H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya chats with H.E. Mahboub Maalim, IGAD Executive Secretary during a Special Summit of The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State & Government. PHOTO:WILBERFORCE OKWIRI
President Uhuru Kenyatta has appealed to the international community to offer long term solutions to problems facing Somalia.
The President said the new government in Somalia after the recent peaceful elections, offers an opportunity to ensure stability.
“The recent election into office of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, offers an opportunity to put things right in the Horn of Africa Country, that has not known peace for over two decades,” he said.
He spoke yesterday, when he hosted a special summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Nairobi, whose agenda was to find a lasting solution and return Somali refugees back home.
Presidents who attended the summit were Mohamed (Somalia), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Salva Kiir (South Sudan) and Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (Djibouti).
“What is clear to me, as it is to you leaders, and to all Somali refugees, is that the time for lasting solutions is now,” said President Kenyatta, who asked his counterparts to be in the forefront to ensure stability in Somalia.
Kenya has been Somalia’s key ally, hosting the largest number of Somali refugees for decades and contributing soldiers to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to ensure a return to peace.
President Kenyatta who is also is also the IGAD rapporteur called for focus on the plight of refugees.
“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. These people should participate in the building of their nation,” he said.
He regretted that life has not been easy for refugees at the Daadab Refugee Camp, which hosted over 400,000 families and has been operating for the last 20 years with a fraction of its budget.
Kenyatta noted that 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 decided to close the refugee camp after the situation in Somalia improved and the security threats it posed to the country.
“Dadaab has become a protracted situation, characterised by hopelessness that easily feeds environmental destruction; conflicts between refugees and host communities; insecurity; radicalisation; 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 announced that Kenya has already committed more than Sh100 million to support the voluntary repatriation of refugees. He appealed to the international community to build basic infrastructure to motivate refugees to return home while Amisom continues to provides security.
“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.
The President also called on humanitarian and development actors to take advantage of the prevailing security to operate from Somalia.
“Now that Somalia is stabilising we must, all, stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” he said.
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 Prime Minister said: “This meeting could hardly be more timely to address the plight of the Somali refugees.”
He said President Mohamed has a clear vision to develop Somalia and address the problem of refugees and called for enhanced capacity for the Somali Government to win the war against Al-Shabaab to ensure peace and security.
Desalegn appealed to development partners and financial institutions to continue supporting refugee hosting countries and facilitate the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees.
President Mohamed said his Government plans to equip the youth with skills that will enable them to participate effectively in building their nation.
He urged humanitarian organisations and development partners to relocate to Somalia, saying his Government is committed to providing a conducive environment for their operations.