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Closure of Kakuma, Dadaab refugee camps in bad taste

 A section view of IFO 2 refugee camp in Dadaab. [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]

Dr Fred Matiang’i's 14-day ultimatum to U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, to present a ‘road map’ detailing the closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps is in bad taste.

It goes without saying that Kenya is, and for decades has been, a signatory to various international treaties that obligate her to provide a safe environment to refugees and asylum seekers.

The Interior Minister’s hard stance that there was no room for negotiations, amidst the Kenya-Somalia border dispute, should also be condemned in the strongest terms possible.

For a country that hosts the U.N. Headquarters in Africa, the obligation and process to accommodate refugees should not be reduced to political machinations, but must be respected as an added obligation to human rights law. 

I have personally visited both Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps and I can attest that being a refugee is not someone’s choice. These are not tourists, but people on the run; forced to leave their war-torn country in search of the ever-elusive peace. Some were even born in these camps. 

To me, the announcement that the refugees should return to ‘where they came from’, is insensitive and myopic, considering that those camps not only host refugees from troubled Somalia but from other nations, including South Sudan and Ethiopia. Repatriation should thus be carefully conducted or else Kenya risks fanning the embers in an already volatile situation.

Maybe, someone should remind Matiang’i that our gallant officers are still engaged in an ongoing insurgency in Somalia. It beats logic to ask innocent refugees from the same country to go back. Where is humanity? 


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