Mt Elgon Report: Civilians trapped between a rock and a hard place

Download the report here Since August 2006, civilians living in Mount Elgon District1, Kenya, have been terrorised by increased violence from several different groups: the Sabaot Land Defence Force [SLDF]2, police operations, criminals and/or vigilante groups. They have struggled to protect themselves and have frequently been forced to move in order to find safety—either on the upper slopes of the mountain, down the hill or in neighbouring districts. The population of Mount Elgon live in a precarious condition, dependent on local communities and humanitarian assistance. They dwell in poor and temporary shelters, schools or churches where they are exposed to cold nights and insecurity. While their material needs are great—with people lacking access to basic medical services, clothing, sufficient food, cooking utensils—most of all, the population aims to live in security.So far, the Kenyan authorities have only responded with more indiscriminate violence, culminating in the ongoing military operation which was launched on March 9th. During the course of this operation, the conflict has deteriorated further, with civilians enduring systematic torture, degrading treatment and generalised violence on a daily basis. As long as the only response to the conflict is more violence without addressing its causes, the situation in Mount Elgon is unlikely to improve substantially. Over the past year, MSF, which has been providing medical and humanitarian relief in the area since April 2007, has repeatedly sought to draw attention to the escalating violent crisis in Mount Elgon and its humanitarian consequences for the civilians— but with little success. The violence has not stopped. On the contrary, it has intensified since the start of the military intervention. The coping mechanisms of the population, both resident and displaced, are being stretched to their limits. Despite this precarious situation, no other international non-governmental organisations have responded. The population lacks humanitarian assistance and real political engagement from both national and international actors.Most national Kenyan authorities and the international community have closed their eyes to the ongoing crisis in Mount Elgon District. Despite the efforts of MSF and other organisations like Human Rights Watch. the Independent Medico-Legal Unit5 and the Kenya National Commission on Human rights as well as the reporting on the crisis in the Kenyan media, there has been no tangible improvement in the daily lives of the civilians of Mount Elgon. Download the report here