, GENEVA, Switzerland, Oct 1 – The Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph ole Lenku has told the General Assembly of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sitting in Geneva that Kenya will neither compromise nor negotiate when it comes to matters affecting the country’s security.
The Cabinet Secretary was giving the country’s position during the on-going 65th UNHCR Executive Committee (EXCOM) conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
Later in the day, Lenku held a bilateral meeting with Somalia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Buri Mohamed Hamza who is also attending the EXCOM conference.
In their discussions, the Somalia Minister thanked Kenya for the hospitality it had shown towards Somali refugees and said that the Somali Government would cooperate fully in the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement.
“Somali people are very successful outside Somalia, with the help of friendly neighbours such as Kenya, it is possible to make Somali people successful inside their own country,” said Hamza.
The annual conference of the UN body responsible for refugee affairs has been meeting at the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nationssince between September 29 and October 3.
Lenku told the assembled delegates who included the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gutiérrez: “Kenya, like many countries, has suffered attacks from terrorists. The Government of Kenya, like many others, will not debate nor compromise over the security of its borders and its people. That said, Mr High Commissioner, we do not condone and we will act on anyone promoting negative perceptions of refugees.”
The theme of this year’s UNHCR High-Level segment of the EXCOM meeting is: “enhancing international cooperation, solidarity, local capacities and humanitarian action for refugees in Africa.”
Lenku also called on the international community to move away from the rhetoric of supporting refugees and repartition to real action.
“There have been many meetings discussing the plight of refugees and solutions; the Global Initiative on Somali Refugees (GISR) held in Addis Ababa, August this year as well as previous meetings in London, Tokyo, and Brussels where pledges were made towards the stabilization and reconstruction of Somalia,” explained Lenku.
Unfortunately, he went on, two years down the line, not much has been realised from the pledges adding: “Time has come for the international community and development partners to move beyond the rhetoric and honour their pledges!”
The Cabinet Secretary urged UNHCR and the international community to allocate funds to enable the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement that sets the roadmap for repatriation of Somali refugees.
He observed that funding for Somali refugees programs kept dwindling as newer crises such as the ISIS terror group in the Middle East came up.
In an emotive statement, Lenku said: “Why should we forget the plight of that young man and young woman who walked into Dadaab refugee camp some 25 years ago following the breakout of war in Somalia hoping to return home in a few weeks?”
This, said Lenku, did not happen and sadly, these former youths grew old in a foreign country and some of them are today buried in foreign graves without ever having set foot in their homes again.
“Let us not forget them, let us not fail them and the hope they lived for! We owe it to their surviving children and grandchildren to ensure that every displaced Somali finally gets a chance to voluntary return home,” Lenku pleaded.
The Geneva meeting comes at a time when Kenya is battling with insecurity against the background of repatriation of Somali refugees amidst indications of some violent extremists attempting to infiltrate refugee community to preach the ‘gospel’ of radicalization.
In this regard, Lenku told the Geneva meeting: “We must not allow those with ill-intentions to take advantage of the displaced to propagate violent extremism within the ranks of refugees.”
Kenya is home to over 600,000 refugees mainly from Somalia and South Sudan although there are other 34 or so nationalities in the mix. This gives Kenya the distinction of hosting the largest number of displaced persons in Africa, something the High Commissioner for Refugees; Gutiérrez lauded the country for at the meeting.
Lenku is accompanied in Geneva by the Chairman of the Refugee Affairs Committee (RAC) Ali Korane and the acting Director of the Department of Refugee Affairs (DRA) Haron Komen.