News / Africa

Somali Refugees in Kenya to Elect New Local Leaders

Dadaab, Kenya mapDadaab, Kenya map
x
Dadaab, Kenya map
Dadaab, Kenya map
Somali refugees at the Dadaab camps in northeast Kenya are voting in elections for local leaders this week.  The voting is being held as Kenya's government pushes for the refugees to return to their homeland.

More than 160,000 Somali refugees in the refugee camps head to the polls this week to elect just over 1,000 local leaders who will represent them in their respective camps.  The election is expected to end Thursday.

The candidates are competing for the positions of camp leaders, section leaders and block leaders in the five camps.  The voters will elect one male and one female volunteer in each position.

The election is organized by Kenya’s department of refugee affairs, with the U.N. refugee agency and other humanitarian organizations providing assistance to ensure a smooth running of the process.

The UNHCR's Mans Nyberg says lines were long at the polls and 50 percent of the voters in one camp have already cast ballots.

Nyberg says a 50 percent total turnout is expected, compared to the 25 percent in the previous election in 2006.  He says some of the election results in the camp show the voters want change.
 
 “What is very good is that the leaders that were elected in Ifo II camp yesterday, most of them are new leaders, which means that they bring in new blood, new dynamics and new energy into the management of the camps," said Nyberg.

Newly arrived Somali refugees line up to wait for the reception center to open at Ifo settlement at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp, situated northeast of the capital Nairobi near the Somali border, September 1, 2011.Newly arrived Somali refugees line up to wait for the reception center to open at Ifo settlement at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp, situated northeast of the capital Nairobi near the Somali border, September 1, 2011.
x
Newly arrived Somali refugees line up to wait for the reception center to open at Ifo settlement at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp, situated northeast of the capital Nairobi near the Somali border, September 1, 2011.
Newly arrived Somali refugees line up to wait for the reception center to open at Ifo settlement at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp, situated northeast of the capital Nairobi near the Somali border, September 1, 2011.
More than 400,000 Somali refugees live in the Dadaab refugee camps.  The election organizers say the vote is one way of empowering refugees to manage their own affairs and ensure legitimacy of the leadership in the camps.

The elections were scheduled for 2011, but organizers postponed the process, after Somalia was hit by famine and hundreds of thousands of Somalis crossed into Kenya and entered the camps to receive aid assistance.  The humanitarian agencies also say insecurity and kidnapping of their workers in the camps contributed to the postponement.

Nyberg says the election process will help refugees know how to vote and pick the leader of their choice without resorting to violence.

“Many, many of these refugees have never been voting in an election before because they fled from Somalia," said Nyberg. "Many of them, 100,000 of them arrived only two years ago during [the] 2011 emergency and they have been living in Somalia in a civil war with no possibility of experiencing any election.  So this is a very good opportunity for them also to learn about democracy.”
 
Meanwhile, a meeting that was scheduled for this week in Nairobi between the Kenyan and Somali presidents to discuss the return of refugees to Somalia has been postponed to give the Somali government time to consult further on the repatriation of its citizens.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs