Kenya retracts on repatriation of Somali refugees as Kerry visits

The decision by Kenya to repatriate Somali refugees to their country by the end of the year has been put on hold until peace is restored in the troubled horn of Africa country.

The announcement came barely hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry touched down in Nairobi for talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph Nkaissery said that Kenya had rescinded its initial position to repatriate the Somalis for the moment until a relative sense of tranquillity resumes in Somalia.

Nkaissery said that the verification of persons residing at the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa County had been finalised.

“We said verification should be completed by the end of July which we have done. I have the report with me. So we are in the right direction. We are just waiting for the world to pacify Somalia for them to be able to go,” said Nkaissery.

Mr Kerry’s visit will focus on discussions around the security situation in both Somalia and South Sudan.

The US official jetted into the country last night.

A volatile situation is currently in existence in Somalia, a country that has known no peace since 1991 after the overthrow of Siad Barre by armed opposition groups.

Early today, at least 20 people were killed and several others wounded in twin suicide blasts in the central Somali town of Galkayo in what has become the norm in the country.

The CS however assured that despite the latest directive, plans to repatriate the over 500,000 refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp are still in force.

Kenya made the bold decision to send home the refugees, majority from neighbouring war-torn Somalia in June citing the camp being used as a breeding ground for the terrorist outfit al-Shabaab.

The country also defended its position saying that supporting the refugees in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps was putting a strain on the Exchequer, denying ordinary Kenyans essential services from the state. The two camps are relatively huge and can be deemed as small towns with a combined population of nearly a million.

Kenya, Somalia and the refugee agency UNHCR had signed a tripartite agreement in 2013 which would have seen the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees afflicted by war to their original homeland.

The United Nations and United States had initially opposed Kenya’s move but later accepted the country’s decision, albeit warning that it should be on a voluntary and that no one should be moved by force in the exercise.

The state has already set aside Sh1 billion for the exercise that is expected to begin on December 2016.

Nkaissery said Kenya will further present its case in a UN meeting in New York on 20th of September this year where the modalities of the repatriation will start.

Kenya, which has hosted Somali refugees for more than two decades had indicated early in the year it would close Dadaab camp by November 30 this year.

The directive yesterday coincides with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the country. Kerry jetted into the country last night on a mission to improve business relations, boost counter-terrorism measures and stabilise the region from civil war.

The US has been in the forefront urging Kenya to reconsider its position until the security situation in Somalia stabilises.

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Next Uhuru expresses S. Sudan concern to Kerry

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