Joseph Nkaissery wrong on Dadaab camp

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery. (Photo: Robert Kiplagat/Standard)

Major General (retired) Joseph Nkaissery has to let go. He must de-militarise himself. Nkaissery is living in a time warp circa 1990s when he served as a military officer. Admittedly, decisions made and orders given by senior military officers are not subject to interrogation. That is understandable in the context of the barracks.

In time of war, the commanding officer takes responsibility for his actions; there is no buck passing. Were an order to charge the enemy be countermanded by a junior officer in the thick of things, a minute’s hesitation could change the tide in favour of the enemy.

Nkaissery is no longer in the army, he is the civilian Cabinet Secretary for Interior, yet he behaves as though Kenya is one vast military barrack. He exhibits little regard for the laws of the land; the latest case being his unfortunate utterances challenging a court ruling that rendered nugatory an earlier government order to close Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.

His utterances last week to the effect that ‘when the Commander in Chief makes a decision, it is final; everything else is just a formality’ could not have been anything but contempt of court. Nkaissery is the embodiment of Executive impunity so rampant in Kenya. Uhuru Kenyatta is the civilian president of Kenya. Whatever decisions he makes for, and on behalf of Kenyans are made in that capacity. The Commander in Chief title is purely ceremonial.

We lose the picture when we look at Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps from the perspective of insecurity associated with the Al Shabaab militias operating out of Somalia.

Lawlessness is not unique to Kenyans of Somalia descent or helpless Somali refugees. Illegal gangs like the Chinkororo, Musumbiji, MRC, Sabot Land Defence Force, the Mungiki and cattle rustlers; purely indigenous groups have made the country insecure. Between them they have caused enough insecurity and despondency.

Given the option, nobody would willingly live under despicable conditions in a dehumanising camp in a foreign country. That is why refugees who have braved the indignity of Kakuma and Dadaab should be treated humanely.

About three quarters of the 600,000 plus population comprises youngsters born in Kenya after 1992. If they are not Kenyan, they are stateless, definitely not Somalian. Our constitution addresses itself to this. A person who has lawfully resided in Kenya for a continuous period of at least seven years may apply to be registered as a citizen.

As happened with the Makonde people from the coast recently, Somalis born in Kenya, except where proven beyond doubt they are indoctrinated by Muslim fundamentalists, should be given the option of applying for citizenship.

The authorities ought to bear in mind the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement entered into between Kenya, Somalia and the United Nations in 2013 which specifically states that repatriation, where necessary, must be voluntary. And those opting to go back home must be taken to safe areas. Kenya’s push to deport Somali’s is ill advised.

First, six years down the line, KDF, and indeed Amisom troops, are far from making Somalia safe. The hunter has become the hunted and we cannot look past the January 2017 Kulbiyow and the January 2016 El Adde attacks on army camps for evidence.

Where soldiers are killed brutally despite their arms, how are civilians expected to survive? Why would Kenya willingly send refugees to the killing fields of Somalia when even Europe is offering tormented souls from Africa refuge?

Our constitution is explicit that every person has inherent dignity and the right to have that dignity respected and protected. We must accord the Somali refugees this honour. They are human, not cattle to be led to the abattoir.Unproven wild claims the camps harbour criminals are an indictment on our intelligence security services, seemingly sleeping on the job.

A national leader who made sensational claims he had a dossier on financiers of Al Shabaab is hard pressed to prove his claim. Or maybe he knows something we don’t. Kenya should not play ‘Trump’ on a people whose only ‘crime’ is seeking safety from murderous gangs that kill for a sport.

Even obstinate, lone ranger Donald Trump, whom a British Member of Parliament called a fascist, is slowly, but surely being forced to see things from a different, more humane perspective.

We cannot pin environmental degradation on refugees when the government looks aside while Turbo forest and the Mau among others get depleted, not by Somali refugees, but highly placed individuals in society.

Our towns, devoid of garbage collection mechanisms, full of unregulated industries spewing acrid smoke and discharging industrial effluence into rivers are greater environmental concerns than human excrement dotting Dadaab and Kakuma.

If for nothing else, Kenya should maintain Dadaab and Kakuma camps because their occupants are humans; fellow Africans forced by circumstances to live like animals.