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Kenya Eager to Return Somali Refugees Wants Jubaland Settlement

By Sarah McGregor
Monday, September 22, 2014

Kenya is proposing that Somali refugees living at camps in the country’s north be moved to a settlement in southern Somalia as part of the United Nations-supported repatriation process, an Interior Ministry official said.

Kenya, Somalia and the UN signed an agreement last year to pave the way for Somali refugees to voluntarily return home as the nation seeks to overcome the threat of the Islamist militia, al-Shabaab. Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku has said militants operate from the camps to plan attacks and the presence of refugees poses a risk to national security.

Somalia’s Jubaland administration has offered 10,000 acres (4,047 hectares) of land on which the Kenyan government wants donors to build schools, hospitals and facilities to cater for relocated refugees, Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said in an interview on Sept. 19 in the capital, Nairobi.

“The fact is not all refugees are involved in terrorism, but there are some who are,” said Njoka. “The camps give an opportunity for some people to exploit us.”

The Dadaab complex in northeastern Kenya hosts about half a million mainly Somali refugees, well beyond the capacity it was designed for to deal with an influx of Somalis fleeing conflict after the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said last year it’s too soon for a “massive” repatriation of Somali refugees.

Westgate Calls

Some conversations that al-Shabaab gunmen had by mobile phone while carrying out an attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi a year ago were traced to Dadaab, said Njoka. At least 67 people died in the assault and more than 230 were injured.

The Somalia-based al-Qaeda-linked militia said the raid was revenge for Kenya deploying troops in southern Somalia in 2011, later joining African Union peacekeepers backing the government.

While the African forces have made gains by seizing control of the capital, Mogadishu, and areas of south and central Somalia from al-Shabaab over the past three years, the militia continues to stage deadly gun and grenade attacks in the country. The group wants to rule by Shariah, or Islamic law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at [email protected] Gunn, Karl Maier


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