Top Kenyan Official Cautions Over New Camps

A top ranking Kenyan official has accused the international community of meddling with the country’s internal affairs by imposing unworkable measures to solve the ongoing refugee crisis in the northern region bordering war-torn, drought-stricken Somalia.

Dadaab acting District Commissioner Bernard ole Kipury says opening new refugee camps would threaten Kenya’s security. He said the country is already overstretched by an influx of Somali refugees, with daily new arrivals of 1,500. So far, the Dadaab hosts more than 370,000 refugees, becoming the world’s largest refugee camp. Mohammed Yusuf reports from Dadaab North Eastern Kenya.

In an interview with Somalia Report, Kipury reiterated that the opening of the Ifo II extension camp, will not offer long term solution to refugee crises in northern parts of Kenya.

“Kenya has been hosting Somali refugees for two decades now. We are grappling with huge security challenges as some of these refugees bring small arms that could be used to spread criminal activities in the country. The only way out of this quagmire is to focus more on stabilizing Somalia,” he said.

Recently, the Kenyan government yielded to international pressure and agreed to open the additional camp soon.

Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, last week said the government is willing to provide land for development of new camps.

However, observers fear that the Kenyan government will have to surmount many political, legal and financial hurdles before setting up new refugee camps. Opposition to opening of a new refugee camp has emerged from some quarters of Kenyan government arguing of a likelihood for hostilities and pressure on overstretched facilities in the existing camps.

Kipury claimed new arrivals are exerting pressure on environment and natural resources through cutting of trees for firewood and construction of new houses. “If you go around, you can see there are a few trees remaining now,” he said.

Kipury says there is also competition for water and pasture between the host communities and the refugees.

Fafa Attidzah, the UNHCR Dadaab sub-office head told Somalia Report, that even though Prime Minster Odinga promised Kenya will open the new camp, some Kenyan officials felt the influx of refugees was a security threat.

Fafa said host communities are ready to help refugees settle but they are very angry with the way refugees are being settled haphazardly.

“The Kenyan government announced they will open Ifo II camp but no one knows when because the government officials are raising a lot of concerns,” he said.

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