The Kenyan government has closed its border with Somalia to stop Somali refugees fleeing the violence from entering the country. The government also said the border closure was necessary to secure the country from an influx of fleeing combatants who are armed and may increase proliferation of small arms.
Koigi Wamwere is Kenya’s deputy minister for information. He said the Kenyan government is not prepared for the influx of refugees.
“All it means is that the Kenyan government is not ready to allow people who are fleeing the fighting inside Somalia to cross into Kenya as refugees. This has to do with the government’s un-preparedness to deal with the situation, given that if the border remained opened, the influx of refuges would be massive and we would need a lot of money to cater for them,” he said.
Wamwere continued, “So may be to gain time and prepare ourselves we had to close the border just to protect our interest. There is also a great danger of the fighters of the Islamic courts trying to cross into Kenya with arms they had been fighting with, and obviously we don’t want the fighting to spread into Kenya... So we make sure we don’t let these elements into the country,” he said.
Wamwere said it was rather unfortunate for international organizations to condemn the government’s action given the responsibility it’s faced with.
“I think the best thing rather than condemn the government is to ask the (Kenyan) government what help it needs to be able to close the border and be able to secure it against the fleeing fighters rather than issue blanket condemnation. Because it is all too easy to blame a country from thousands of miles away not realizing that letting in refuges in the millions is an exercise that entails heavy expenditures, and reorganization of just about everything is a heavy responsibility,” Wamwere noted.
He dismissed accusations, which portrayed the Kenyan government as letting down the Somalia government.
“But how can it be when the government that the Kenyan government recognizes is the Somalia transitional government, the government that was formed in Nairobi, the government that the Kenyan government helped to set up? Wamwere asked.
He explained the significance of the meeting between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and the Somali interim President Ali Mohammed Ghedi.
“I think by meeting the government of the national transitional government, the (Kenyan) government is quite in order, it’s doing precisely what it committed itself to do from the word go when it helped set up the government and asked it to go home because they could not run the country from Nairobi,” Wamwere said.