Somali refugees in Kenya are victims of strained relations
Ibrahim Abdirahman Mukhtar/Daily Sabah
The relations between Kenya and Somalia have deteriorated since 2019 over several issues. One aspect of the tense ties is the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya, who have sought refuge in the Dadaab refugee camp along the Kenya-Somali border since 1991. Recently, Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiangi issued the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) a 14-day ultimatum to set “a roadmap on definite closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps,” warning that there will be “no room for further negotiations.” Kenya’s announcement to shut down the facility comes amid the news of the imminent surrender of the fugitive militia leader and former Jubbaland’s security minister, Abdirashid Janan, to the forces of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). Janan has been on the run since he escaped a Mogadishu prison in 2019 and has been fighting the Somali National Army (SNA) in the Gedo region. Somalia has accused Kenya of hosting and arming Janan militias as part of its support for the Jubbaland administration. Jubbaland, a member state of the FGS, has been at loggerheads with Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdillahi Mohamed, aka Farmajo, over the presence of the SNA in Jubbaland’s Gedo region. Thereby, the relations between the two countries have been worsening for months. Meanwhile, no agreement has been reached between Somalia’s political stakeholders to resolve the ongoing electoral impasse despite the piling international pressure calling for immediate elections. Kenya’s ultimatum to the UNHCR to close one of the largest refugee camps in the world is not the first. Kenyan leaders made similar calls in the past over various security reasons, citing the camp as being “a breeding ground for terrorists.” The camp is one of the largest in the world hosting over 220,000 registered refugees who initially fled Somalia when civil war broke out in the Horn of African country following the ouster of former President Mohamed Siyad Barre. Over the years, the camp opened its doors to victims of severe drought as well. Many refugees in the camp depend on U.N. support for their livelihood. Previous attempts to shut it down were decried by international organizations.
In 2013, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed a voluntary repatriation agreement for Somali refugees “in safety and dignity.”