDP camp).

In the pyramid of social support, family, neighbours and colleagues are placed at the core (Tardy 1985). Support is either received (enacted) or perceived (expected). Various forms of social capital include bonding, bridging and linking, but for IDPs with their common vulnerability these are weak. To overcome this vulnerability they have developed a strong emergent norm, value and culture of assisting each other. They are continuously securing casual labour through referrals, they share common meals and sleep in one tent if need arises. This is regardless of ethnic affiliation or gender. They forget their ethnic affiliations, hence draw strength in their diversity. They are a close-knit community, which is a social support mechanism and a survival strategy.

Social support helps IDPs to build adaptive capacities, create alternative livelihood strategies as well as absorptive capacity, and minimise shocks and stress. Portes (1998; 2000) has noted that dependency and reliance on other people is an advantage, hence the emergent norm of referral for opportunities among social network of IDPs.

There are cases where IDPs have cordial relationships with the host community, who are receptive to and supportive of their socio-economic needs. Because camp-based IDPs and Government resettled IDPs live in secluded IDPs-only areas, they have less contact with host communities than integrated IDPs who live together with host communities. All IDPs have access to National Government leadership, but through their elected leaders, such as Members of Parliament, Members of County Assemblies and Local Administration such as Chiefs. Additionally they have formed IDP leadership structures.

In addition to IDPs’ own efforts, agencies other than the State have also attempted to restore livelihood for the IDPs. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) implemented a livelihood project worth US$1 666 700. The aim of this project was to re-equip IDPs with lost livelihood assets, skills and micro-enterprise opportunities, as well as credit and entrepreneurial opportunities. This was done through establishing business solution centres in the major hubs, providing access to women’s development funds and youth business funds, restoring and improving access to markets, rehabilitating small-scale public works through intensive labour, and mainstreaming livelihoods recovery in the national economic agenda (UNDP 2009; 2011a; 2011b; 2011c).

The UNDP project was not able to reach out to all IDPs, however, and other non-state actors such as the Kenya Red Cross, only offered humanitarian assistance. Their projects ended after the humanitarian crisis, and civil society was left with the accountability of remaining interested in advocacy and human rights issues. During the course of this study the Government announced a new initiative to resettle IDPs through a Kshs. 10 billion fund, thereby acknowledging that at that stage the process was still incomplete.

By 2012 the Government had spent Kshs. 4 billion and NGOs 16 billion on post-conflict reconstruction and recovery of the IDPs (Daily Nation 2016a; 2017b; 2016c; Standard 2018; 2016). But eventually, apparently due to fatigue, the Government announced the closure of all IDP camps. NGOs shortly thereafter also closed down all their IDPs projects – perhaps because there was no more donor appeal. Currently NGOs are active in research, human rights and advocacy. The large amounts of money spent are not reflective of the livelihood reconstruction and recovery of the IDPs (Kanyinga 2014).

By the end of this study there were 46 IDP camps, 28 government procured farms – of which only 18 were fully operational. The government was not able to provide the accurate number of integrated IDPs. However, 170 000 integrated IDPs were each given Kshs. 10 000 as start-up capital. In the combined area of this study, covering Bahati, Ndunduri and Nakuru towns, there were 8 250 integrated IDPs (Ministry of State for Special Programmes 2010; 2011; 2012).

Government paid Kshs. 25 000 to every returning IDP to reconstruct their houses and another Kshs. 10 000 as start-up capital. In this intervention, 38 145 IDP households received payment. The target was to construct 43 792 houses but Government managed to construct only 26 589. There were 817 individual IDPs who received Kshs. 400 000 to rebuild their own houses without government logistical support and Kshs. 10 000 as start-up capital. A total of 617 primary schools were constructed in the affected areas (Ministry of State for Special Programmes 2010; 2011; 2012).

In addition to direct Government support, there was resource and monetary support from external actors. For example, the Government of China donated 105 000 iron sheets worth Kshs. 200 million, the government of Morocco donated US$1 million and Africa Development Bank (ADB) donated Kshs. 1.5 billion for farm infrastructure. When IDPs who fled to Uganda returned in 2015, UNHCR paid each IDP US$50. This was an indication of the recognition of these IDPs.

4.3 Unfulfilled expectations of a judicial solution

Kenya is part of the international community and a signatory of ICC Rome Statute, and as such the post-election violence cases were referred to the ICC through a formal and a systematic process (ICC 2009; 2015). However, the previous Government and the 2013–2017 Government were very pre-occupied fighting off the ICC to the detriment of the IDPs’ plight. The Government’s failure to establish a local tribunal and its opting for the Hague-based ICC demonstrated its unwillingness to engage in a process towards a permanent judicial solution for the victims (Daily Nation 2009; Daily Nation 2013a; Daily Nation 2013b). However, acquittals in the Kenyatta and Ruto ICC cases, in 2014 and 2016 respectively, re-programmed the vision and mission of the IDPs reconstruction and recovery agenda by the Government (Daily Nation 2015a).

The IDPs expected justice to be administered to the perpetrators of the violence. They were to be held accountable for the IDPs’ loss of their property, relatives and friends. A Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) programme could have provided for this, and victims expected to achieve restorative, reparative and retributive justice, but Kenya’s judicial system was unwilling and incapable (Khadiagala 2008:53–60; 2009:4–33; African Union 2006; 2009).

4.4 The expected role of the African Union

Although the African Union has the primary responsibility for peace and security (Murithi 2006; Nkhuhlu 2005), it failed to anticipate the magnitude of the violence in Kenya. It thus arrived on the ground late. Perhaps if Kofi Annan, the Panel of Eminent Persons’ chairman, had arrived earlier, the number of deaths and the amount of destruction and displacement would have been less and the reconstruction and recovery process would have been manageable (Khadiagala 2008:53–60; 2009:4–33). Western countries, such as the US, Germany, UK, France, and Switzerland, funded the mediation process through the African Union, and hence the peace process was neither African-based nor Kenyan-based despite the Panel of Eminent Persons being African.

The African Union relied on the traditional approach of peace negotiations, ceasefire, transitional government, demilitarisation, constitutional reforms and democratic elections. The peace negotiations, however, through the AU approach were short-term – just to end the crisis. A long-term post-conflict reconstruction and recovery agenda was recommended, but enforcement mechanisms were not established. The agenda points developed by the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation body remained as such and at the mercy of political leadership to implement. Indeed, to end the crisis, the African Union did establish the Grand Coalition government of 2007–2013. This Government, for purposes of inclusivity was the largest since independence and had two centres of power, each faction answerable to either Kibaki or Odinga (Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation 2009).

A Special Session of the Assembly of the AU eventually, on 31 August 2009, passed action plans on the consideration and resolution of conflicts in Africa. At that stage, Kenya had just emerged from the violence, and was not among the thirteen countries in the action plans. What should have happened in Kenya, however, was to set up country offices such as in the Quick Impact Projects (QUIPS) approach as well as to provide funds to implement the reconstruction and recovery of socio-economic capacities of IDPs (Daley 2006:303–319; African Union 2009).

5. Recommended model for post-conflict reconstruction and recovery of IDPs

From the above findings, this study recommends an IDP post-election reconstruction and recovery approach. The approach suggests five coordinated steps:

First, it should be recognised that where democracy is mature, it is unlikely to have incidences of post-election violence in which the community experiences a crisis, people are displaced, killed and property destroyed, and the displaced seek shelter in camps, and become IDPs.

Secondly, the government department in charge of internal affairs should consult or cooperate with a lead non-state actor such as the UNDP who has experience and capacity to coordinate the humanitarian affairs of the displaced population. This lead agency should coordinate all other non-state actors in the management of various IDP camps. Humanitarian resources should be distributed to the IDPs through the various non-state agencies with roles assigned by the appointed non-state actor. The core competencies and functions of these agencies should be established before assignment. The main activities of these non-state actors should include the supply of resources and essentials such as – food, clothes, tents, transport, counselling, medicines and tracing.

Third, the Government should take the responsibility of profiling the IDPs in terms of socio-economic losses and capacities. This profiling should ultimately lead to comprehensive databases and databanks of genuine IDPs. The information on the databases can be verified against the documentation from the departments dealing with immigration, registration of persons, and issuance of identity documents. Government security agencies should also collect crucial information from IDPs regarding alleged perpetrators of the post-election violence. This information should be verified with information collected outside the camps.

The Government should be guided by the UN guiding principles for purposes of classifying IDPs in terms of returning home, re-integration or resettlement options. Social support abilities of IDPs may be identified through interviews with IDPs to establish their primary social network, and their adaptation, absorption and transformation capacities according to an assessment of the skills, assets, information and communication, vision and mission of each IDP household.

Fourth, when a PCRD process is underway, the Government should attend to the implementation of the various legal frameworks such as the UN Guiding Principles, Kampala Convention, Great Lakes Convention and Kenya IDP Bill when IDPs are returned to their original homes, resettled elsewhere or helped to re-integrate within the communities. The most viable option would be to return IDPs to their original homes. Where this is impossible, however, the best would be to re-integrate them in the host communities.

The last step is to ensure that perpetrators of the post-election violence face the justice system. IDPs should receive compensation in the form of reparation, and should observe the administering of justice in the form of retribution or restitution. A trusted judicial system is able to hold the perpetrators of the post-election violence to account and make them pay for properties destroyed and deaths caused.

6. What works: Integrating IDPs as the better option

The integrated category of IDPs is able to recover from the violence and reconstruct their situation much faster than the other categories of IDPs. They are able to adapt, absorb and transform their IDP status and return to their businesses, hence becoming more resilient than camp and government-resettled IDPs. They are able to go back to the host community or relocate to other parts of the country and re-start with their new lifestyles.

The host communities are generally receptive and cordial to post-conflict victims. There are strong social support systems within this integration of IDPs with the host communities as compared with the other IDPs. These support systems have played a key role in the post-conflict reconstruction and recovery process.

Portes’ (1998; 2000) definition of social capital emphasises that a person must be related to others, and it is those others, not him-/herself, who are the actual source of his or her advantage. In this regard, integrated IDPs were able to re-establish their old social network. The primary source of help and social support for IDPs is their own informal social groups. This experience is similar to that of IDP victims elsewhere – for instance, Japan (after the Kobe earthquake), Azerbaijan, South-Western highlands of Uganda, Liberia, South Sudan (due to the 2013 ethnic violence) – and that of IDP-women in Bogota, Colombia (Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement 2006; Brookings Institution 2008; 2011; Zora 2009). This demonstrates that social support provides an informal boost to the community resilience of IDPs.

Integrated IDPs’ adaptive, absorptive and transformative capacities are strong because they do not only have their own IDP-based social support system; they have managed to integrate with the host community and have hence secured a broad social network for recovery and reconstruction. They have established cordial relationships with the landlords, who allowed them delayed rent re-payments of loans made in difficult circumstances.

They have been able to integrate and conduct businesses with those who were not affected by the violence as well as to re-establish social networking with former business clients. The integrated nature of their resettled situation means they attend the same markets, churches and clinics as their host communities, and their children are in the same public schools. This study concludes that this is a valuable asset in their reconstruction and recovery.

In addition to the social networks of their new environments, they have a type of leadership structure comprised of a chairperson, secretary and members. This social network helps them access information and also links them to the National Government. They have bonding, linking and bridging social capital, which is positively helping them accelerate their reconstruction and recovery. This empowers them for collective decision-making.

7. Conclusions

The analysis on ‘what works and what does not work’ provides a lens for this study to offer four critical conclusions for policy makers in post-conflict reconstruction and recovery. On the basis of the findings, the following conclusions and recommendations are presented:

7.1 Land-based resettlement approach

Land-based post-conflict reconstruction and recovery approaches on their own are not a sustainable solution for IDP community resiliency. IDPs require a guaranteed socio-economic livelihood. Post-electoral conflict victims should be integrated back into communities and offered some socio-economic livelihood they can rely on (Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement 2006; Brookings Institution 2008; 2011).

To facilitate this approach, a multi-sectorial and multi-agency team should determine each individual victim’s economic loss in the electoral crisis and carry out an evaluation for purposes of compensation (restitution, retribution or restoration). Governments, NGOs and other stakeholders need to initiate peace, cohesion and integration projects in the host communities. This approach ensures community resilience and a faster recovery and reconstruction process for the victims.

In situations where the Government has resettled IDPs on farms, there should be an accelerated plan to re-engage and provide them with capacity and empowerment for a sustainable livelihood. This may include providing them with tools, credit and new options of crop cultivation, poultry rearing and marketing. In the long run, they should provide them with legal documents for ownership of the houses and pieces of land allocated. Cohesion and integration agenda should be rolled out to ensure host communities do not label the resettled as IDPs.

7.2 Social support in reconstruction and recovery

Social support is an important aspect in IDPs’ reconstruction and recovery. In absence of external support from host communities or government, IDPs form their own support system. Where IDPs make a decision to integrate with the host communities, they are able to adapt, absorb or transform much more quickly. The pyramid of social support affords many forms of social support such as providing direction, disposition, description, content and network (Tardy 1985:187–202). The foundation of social support is the social network: comprising immediate family, close friends, neighbours, co-workers, community and professionals.

In displacement, IDPs are able to create new social support mechanisms among themselves for the purpose of livelihood. These social support structures are closely knit as they have a clear understanding of each other. They have common values, mission and vision, and eventually they even create new norms.

7.3 External actors’ support

In this study, non-state actors are stakeholders in the post-conflict reconstruction and recovery. At the micro-level reconstruction and recovery processes, they need to actively involve communities in the design and the implementation of the projects. UNDP Kenya had a well programmed livelihood project (2009–2011). The activities within this project aimed to improve livelihood capacities and empower the IDPs (UNDP 2009; 2011c). To achieve progress, donors should consider more proposals from NGOs similar to the approach of the UNDP Kenya. The projects should run for a longer period of about five years or more to achieve effective impact.

The peace process was driven by the AU with continual instruction and advice from western countries such as the US, UK, Germany and France. Because these countries were instrumental in peace negotiations, they must also appraise, evaluate and monitor the impact of the resettlement projects and, if necessary, fund the process to ensure an accelerated search of durable solutions for the IDPs.

7.4 African Union mandate

The AU’s PCRD should continue with its current mandate, but enforcement mechanisms should be put in place to prevent post-election violence. The AU is a key stakeholder in Africa’s conflict prevention and peace promotion. Although a mechanism for peer-review is in place, there has been no tangible impact on the way in which the system has managed to prevent violence (Khadiagala 2008; 2009; African Union 2009; 2010).

In the case of Kenya, the AU belatedly anticipated the post-election violence and at any rate failed to enforce systems to prevent it. Therefore the AU should consider expert missions – emplaced about two years to general elections – to study and make recommendations to countries going to elections. This would help in timeously monitoring and evaluating electoral systems and structures in the countries concerned, and in advising and enforcing where necessary. This would avoid a merely one-day event of monitoring general elections by AU observers, as currently is the case.

7.5 The empirical, theoretical and conceptual contribution

This study has attempted to focus on empirical, theoretical and conceptual aspects of reconstruction and recovery processes for IDPs after a post-electoral conflict.

In the fieldwork, post-election violence victims shared details about the loss of their economic (livelihood), physical (land), natural (heritage, culture) and social (friendship, neighbours) assets during the violence. The study shows how the concept of social support and community resilience has informed the post-conflict reconstruction and recovery discourse, particularly in multi-ethnic communities. It shows that co-workers are the first call for social support during and after a crisis, and that IDPs have intentionally created IDP-based social support structures and systems to overcome their common adversity.

The general expectation that IDPs are socio-economic vagrants due to the losses suffered has been found to be merely a perception, since it is clear that the victims have been making proactive and informed choices about alternative sources of livelihood, based on the changing conditions to which they were adapting. The study finds reliance of casual labour and other menial jobs as the primary source of livelihood among IDPs. The IDPs are determined to overcome adversity.

Adaptive aspects of social capital are internally controlled by IDPs, while Government and non-state actors control absorptive and transformative aspects. As such, IDP communities rich in the three different aspects of social capital are able to regain functionality (bounce back) faster. This study may provide a baseline for future researchers interrogating how IDP communities could share their experiences in regard to aspects of social capital with other post-conflict displaced communities located in many parts of the world.

With regard to the bouncing back of displaced communities, this study underscores the importance of such livelihood assets as land, food, security, jobs, businesses and household properties as enabling a community to transform, adapt or absorb new ways of life. Additionally, however, the capacity for more or less successful recovery is determined by the way in which the hosting community enables or constrains victims to adapt, absorb or transform during and after a crisis. On the one hand, an IDP community needs ownership of livelihood resource (land) and on the other hand, they need social support systems advancing the vision, mission, goals and objectives of becoming resilient. What this study found, is that the bigger the pool of livelihood assets and the faster the re-acquisition of lost assets or the acquisition of new assets, the further the post-conflict victims stand on the pathway back to functionality.

There is a strong argument regarding the relationship between post-election violence and ethnicity. The summary of this argument is that post-election violence breaks down the community into closed hostile ethnically determined units. This study has found, however, that IDPs develop strong emergent norms, values and culture (bonding social capital) which become dominant among themselves and are not determined by ethnic affiliation. By sharing common problems in displacement, IDPs disregarded ethnic affiliations and created unique forms of bonding social capital among themselves. The process of more successful recovery is determined by in-group solidarity, mobilisation and reciprocity supports. This creates strong in-group loyalty and comradeship and out-group antagonism. There is closure and density within the displaced population which ensures active resistance to infiltration by host communities.

The important finding of this study is the possibility of IDPs mobilising new social networks based on the socio-economic and livelihood resources they have among themselves. This could eventually create a new society (community) complete with new traditions, culture, systems and structures. The opinion that the foundation of social support originates solely from victims’ social network, such as family and neighbours, is apparently not accurate.

Indeed, the primary sources of social support among the displaced are the victims themselves. They share the pains of displacement, they share common characteristics, attitudes and behaviour; they develop new values and norms among themselves, based on their displaced world view. This new culture creates a new community distinct from the host community and different from the community as it might have previously existed.

The new society/community emerging from displacement develops new forms of social capital. These communities/societies have different socio-economic and political attributes and characteristics from their pre-conflict communities. Experiences in displacement shape their rules, values, norms, behaviour, attitudes and world view. I therefore submit that a new community created out of displacement is more resilient, and more connected by social support systems and structures which enable them to deal with future post-electoral conflicts.

This emergent culture has unique community capacities – adaptive, absorptive and transformative – based on previous experiences. The community develops areas of collective action independent of the host communities: such as conflict and risk reduction and management, community protection (food, money services, etc.), resource management (water, land, etc.) and management of community goods and services (schools, health, etc.). These capacities evolve to become pervasive and even dominant in the geographic area occupied by the IDP community.

Additionally, this community/society has the capacity to influence host communities to adopt their new culture, values order, social systems, social structures and social networks. This study refers to this possibility as creating new social capital. Therefore, the longer IDPs occupy certain geographic areas, the greater the likelihood for them to influence the culture, social network, social values and interactions of the host community. The new community/society is devoid of ethnicity. Indeed, in the Kenyan context new worship systems, new agricultural practices, new market systems and micro-finance systems are taking shape in areas dominated by IDP resettlement. This concept is comparable with the structural and cultural influence an immigrant Muslim/Asian community can create whenever they settle in a new area. They develop strong loyalty, solidarity and comradeship bonds among themselves. They influence the language and economic systems of that geographic area. They are able in time to dominate existing social systems, structures and institutions.

7.6 Further research

The empirical, theoretical and conceptual issues, as well as the conclusions above, may provide scholars with new horizons of knowledge concerning social capital and community resilience as potent factors in the reconstruction and recovery processes of IDPs.

Based on the above conclusions, scholars need to investigate further the relationships between IDPs and refugees’ reconstruction and recovery processes. Additionally, future scholars should examine case studies of IDPs in non-war situations.


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This Issue


  • Jannie Malan

Memorialisation as an often neglected aspect in the consolidation of transitional justice

Case study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Shirambere Philippe Tunamsifu

South Sudan conflict from 2013 to 2018

Rethinking the causes, situation and solutions

  • Israel Nyaburi Nyadera

The proposed hybrid court for South Sudan

Moving South Sudan and the African Union to action against impunity

  • Owiso Owiso

Book Review

Violence, Religion, Peacemaking

  • Jannie Malan