UN Seeks Solution as Kenya Demands It Close Somali Refugee Camp

The United Nations said it plans talks with Kenya’s government to reach an “amicable solution” after the deputy president demanded the closing of a camp hosting Somali refugees within three months.

The UN Refugee Agency in Kenya hasn’t received any formal communication from the government and has only heard media reports of the demand it shut the Dadaab camp in the nation’s northeast, spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera said Monday by phone. An agreement between the Kenyan and Somali governments and the UN agency is “very clear that refugees can only return back to their country voluntarily,” he said.

“We are aware that the government has a responsibility of protecting its citizens, but at the same time the refugees have rights too,” Nyabera said. “I believe we will have discussions with the government and we will get an amicable solution.”

Deputy President William Ruto on April 11 gave the UN 90 days to relocate people from Dadaab in Garissa county, the continent’s largest such camp, the Nairobi-based Star newspaper reported. Kenya will move the Somali refugees itself if the UN doesn’t take action, Ruto was cited as saying.

Ruto’s demand followed an April 2 raid on Garissa University College which left at least 147 people dead. Islamist militants al-Shabaab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack, Kenya’s worst in more than 15 years.

“As far as we are aware there is no evidence whatsoever that the refugees use the camp to train terrorists,” Nyabera said.

The Dadaab complex hosts about half a million mainly Somali refugees, well beyond the capacity it was designed for to deal with an influx of Somalis fleeing conflict after the 1991 ouster of leader Mohamed Siad Barre.

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