Sunday, July 17, 2011

Somalis crossing into Kenya running away from hunger not insecurity, says Kenya Prime Minister

Prime Minister Raila Odinga. He predicted a three percent growth of Kenya's economy this year during an address to a Chicago business group in the US on Thursday. Photo/FILE

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (pictured) wants the international community to establish refugee camps in Somalia to avoid inflow of more starving Somalis to Kenya. Photo/FILE 

By JAMES RATEMO, jratemo@ke.nationmedia.com and PMPS

Prime Minister Raila Odinga wants the international community to establish refugee camps in Somalia to avoid inflow of more starving Somalis to Kenya.

Mr Odinga said the Somalis currently crossing into Kenya are running away from hunger, not insecurity and starting a feeding programme in Somalia would make a big difference.

The Prime Minister was speaking on Sunday when he held talks with British Minister for International Development Mr Andrew Mitchell who visited him at his Nairobi's Karen home.

There has been an out cry as living conditions deteriorate at refugee camps in the northern part of Kenya due to over crowding and insufficient food.

Kenya has been hesitant to open more refugee camps citing threat to internal insecurity by the many 'refugees' seeking a haven in Kenya.

Mr Odinga and Mitchell's talks on Sunday focussed on the refugee crisis in northern Kenya and the food and drought in the Horn of Africa.

During the talks, attended also by British High Commissioner to Kenya Mr Rob Mcaire, the PM renewed calls the international community to engage more meaningfully in the situation in northern Kenya.

The PM thanked the UK and US for their response to the crisis so far, and asked other nations to join the operation in the Horn of Africa.

On food, the PM asked the UK and other nations to help Kenya build it's food basket, acknowledging that the country is currently fire fighting.

He said the grand coalition government had embarked on restoring irrigation schemes that collapsed many years ago and is also building damms as a way of ensuring food security.

He said the restoration of the irrigation schemes have exposed the lack of capacity by the country to store it's harvest safely and called for support with the construction of storage facilities and expansion of irrigation schemes nationwide.

In response, Mr Mitchell said the UK is ready to support programs that would ensure food security in the country and asked the government to submit a proposal.

He said the UK has already set aside substantial amounts of money to help Kenya go through the current drought, but observed that the only sure security is for the country to be able to produce enough food, a programme he said Britain is ready to support.

He thanked the government of Kenya for agreeing to open the IFO II camp in Daadab saying it was an act of kindness for which the international community should support Kenya in appreciation.

The two leaders also discussed the continuing row over the Free Primary Education Funds, agreeing that the matter needs to be brought to a closure, with every shilling accounted for.

Turning to upcoming elections, the two leaders observed that with 2007 events still fresh in the minds of Kenyans and the international community, Kenya needed to put in place a team of credible people to manage the 2012 elections.

Mr Odinga said there is no shortage of credible people to manage elections, promising that the team the government puts together will be convincing and trustworthy.

On the date of elections, Mr Odinga said there are differences on interpretation of the law, but expressed hope that the Supreme Court will soon give directions on the matter.

Mr Mitchell said the date needs to be known in good time to enable the country and the international community prepare and support Kenya.
He said the international community is waiting for the next election with tremendous interest, given the experiences of 2007/2008.

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