President Uhuru Kenyatta today made an appeal to the international community to act right to fully bring back Somalia into the fold of the international community of nations as he rooted for durable solutions to the Somali refugees problem.
President Kenyatta said the recent presidential elections in Somalia is the latest indication that Somalia is on the right track thanks to the determination of its people, the commitment by the African Union and the support of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“Indeed, the recent election of President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed is the latest and clearest indication of the progressive success of our collective efforts, alongside the brave people of Somalia,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta spoke on Sunday in Nairobi when he hosted a special IGAD summit whose agenda was to find a lasting solution to return Somali refugees back to their homes, the first summit of its kind to address the refugee problem.
“What is clear to me, as it is to you leaders, and to all the Somali refugees, is that the time for lasting solutions is now,” said President Kenyatta, who is also the IGAD rapporteur.
He made a passionate appeal that turned focus on the refugees themselves and why it was the right time for them to go back home and participate in building their nation.
“A refugee camp was never meant to be a permanent home, nor is being a refugee a promise of losing your citizenship and your country,” he said.
He detailed how more than 400,000 refugees from Somalia have been cramped into the Dadaab refugee camp for more than two decades.
The President said that the camp has always operated with a fraction of the budget it requires and the life has been hard on the refugees.
Besides the suffering of the refugees, the President said the camp has long lost its humanitarian character.
“It is not acceptable to us that a space that is supposed to provide safety and assistance is transformed to facilitate agents of terror and destruction,” said President Kenyatta.
He said Kenya reached a decision to close the refugee camp after the situation in Somalia improved and after Government came to the conclusion that the threats from the camp were big.
“Dadaab has become a protracted situation, characterized by hopelessness that easily feeds environmental destruction; conflicts between refugees and host communities; insecurity; radicalization; criminality; and allows terrorist operatives to exploit it for their operational efforts,” said the President.
He said majority of the refugees want to go back home and so far 60,000 have voluntarily returned to Somalia.
The President said Kenya has already committed more than Sh100 million to support the voluntary repatriation of refugees.
The President said he recently hosted the new Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” where Kenya pledge to build the capacity of the Somali Government institutions, including training teachers, nurses, and administrators.
He said Kenya has also pledged another Sh100 million to construct a technical training institute to give skills to train refugee youth before they go back home.
The President extended an appeal to the international community to build the basic infrastructure that will enable and encourage refugees return while AMISOM continues to provide security where it is not available.
“This is key, not only as a humanitarian calling and a fulfillment of the international responsibility to refugees, but for the long-term stability and potential of Somalia,” he said.
President Kenyatta also called on humanitarian and development actors to operate from within Somalia as the country continues to gather pace in return to normalcy.
“Now that Somalia is stabilizing we must, all, stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” said the President.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn – who is also the IGAD Chairman – said the search for a lasting solution to the Somali refugee problem must be placed at the centre of peace and security efforts in the region.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister applauded the timing of the summit, saying: “This meeting could hardly be more timely to address the plight of the Somali refugees.”
Saying Somalia President Mohamed has a clear vision to develop Somalia and address the problem of refugees, Prime Minister Desalegn called for enhanced capacity for the Somali Government to win the war against Al-Shabaab to ensure peace and security.
He encouraged development partners and financial institutions to continue supporting the resilience of refugee hosting countries and facilitate the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees.
President Mohamed outlined the strategies his Government has put in place to provide a durable solution to the refugee problem, including equipping the youth with skills and training that will enable them to participate effectively in building their nation.
He urged humanitarian organizations and development partners to relocate to Somalia, saying his Government is committed to providing a conducive environment within which they can operate comfortably.
Other IGAD Heads of State who attended the summit included Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Salva Kiir of South Sudan, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti while Sudan was represented by its Vice President Hassabo Mohamed Abdulrahman.