, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 9 – A combined regional approach anchored in comprehensive country programmes and assistance from the international community is the panacea to the Horn of Africa crisis, President Mwai Kibaki has said.
The President emphasised that permanent solutions to the regional crisis must be founded in respective nations’ programmes and action plans formulated with clear timelines of implementation.
President Kibaki, who was addressing a conference on the Drought Situation in the Horn of Africa on Friday at the United Nations Complex in Gigiri, asserted that only such a bold move would help the realisation of decisive and sustainable solutions to the continental crisis.
The President observed that previous resource mobilisation efforts geared towards mitigating the effects of the ongoing drought situation have largely concentrated on short-term emergency interventions.
“I therefore call upon each one of you gathered here to devote yourselves to the task of finding long-term solutions to the continental crisis,” the President challenged the participants.
The Head of State stated, once again, that the crisis was a matter of grave concern with regard to the reality that over the past decade, the Horn of Africa has experienced severe drought due to effects of climate change.
He noted that the recurrence of extreme weather and climatic conditions in the region have been increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change thus destroying traditional means of livelihood to many communities.
President Kibaki regretted that climate change had adversely effected key economic drivers particularly water resources, agriculture, energy and transport.
Said President Kibaki: “As a result, a large number of communities have been displaced with grave consequences for their traditional means of livelihood. This has led to increased conflicts for water and other natural resources between communities living within and across national borders.”
The Head of State urged regional leaders to emulate the East African Community partner states who have created a framework and structures to tackle food insecurity.
He affirmed that Kenya had embarked on the full implementation of the regional action plan and equally supported regional initiatives aimed at combating drought and its effects to inhabitants of the region.
“The Community has developed an EAC Climate Change Policy, Food Security Action Plan and a Regional Strategy on Peace and Security. I urge my fellow colleagues from EAC partner states to embark on full implementation and coordination of these instruments with a view to mitigating the effects of climate change and improving food security,” the President said.
He also asserted that the regional conference was expected to offer the necessary leadership in the resolution of a number of other challenges afflicting the Horn of Africa region with devastating consequences in particular the Somalia conflict.
President Kibaki noted that the continuous inflow of refugees undermined national and regional security arrangements because it had become more difficult to control the smuggling of small arms and light weapons into neighbouring countries.
He said: “It has also been a challenge to effectively deal with cross-border crimes, illicit trade and other activities, including the entry of undesirable elements.”
Underlining that a large number of refugees had been streaming into Kenya and other neighbouring countries from the volatile Somalia, President Kibaki called on the participants to collectively seek a permanent solution to the longstanding conflict.
“Over the last decade or so, a large number of refugees, mainly from Somalia, have continued to cross borders into Kenya and Ethiopia seeking to free themselves from the ravages of hunger and conflict,” he said.
The President observed: “The result has been that the modest refugee camp that was built at Dadaab in Northern Kenya over two decades ago to handle about 40,000 people is now home to more than 500,000 Somali citizens, many of whom are fleeing on account of the drought.”
He said that an estimated 1,500 refugees enter Kenya every day undermining not only national and regional security arrangements but also promoting cross-border crimes.
“This conference has been convened against the background of the ongoing drought, which has led to famine and an increased refugee influx that has extended across most of the countries in the Horn of Africa region,” the Head of State observed
He expressed confidence that a peaceful Somalia would form the basis of successful resolution of the Horn of Africa crisis.
President Kibaki further expressed optimism that, with adequate support, the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia would re-establish a working government, promote nationhood and ensure stability since it was working with all the countries in the region as well as the international community.
“It is my Government’s sincere belief that a firm commitment will come out of this summit towards supporting the cause of peace and stability in Somalia,” the President said.
While noting that the adverse effects of drought in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea, the President said the situation in Somalia called for special attention as the country has approximately 4 million people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, saying the situation was aggravated by the fact that Somalia remains in the throes of conflict.
President Kibaki added: “The Government of Kenya considers it extremely critical that we collectively find a permanent and sustainable solution to the conflict in Somalia which has persisted for over two decades. In particular, we must devote our attention to a long-term solution for Somalia if we are to succeed in resolving the crisis within the Horn of Africa.”
Thanking the United Nations, the World Bank, regional governments and development partners for their financial support to host the international conference, the President appreciated the impressive turnout by world leaders and their commitment to resolve the crisis.
In this regard, the President disclosed that his Government had been working closely with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the UN system and the World Bank to figure out strategies and possible solutions to the regional crisis.
He said: “Indeed, the impressive turnout by world leaders and other dignitaries signifies the international community’s commitment towards helping us resolve the crisis in the Horn of Africa.”
The President continued; “I also wish to express my sincere gratitude to the international community for supporting this Conference. My special thanks to the United Nations for graciously hosting us in this beautiful complex.”
Speaking during the summit, regional leaders outlined the measures they have put in place in their country to mitigate the effects of drought.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete reaffirmed his country’s support to regional efforts geared towards ensuring food security.
Noting that despite the drought there were areas that still enjoyed good rains, President Kikwete said proper policies should be formulated to increase production in those areas so that the surplus could be transported to deficit areas.
In this regard, the Tanzanian President expressed the need to revamp infrastructure, especially roads and railways, to facilitate smooth transportation of food within the region.
On his part, South Sudan President Salva Kiir said all available resources should be mobilised to address the effects of the drought while Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi underscored the need for restoration of peace and stability in Somalia as a way of alleviating the refugee problem in neighbouring countries.
In a speech read on his behalf by the United Nations Under-Secretary General Sahle-Work Zewde, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Kenya for convening the summit and for hosting a large number of refugees even as it deals with the challenges resulting from drought.
Other speakers included the President of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Africa Union Commission Vice-Chairman Erastus Mwencha.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka also attended the summit.