NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 15 – Speaker of the Senate Ekwee Ethuro is urging the government to consult with bodies in charge refugee welfare before repatriating refugees currently camped at the Dadaab refugee camp saying they also have rights.
Ethuro said although refugees were not the inhabitants of the country in which they have sought refuge, they had rights which had to be respected.
“Our appeal is that all the considerations by the State as well as the international commitments must be factored in that process. The UN states that you cannot be repatriated if you do not feel secure to go back – we must remember that the same concerns that we have are the same concerns that brought the refuges to this place, we need a mechanism where none of those concerns is compromised,” said Ethuro.
He however noted the government’s security concerns and its need to protect Kenyans from the hands of terrorists who have cost the country many innocent lives the latest being the Garissa University college attack which led to deaths of 148 people.
“You must be sympathetic to the Kenyan government response. If for some reason they believe that the refugee camps are the breeding grounds for Alshabaab and other terrorist groups – then there is need for Kenya to protect its borders,” added Ethuro.
The Senate Speaker was reacting to a statement by Deputy President William Ruto issuing a three-month ultimatum to the United Nations to close the camp and relocate the hundreds of thousands of refugees to Somalia.
Dadaab refugee camp is the world’s largest, sheltering around 500,000 Somali refugees who fled civil war in their country and have yet to return there.
Ethuro said a Bill to come up with a homeland security system was in the works following a proposal by Senate Leader of Majority Kithure Kindiki who said Kenya must emulate other developed countries in order to win the fight against terror.
The Speaker was speaking at a meeting of the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference of the Great Lakes region which he heads where all present noted the importance of political stability in order to ensure security and economic development.
The forum was yet to take a stand on the security challenges Kenya was facing but however reiterated its commitment to ensure the root causes of the perennial conflicts witnessed were addressed as they were hindering development.
“Until somebody starts somewhere and until you get commitment from everybody and particularly the leadership, you may still be grappling with the issues that you have grappled with for a long time since independence. We believe that Africa has come of age and it is time for us to try and resolve the problems faced by our people,” stated Ethuro.
He urged his counterparts from the Great Lakes region to work together, be open to dialogue, share information and offer technical support so as to manage the merging conflicts within the region.
“The work of conflict management and resolution requires the concerted efforts of all of us and cannot be left to the state machinery entirely. Peace building is a shared responsibility and your contribution counts,” he said.
The Forum of Parliaments of Member States of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (FP-ICGLR) is an inter-parliamentary organisation which brings together Parliaments of 12 member states namely including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Angola(joined in September,2014), South Sudan(Joined in 2013) and Zambia.
The forum intervenes in five priority areas namely; democracy and good governance, peace and security, humanitarian and social issues, economic development, natural resources and regional integration, women, children and vulnerable persons issues.