Kenya is­sues ul­ti­ma­tum on So­ma­lis

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

NAIROBI — Kenya said it has asked the UN refugee agency to repa­tri­ate hun­dreds of thou­sands of So­mali refugees by July in the wake of the Garissa Uni­ver­sity massacre.

“We have asked the UNHCR to re­lo­cate the refugees in three months, fail­ure to which we shall re­lo­cate them our­selves,” a gov­ern­ment state­ment quoted Vice Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Ruto as say­ing in a speech on Satur­day.

The UNHCR said on Sun­day it had not re­ceived the Kenyan re­quest, but added that refugees can­not be forcibly repa­tri­ated.

She­bab in­sur­gents from So­ma­lia claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the 2 April 2015 attack on the uni­ver­sity in the east of the coun­try which left nearly 150 peo­ple dead.

Garissa is about 100km from the sprawl­ing Dadaab refugee camp near the bor­der with So­ma­lia.

UNHCR spokesper­son Em­manuel Nyabera told AFP in Nairobi: “We have not re­ceived any for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion or for­mal re­quest from the Kenyan gov­ern­ment along this line.”

He added: “Kenya has an in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the refugees and that in­cludes no force­ful repa­tri­a­tion to the coun­try of ori­gin.”

And Hu­man Rights Watch said that send­ing the refugees back would be “il­le­gal”.

“In­stead of mak­ing refugees scape­goats, Kenya — which is legally obliged to pro­tect them un­til they can go home safely — should find and pros­e­cute those re­spon­si­ble for the Garissa massacre,” said Les­lie Le­fkow, the rights group’s Africa deputy direc­tor.

So­mali refugees in Kenya num­ber about 450 000, most of them at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, the UNHCR said.

The camp opened in 1991 af­ter the col­lapse of So­ma­lia’s hard line Siad Barre regime when the coun­try plunged into chaos.

The Kenyan gov­ern­ment had al­ready sought the clo­sure of Dadaab af­ter the Septem­ber 2013 She­baab attack on the West­gate shop­ping mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 peo­ple dead, say­ing the camp was a breed­ing ground for Is­lamist mil­i­tants.

In Novem­ber that year, Kenya, So­ma­lia and the UNHCR signed a joint deal to back the vol­un­tary repa­tri­a­tion of So­ma­lis.

The Kenyan gov­ern­ment has come un­der harsh crit­i­cism for fail­ing to pre­vent the Garissa massacre and for a bun­gled re­sponse.

“The way Amer­ica changed af­ter 9/11 is the way Kenya will change af­ter Garissa,” Ruto pledged in Satur­day’s speech, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment. — AFP

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