NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – The message both from Kenya’s house on the hill and its foot soldiers remained unchanged: Kenya is ‘dead serious’ about the closure of Dadaab; the world’s largest refugee camp.
As President Uhuru Kenyatta through his spokesman Manoah Esipisu made it clear that a conversation with US President Barack Obama had done nothing to change that decision, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja put it this way:
“The government is dead serious; we’re not taking you on a goose chase. You strategies, you plan then you wait another three years. The government is dead serious about closing the Dadaab complex,” he reiterated to the team charged with ensuring the successful execution of that closure.
And as world leaders including Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon clamoured for the exercise to be undertaken humanely, Kibicho asked them to, “put their monies where their mouths are,” given a budget of Sh20 billion.
President Kenyatta made the same demand of Ki-moon a little over a week ago when they met in Brussels for the European Development Days forum.
But even as Kenya works to mobilise the requisite funds, Kibicho said, it would not detract from the task at hand and Kenya would continue to use the Sh1 billion it has set aside for the exercise to get the ball rolling.
And the rubber, he said, would meet the road on July 1 when the first group of the 300,000 refugees who have called Dadaab home for the last two and something decades will set sail for home. “East or West home is best,” Kibicho said.
Kenya had previously worked out an arrangement with the UN High Commission for Refugees for the repatriation of the Somali refugees but President Kenyatta said the exercise was simply too slow and hence a deadline of November set for the closure of the camp which he said had turned into a breeding ground for terrorists.
“These are people who have had an opportunity through UNHCR and other international organisations to have been given an education. We need to be able to create an environment for these people back in their home country. Where these young people can exert their energies and their efforts to developing and building their country, fulfilling their ambitions, as opposed to living their hopeless lives in camps. Because it is that hopelessness that is making them a breeding ground for terrorist,” he told reporters after the meeting with Ban.
The term ‘international obligation’ has been bandied about ever since Kenya announced its plans to close Dadaab by November but it appears it continues to hold a different meaning for Kenya and her international partners who in the European Union’s case a grappling with an influx of migrants from ravaged Syria.