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Give more thought to Dadaab closure

COMMENTARY
By Ahmed Muhumed | July 22nd 2016

It is three months to the closure of Dadaab and there are limited options for the nearly half a million refugees who know no other home. Dadaab camp is a settlement mainly for Somalia refugees who fled their country following the 1991 civil war.

Kenya has cited security concerns, observing that the camp has been turned into a breeding ground for terrorists. While that holds water, it should not be lost that a huge number of people residing at the camp are children and women.

Forcible eviction would violate the tripartite agreement between the Kenyan government, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Somalia government to step up support for voluntary repatriation of the refugees.

At some point in a time-structured return process, however, refugees ought to get back home, for home is the best. That is the bottom line. It does not help though that the planned blanket eviction is coming at a time when another neighbouring country, South Sudan, is experiencing renewed fights. The paradox lies in Nairobi pushing for the immediate return of the Somali refugees while another conflict is brewing right across another border.

While the rhetoric on the repatriation of Somali refugees is predicated on environmental degradation and security concerns, this process ought to be multi-year and structured.

Kenya needs to play a central role in the containment of South Sudan crisis to avoid an eventuality where she repatriates hundreds of thousands of refugees while droves of others replace them.

The refugee crisis has become a global challenge and statistics of people fleeing their home countries are not only worrying but also sending a strong message to leaders on the urgent need to remedy it.

We are in a world where nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution. Over 65 million have been compelled to flee their homes, 30 per cent of the cases being in Africa. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights.

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In the past five years, at least 15 conflicts have erupted or reignited; eight in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, north-eastern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and this year in Burundi); three in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, and Yemen); one in Europe (Ukraine) and three in Asia (Kyrgyzstan, and in several areas of Myanmar and Pakistan).

According to a UN report, in 2014, only 126,800 refugees were able to return to their home countries — the lowest number in 31 years.

In all, sub-Saharan Africa saw 3.7 million refugees and 11.4 million internally displaced people; 4.5 million of whom were newly displaced in 2014. Ethiopia replaced Kenya as the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the fifth largest worldwide. AU must take a share of the responsibility for migrant deaths and displacements. The problem of migrants should not be the recipient countries’ only.

Thousands of migrants, many of them Africans, have died trying to get into Europe. Cases of drowning during hazardous sea journeys on the Mediterranean have become depressingly familiar happenings.

The African Union should have a roadmap to minimise the huge numbers on the move and make Africa appealing.

Such a roadmap should contain a re-evaluation of ‘peacekeeping’ missions in terms of timelines, deliverables and mandate to avoid the seeming quagmire of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) or the rejection by Burundi of the deployment of African Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU) which was prescribed as a short term remedy to a crisis that overwhelmed the country following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement to seek a third term and his subsequent disputed re-election.

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