Kenya move to shutter refugee camps puts Somalis at risk

Fate of Somalis who call refugee camp home hangs in balance

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Hundreds of thousands of Somalis at the Dadaab camp entered a voluntary repatriation program in 2017 and 2018, but some born and raised there know no other home. (Associated Press) more >

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By Tonny Onyulo – Special to The Washington Times

Sunday, May 2, 2021

DADAAB REFUGEE CAMP, KenyaAbdalla Osman sits on the ground next to his wife and three children in this sprawling, dusty refugee camp and explains why he wants to stay, even though Kenyan authorities desperately want him to leave.

He has built a good life in the camp since he escaped Somalia 30 years ago by opening a butcher shop, getting married, having children and creating a home, he said. But the Kenyan government said last month that it wants to shut down this massive United Nations-run camp complex and another to the northwest that together host nearly 440,000 people, a majority of them Somali refugees.

Mr. Osman said Dadaab is the only home he has ever known.

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“I had nothing when I arrived at the camp,” he said in a recent interview. “But I have built my life from scratch. I have been able to enroll my children in school using the profits from my business. There’s no way I can accept my children dropping out of school and going back to Somalia.”

Kenyan officials, citing long-standing security concerns, announced plans a month ago to shutter the Dadaab and Kakuma camps for good. The government said it had intelligence reports showing that the two camps had become havens for terrorists and for smugglers and profiteers whose revenue helps bankroll the terrorists.

A meeting of Kenyan officials and representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees produced a statement late last week saying the imminent closure was postponed two weeks to allow them to draw up a plan for “humane management of refugees” in both camps. A joint statement after the meeting revealed that 433,765 refugees were living in the two camps. Of those, 280,000 — 63% — were from Somalia, and the rest were from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi and Congo.

But Kenyan Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i said after the meeting that Nairobi maintained its official position: that both camps would be closed for good by June 30.

The decision is leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees caught in the middle. Some of them were born and raised in the camp or, like Mr. Osman, arrived as a child. Their homeland of Somalia is little safer than it was when they fled years and decades ago with a weak, faction-ridden central government menaced by an increasingly brazen al Qaeda affiliate known as al-Shabab.

Mr. Osman came to Dadaab at the age of 13. Somalia had descended into civil war after the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Power struggles between clan warlords led to the rise of fundamentalist Islam and the birth of the al-Shabab movement, which today controls significant territory and continues to terrorize Somali civilians. The insecurity and political instability have forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

Now, critics say, the Kenyan government wants to send them back into a dire situation.

“Where do they want us to go?” asked Mr. Osman, 43. “There’s no safe place in Somalia. People are being killed daily by terrorists. We can’t go there to die.”

But Nairobi insists it must protect Kenyans and that the presence of the refugee camps is one reason the Somali conflict has spilled over the borders into Kenya. Until the Myanmar repression campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority sent more than 600,000 people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh, the Kenyan complex was often listed as the largest refugee camp in the world.

“We must bring this to an end. Refugee camps are not permanent features. How can we continue shouldering the burden for three decades?” Mr. Matiang’i said.

Another official told the Nation, a leading Kenyan daily, “We can’t continue spending too much money thwarting terror attacks when we can resolve the problem by closing the camps.”

The destabilizing potential of closing the camps has also attracted the attention of the Biden administration. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Robert F. Godec told reporters last week that the U.S. was “very concerned” about reports of an abrupt closing of the camps and that he had spoken directly with Kenyan government officials about their plans.

“The Kenyans have committed to live up to their international commitments with respect to the refugees, and we welcome that commitment,” Mr. Godec said April 26. “We expect them to do it,” though he added that discussions were continuing.

The Kenyan government, citing economic and security reasons, also threatened to close the camps in 2016, but the nation’s high court ruled that the move was illegal and unconstitutional and blocked the plan.

On April 6, Kenya’s high court issued a 30-day stay suspending the closure.

Logistical challenge

It will be no easy logistical feat to close Dadaab, which has grown to be effectively Kenya’s third-largest city after Nairobi, the capital, and Mombasa.

The camp, which began as a temporary shelter for 90,000 refugees fleeing the Somali civil war, has grown into a complex of three distinct camps. Two others were closed in 2017 and 2018 after hundreds of thousands entered a voluntary repatriation program and returned to Somalia.

Camp residents have set up primary and secondary schools, hospitals, sprawling produce markets and soccer leagues. On the streets, women line up to sell plantains, fish, eggs, vegetables, tomatoes and onions. Others sell clothes, shoes and other merchandise at stalls. Butchers hang meat from goats and chickens under metal awnings.

Fawzia Mohamed, a teacher, in Dadaab, predicts it will prove impossible to close one of the largest camps in the world given the instability in Somalia.

“They will fail again,” she said. “No one is going to Somalia. People have businesses here, children are going to school and families continue to give birth daily. You can’t kill all those dreams in a single day.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Kenya will come up with a solution. “They want to see [a way] forward,” he said.

Bill Frelick, head of the refugee and migrant rights division for Human Rights Watch, wrote last month that U.N. refugee officials have “no quick fix to offer [Kenya] consistent with its protection mandate.”

But simply closing the camps will not solve the problem for the refugees or their host, he said.

“Of course, many refugees would like to go home, indeed anywhere but these remote camps, but declaring the problem solved and threatening to truck people to the border is not a solution; it’s a recipe for further dislocation and suffering,” Mr. Frelick wrote on the rights group’s website.

“Until the situation in Somalia stabilizes, Kenya needs to maintain asylum and consider allowing refugees at long last to integrate …,” he said. “Meanwhile, donor governments need to provide financial support and resettlement opportunities that can keep a glimmer of hope alive for those living in the camps.

But officials in Kenya are clearly losing patience and note that they also have concerns about residents’ relationships with al-Shabab, which has struck Kenya in spectacular fashion several times in the past decade.

In 2013, militants attacked the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and killed 67 people. A year later, they attacked Mpeketoni and surrounding villages in the northern coastal region and killed more than 60. In perhaps the most horrific incident, terrorists in 2015 staged an attack on Kenya’s Garissa University and killed 148 people, primarily non-Muslims. The militants want to force Kenya to withdraw its soldiers from Somalia, where they are part of an African Union peacekeeping mission.

Analysts said the government is exaggerating the security concerns to have a reason to shut down the camps. The local economies benefit from having the refugees. Some say it is politics that is driving the closure bid.

The security danger is “no longer from Muslim extremists but rather [from] radicals and [criminals] who are out for hire,” said Gerald Majany, a professor of international relations and diplomacy at Presbyterian University of East Africa. “They change their outfits when the need arises. Otherwise, they are the shopkeeper, the lawyer, the doctor, etc. The closure of the camps is a knee-jerk [reaction] but not a way to deal with terrorism.”

He said the government closure order is more likely retaliation for Somalia’s insistence on pursuing a case at the International Court of Justice over a disputed maritime border. The two countries’ relationship has deteriorated since Somalia cut off diplomatic relations last year with Kenya, citing what it said was interference in its internal affairs. Now, this move is because of politics, “not necessarily a security, peace and safety agenda,” he added.

For refugees, though, geopolitics don’t matter. Losing everything they have built over decades does.

“I would rather die here than be taken back to Somalia,” said Mr. Osman. “I promised myself never to set my foot in Somalia again.”

Pope hopes to visit South Sudan, Lebanon if security permits

Pope hopes to visit South Sudan, Lebanon if security permits

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By

Associated Press

Thursday, December 24, 2020

ROME (AP) – Pope Francis told the leaders of South Sudan and Lebanon on Thursday that he hopes to visit their countries but demanded they do more to bring peace and stability to their nations.

Francis issued a pair of Christmas messages on Thursday, with his South Sudan appeal co-signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Rev. Martin Fair.

Francis has been hoping to visit South Sudan for years but has been prevented by security concerns. In 2019, Francis invited South Sudan’s rival leaders to the Vatican for an Easter summit, stunning onlookers when he knelt down and kissed their feet in a humble plea for peace.

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Earlier this month, U.N. experts reported that the peace effort in the country has stalled. The coalition government formed in February failed to meet deadlines, while President Salva Kiir locked opposition leader and now First Vice President Riek Machar out of the government’s decision-making process.

In their joint appeal, Francis, Welby and Fair reminded Kiir and others of the commitments they made at the Vatican in 2019 to implement a peace agreement.

“We have been glad to see the small progress you have made, but know it is not enough for your people to feel the full effect of peace,” they wrote. “When we visit, we long to bear witness to a changed nation.”

On Lebanon, Francis said he wanted to offer the Lebanese faithful “words of comfort and encouragement” after a particularly difficult year and said he hoped to visit them “as soon as possible.”

“I am deeply troubled to see the suffering and anguish that has sapped the native resilience and resourcefulness,” of Lebanon, he said. “It is even more painful to see you deprived of your precious aspirations to live in peace and to continue being, for our time and our world, a message of freedom and a witness to harmonious coexistence.

Lebanon is suffering the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, which has only worsened with the spread of coronavirus and the massive blast at Beirut’s port, which destroyed the facility, killed more than 200 people and caused widespread destruction. The World Bank has warned that Lebanon faces an “arduous and prolonged depression,” with the country’s real gross domestic product projected to plunge by nearly 20%.

UN: After 20 years, no equality for women in peace talks

UN: After 20 years, no equality for women in peace talks

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In this photo provided by the United Nations, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, speaks in the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in New York. (Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo via AP) more >

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Thursday, October 29, 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The head of the U.N. agency promoting gender equality told the 20th anniversary commemoration of a resolution demanding equal participation for women in peace negotiations that its implementation has failed, declaring Thursday that women still remain “systematically excluded” from talks to end conflicts where men make decisions affecting their lives.

Despite some good initiatives, UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the Security Council that in peace negotiations from 1992 to 2019 only 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories to peace agreements were women.

She said negotiations elevated and empowered “the actors that have fueled the violence,” instead of empowering women and others who are peace-builders – and women were either confined to “informal processes or relegated to the role of spectators.”

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Germany’s Foreign Office Minister of State Michelle Muntefering called the U.N. resolution adopted on Oct. 31, 2000 “a little revolution” because a united Security Council made clear for the first time that women’s equal participation “is required to maintain world peace and security.” It also affirmed that gender equality is also about security and conflict prevention, and that sexual and gender-based violence in war is a crime that must be punished and abolished, she said.

But Muntefering said: “20 years and nine hard-won Security Council resolutions later… women are still excluded from peace processes, their rights and interests continue to be ignored when building post-conflict societies.”

She was blunt in pointing at who Is responsible: “As a global community, we have not lived up to our commitment.”

Too often, the German minister said, sexual and gender-based violence in conflicts remains unpunished and “even worse, in the past years we have seen a global push-back on women’s rights.” And she expressed doubt that the principles in the resolution on women, peace and security adopted in 2000 would be approved today.

“Let me be clear,” Muntefering said. “We have a joint responsibility to implement what we have agreed upon, And that is: without watering down any of the commitments we have signed up to.”

Last year, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging all countries to implement the provisions of all previous resolutions on women, peace and security “by ensuring and promoting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes.”

This year, Russia which currently holds the council presidency, has called a vote on a draft resolution which some diplomats say weakens the previous resolutions, especially on issues of human rights and the participation of civil society organizations which have been key in promoting gender equality and participation.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because email voting is taking place. The result is expected to be announced on Friday afternoon and it’s unclear whether Russia will get the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated to the council that “gender equality is first and foremost a question of power, and wherever we look, power structures are dominated by men,” starting at the top where women lead only 7 percent of countries.

He said women remain largely excluded from delegations to peace talks and negotiations and said “we face serious obstacles” if they are not fairly represented, for example, “in the rooms where the future of Afghanistan is being discussed between the Taliban and the government, or in Mali, as it embarks on a political transition.”

Afghan women’s rights advocate Zarqa Yaftali, who spoke on behalf of non-governmental organizations that work to put women at peace tables, said “the presence of four women on the government’s negotiation team is a positive development, but it is not enough.” The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and refused to allow women to go to school, work outside the home or leave their house without a male escorts, do not have any women in their delegation.

Yaftali urged the international community to insist that the parties, especially the Taliban, don’t “restrict women’s human rights, civil liberties or citizenship in any way.”

“We are not the only ones demanding action,” Yaftali said, pointing to women caught in conflicts from Yemen and Syria to Congo and Sudan who see Afghanistan as “the true test” of the Security Council’s commitment to equality in peace negotiations, and “an indication of what they too can expect” in similar challenges in their own countries.

Actress and playwright Danai Gurira, a UN Women goodwill ambassador, retold the stories of women affected by conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan who previously addressed the council, saying she didn’t want members to forget their words about working for peace and pleas for women to be at top tables.

Gurira, who was born in Iowa but grew up in Zimbabwe and has appeared in the “Black Panther” and “Avenger” movies, said one thing all those women have in common is their insistence that “equality between men and women in decision-making is the only way we will build peace.”

“Male-dominated rooms in the 21st century should be embarrassing to us all,” Gurira told the council. “And just like (the women) keep showing up for peace, it is your turn to show up for them.”

UN extends arms embargo and other sanctions in South Sudan

UN extends arms embargo and other sanctions in South Sudan

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Friday, May 29, 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Friday extending for a year an arms embargo on South Sudan and a travel ban and financial sanctions for targeted individuals, with Russia, China and South Africa abstaining.

The U.S.-drafted resolution welcomes “encouraging developments in South Sudan’s peace process,” including the beginning of the formation of a transitional government. But it also expresses “deep concern at continued fighting in South Sudan” and condemns violations of the peace deal and cessation of hostilities agreement.

There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after gaining its long-fought independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. But the world’s youngest nation slid into ethnic violence in December 2013, when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who belongs to the Nuer people.

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Numerous attempts at peace failed, including a deal that saw Machar return as vice president in 2016 only to flee the country months later amid fresh fighting. The civil war has killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced millions.

Intense international pressure followed the most recent peace deal in 2018, and on Feb. 22 a coalition government led by Kiir, with Machar as his deputy, was formed.

The resolution urges South Sudan’s leaders to finalize establishment of the transitional national unity government and fully implement all provisions of the 2018 peace agreement, including allowing unhindered humanitarian access to deliver aid.

The resolution recognizes that violence has been reduced since the peace deal was signed, that the cease-fire is being upheld in most of the country, and that the transitional government is striving to address the coronavirus pandemic.

But it reiterates the council’s concern at the political, security, economic and humanitarian situation in South Sudan and strongly condemns human rights violations, including “harassment and targeting of civil society, humanitarian personnel and journalists.” It also expresses “deep concern at reports of misappropriation of funds that undermine the stability and security of South Sudan.”

Russia, China and South Africa have argued that sanctions are not conducive to promoting the peace process, so they abstained on the resolution, which passed 12-0.

The resolution extends the arms embargo and the targeted sanctions until May 31, 2021, but authorizes a mid-term review of the measures by Dec. 15, 2020, and expresses the council’s readiness to consider adjusting the sanctions, “including through modifying, suspending, lifting or strengthening measures to respond to the situation.”

Amnesty International’s director for east and southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, welcomed the renewal of the arms embargo, saying that “it is crucial to curtailing the flow of weapons that have been used to commit war crimes, human rights violations and abuses.” The rights group called on the Security Council and U.N. member nations to enforce it.

“The human rights situation in South Sudan remains dire as government forces, fighters of armed opposition groups as well as armed youth continue to violate human rights on a daily basis,” Muchena said. “Many civilians continue to be killed and displaced from their homes, girls as young as eight have been gang-raped, and human rights defenders and journalists continue to be harassed and intimidated.”

Game – The Purge (Year Of The Wolf)

[Intro: Stacy Barthe]
We are dying, we are dying
Are we gonna die? Are we gonna die?
We are dying

[Verse 1: Game]
Light a blunt, throw on Nas, collect my thoughts
Blow the candles out as I contemplate in the dark
Dumpin’ ashes on the fuckin’ Time magazine
Tryna burn a hole between Israel and Palestine
All this world news, all these dead bodies
All these kids dying, the talk of illuminati
As I’m murderin’ ink, I get a call from Irv Gotti
Say "Keep spittin’ cause when you do it’s like a 12-gauge shotty"
Got machetes and them cannons loaded up
Got them Xany’s and that lean in my cup
These politician’s can come up missin’, I’m on a mission
You hear them gun shots, now mother fuckers listenin’
Feel that you can take their life cause they ain’t got a pot to piss in
Raise the Christian, kill you for these kids as victims
Fuck the system
You give a kid 30 cent and think you sponsor somethin’?
I feed a village by myself nigga Compton comin’
Purge

[Hook: Stacy Barthe (Game)]
We are dying, we are dying
(Sometimes I wanna purge)
We are dying
(Sometimes I wanna purge)
We are dying, some times I gotta purge
(Sometimes I wanna)
We’re living on a purge
(Sometimes I wanna)

[Verse 2: Game]
What if we ran through Beverley Hills, got 70 kills
Ridin’ down Rodeo in the Chevy with pills
And pop one, load 12 slugs in the eagle
And shot one, Donald Sterling hopped in his Benz
I got one, beam on the back of his dome
Palm sweaty on the back of the chrome
That’s my adrenaline
So we purge Sandusky, purge Zimmerman
Purge every mother fucker rapin’ women in
Purge niggas killin’ kids, back to back in two vans
Me and my mercenaries, middle of South Sudan
Carryin’ babies bodies, long as I got two hands
Long as I got two feet, millions and my crew deep
We purge for the families, they deaths ain’t in vein now
Crash my ass, niggas know who shot that plane down
Two hundred and ninety eight innocent lives severed
Flyin’ on Aaliyah’s wings all the way to heaven
And so we Purge

[Hook]
We are dying, we are dying
(Sometimes I wanna purge)
(Sometimes I wanna purge)
We are dying, some times
(Sometimes I wanna)
We are dying
(Sometimes I wanna purge)

[Verse 3: Game]
Imagine going to the stores without cops harrasing
Imagine Mike Brown walkin’, them same cops just passed ’em
I’m smokin’ hash, and let me ash it before I talk in past tense
I hope his mama tears is like acid to your fuckin badges
2 shots in his brain, 4 in his fashion
Thinkin’ ’bout his casket in this Phantom, swear I almost crashed it
That’s why I’m headed to Ferguson with this German luger
Cause I’m probably more like Nelson Mandela than Martin Luther
More like Ice T than Ice Cube, I’m a cop killer
Murder all the cops, then the cops will probably stop killin’
On my knees prayin’, wish my nigga Pac was livin’
But he fell victim to the Rampart Division, purge
Cops killed Biggie, cops beat up Rodney King
We tore up the city nigga, purge
Or just stand there like J. Cole
And shoot at cops in the same spot till the case closed, purge

[Hook]
We are dying, we are dying
(Sometimes I wanna purge)
(Sometimes I wanna purge)
We are dying, some times
(Sometimes I wanna)
We are dying
(purge)

[Outro: Game]
This song is dedicated
To my engineer Jus’ wife
Carey Jean who passed away June 28th at 1.45 pm
To stomach cancer
2 days before my son Harlem’s 11th birthday. Crazy how he mournin’ his wife’s death and I’m celebrating my son’s life
I’ll never understand death, shit
Sometimes it’s a struggle to understand life, shit crazy
I’ll never understand
Can’t stop fightin’ to survive though, but what we fightin’ for when we eventually all die though, purge
Eventually we all victims of the purge
Us killers, what’s keepin’ us alive
It’s a question nobody got the answer to
So PURGE!