News / Africa

Somali Refugees in Kenya to Elect New Local Leaders

Dadaab, Kenya mapDadaab, Kenya map
x
Dadaab, Kenya map
Dadaab, Kenya map
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid