Accessibility links

Breaking News

Kenya Wants International Help With Somali Refugees


Kenya's foreign affairs minister is expressing his frustration over recent events in Somalia and their effect on his country, saying Somali refugees are carrying guns into Kenya and adding to insecurity. Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency says it is considering asking the Kenyan government to give its permission to build a new camp that would house the large numbers of Somalis coming into Kenya.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that more than 9,000 Somalis have crossed into Kenya during the past week.

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Raphael Tuju told reporters in Nairobi he is very worried about that situation.

"In the process of living in Somalia, and in flight, they need guns to protect themselves," he said. "As soon as they get into Kenya, they no longer need guns to protect themselves, but guns become a currency. And when guns become a currency, then it compounds the security situation that we have in Kenya."

Tuju says his country has had to make a lot of adjustments following the refugee influx, such as setting up special border posts to collect weapons.

He says that the Arab League, the United Nations, the European Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and other groups all have programs to help Somalia, but the initiatives are uncoordinated and fail to help Kenya in it efforts to deal with the Somali crisis.

"The international community must consolidate its efforts in dealing with the Somali crisis and that is why we felt that it is a bit of a joke when sometimes we see some of these initiatives emanating from different parts of the world while at the end of the day, when the chips are down, we pay the price," he said.

Currently, there are 143,000 Somali refugees living in the three camps near Dadaab, an increase of 9,000 from this time last week.

In a newsletter put out by the United Nations in Nairobi, the U.N. refugee agency says a fourth camp is likely to be constructed in the Dadaab area.

U.N. refugee agency spokesman Emmanuel Nyabera tells VOA his agency is monitoring the situation, and may be approaching the Kenyan government soon to open a new camp.

"We are getting extremely concerned about the numbers of refugees who are coming into Kenya from Somalia at the moment," he explained. "The problem is that, if these numbers continue to grow, then even the camp itself will not be able to accommodate these new arrivals. And, that would mean that we have to consult with the government of Kenya to see if we can have an extra camp, but within Dadaab camp."

Foreign Minister Tuju says he is not sure whether or not his government has or will give permission for the camp to be built.

The refugee influx has been increasing since the Union of Islamic Courts rose to prominence earlier this year in Somalia and began capturing key areas of the country, posing serious challenge to Somalia's transitional government.

The courts recently captured the port city of Kismayo, about 150 kilometers east of the Kenyan border. The Kenyan government has stepped up its border and sea patrols following the refugee influx.

Since civil war broke out in 1991, militias loyal to clan and sub-clan-based factions have controlled different parts of Somalia, with no central authority to provide law and order and even basic services to the population.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago, following a peace process.