After a four-month suspension, American Peace Corps volunteers will return to Kenya, another sign that the country's violent ethnic clashes have subsided and life is returning to normal.
The Peace Corps withdrew its volunteers after post-election violence pitted ethnic groups against one another in a bloody struggle for land and power, resulting in at least 1,500 killed and nearly half a million people displaced.
Starting next week, the organization will send 25 volunteers back to the communities they were working with before the violence. An additional 40 volunteers are expected to arrive in November.
"We are absolutely delighted to see Peace Corps Volunteers return to Kenya," said director Ronald A. Tschetter in a statement. "The Peace Corps has a deep relationship with the Kenyan people, and we look forward to resuming our partnerships, particularly through this period of recovery."
The Peace Corps had 144 volunteers in Kenya at the time of the elections in December 2007. In January, volunteers in unsafe regions were consolidated in safer areas, such as Nairobi, the country's capital. But by February, the Peace Corps decided the country was in too much turmoil and temporarily suspended its program in Kenya, giving the volunteers a choice between going home or to another country. Many volunteers were reluctant to leave but had no choice.
It will be an emotional homecoming for volunteers who were forced to abandon their posts in the middle of programs they'd spearheaded, including one that provided AIDS education for the deaf in rural Kenya, Peace Corps leaders told ABC News.
When the volunteers return, some may find much of their communities displaced. The post-election violence left hundreds of thousands living in camps, a situation that hasn't been resolved. Volunteers may also find that the worldwide food crisis compounded in Kenya, where the violence destroyed much of the country's most fertile grain-growing regions.
Kirit Radia reported from Washington, D.C.