The Kenyan government said arrangements have been finalized to begin voluntary repatriation of thousands of Somali refugees living in Dadaab camp in northeast region.
Cabinet Secretary for Interior Joseph Ole Lenku also appealed to the international community to provide resources for the reconstruction of infrastructure in Somalia to make the repatriation a success.
“On the forthcoming voluntary repatriation of refugees from Somalia, preparations are at advanced stage where the pilot phase is set to be launched in the next few weeks,” Lanku said at the Dadaab refugee complex late Wednesday during a visit by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
“As we prepare for the voluntary repatriation, it is important for the receiving areas to be adequately prepared. For this reason, Kenya requests the international community to provide more resources for construction of roads, health facilities, police station, and schools among other socio-economic amenities,” he said.
The East African nations host more than 600,000 refugees from 36 nationalities who flee conflict from the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Somali refugees in Kenya are estimated at 500, 000 and the number have increased due to turmoil and recurrent droughts in the Horn of Africa state.
With parts of Somalia showing signs of increasing stability, countries hosting Somali refugees are considering the potential to encourage them to return, while some Somalis have spontaneously decided to move back to areas under government control.
Lenku said many refugees, over 200,000, have accessed and gained good formal education and skills that will help them contribute positively towards the re-building of their country when they return.
He called for more economic and infrastructural support for the host communities in Kenya to restore the environment and other imbalances occasioned by hosting refugees and related activities. “As a government, we believe that the most realistic and sustainable solution for refugees is voluntary repatriation,” Lenku said.
The CS said Kenya has continued carrying out her international obligations towards the refugee community amid security concerns and other challenges. He also promised greater engagement on the part of the international community on Somalia to help sustain the momentum on the recovery and stability of the Horn of Africa nation.
“However, as the country and international community supports the protection of refugees’ rights and needs in Kenya, the world should not overlook the national security interests of Kenya and the region,” Lenku said.
Speaking during the tour, Ban Ki-Moon thanked Kenya for providing safe haven to refugees. He encouraged Kenya’s continued full support to the refugees, including medical services and other humanitarian assistance as well as their safe and voluntary return.
The UN chief visited the refugee camp, which hosts a large number of Somali stabilization center. He also met with refugees and toured the hospital there, including its maternity ward and nutrition refugees and their host communities.
Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process after decades of factional fighting, with a series of landmark steps that have helped bring an end to the country’s nine- year political transition period and the resulting security vacuum which rendered Somalia one of the most lawless States on the planet.
These steps included the adoption of a Provisional Constitution, the establishment of a new Parliament and the appointments of a new President and a new prime minister.