By Mourice Seretta
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i has issued the UN refugee agency with a 14-day ultimatum on closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.
Dr. Matiang’i told the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that there is no room for further negotiations.
Matiang’i who was accompanied by his Chief Administrative Secretary Hussein Dhado and Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho cited terror threats planned from Dadaab and Kakuma refugees camps.
They also said Kenya and Somalia have no diplomatic relationship to continue hosting the refugees there.
The Government team has scheduled another meeting with diplomats from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan on Friday to regularise the repatriation of their nationals from the camps.
“CS Matiang’i issues UNHCR with a 14-day ultimatum to have a roadmap on definite closure of Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Says no room for further negotiations,” read part of a tweet from the ministry.
Officials said the UNHCR officials said they will present the matter to their seniors to find an amicable solution to the issue.
Apart from the terror issue, the government team said Kenya’s efforts to have the have war-torn areas where Al Shabaab operates in Somalia to be labelled as terrorist organizations have been hindered continuously.
This is the second attempt by the Kenyan Government to have the camps closed and refugees repatriated.
The Kenyan government’s attempt to close Dadaab in 2016 came on the back of intelligence reports showing two attacks on Kenyan targets in 2013 and 2015 took place with the involvement of elements in the camps.
The plan was blocked by the high court, which called the move unconstitutional.
The Dadaab and the Kakuma refugee camps in northern Kenya host more than 410,000 people, a small proportion of whom are from South Sudan.
UNHCR urged Kenya to ensure that those who need protection continue to get it, and pledged to keep engaging in a dialogue.
“The decision would have an impact on the protection of refugees in Kenya, including in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the UNHCR said in a statement.
Kenya’s move comes as relations with Somalia worsen following Mogadishu cutting diplomatic ties with Nairobi last December, accusing it of interfering in its internal affairs.
The two nations are also facing off at the International Court of Justice over a maritime boundary dispute, although Kenya has boycotted the hearing of the case.