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Decision to close Dadaab refugee camp final, Ruto tells UN boss

Monday May 23 2016

Deputy President William Ruto is received at Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey by the a Government official Ali Ulutas (centre) and the Kenyan Ambassador to Turkey Kiema Kilonzo. Mr Ruto is in Turkey to attend the UN World Humanitarian Summit. PHOTO | DPPS

Deputy President William Ruto is received at Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey by the a Government official Ali Ulutas (centre) and the Kenyan Ambassador to Turkey Kiema Kilonzo. Mr Ruto is in Turkey to attend the UN World Humanitarian Summit. PHOTO | DPPS 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The government will not change its mind over the closure of Dadaab Refugee camp, even with new funding.

Deputy President William Ruto told a gathering of leaders in Turkey that the government is instead asking for funding to be channelled towards stabilising Somalia.

In a speech delivered to leaders, UN officials and relief workers in Instabul, Mr Ruto denied that the government had announced closure of Dadaab as a ploy to ask for more money from donors.

“It is insulting for anyone to insinuate that Kenya is using refugees to solicit for funds. Kenya has used its own resources for many years to support refugees and help stabilise Somalia. The country spends $100million (Sh10 billion) annually to support military intervention in Somalia," he said.

Mr Ruto who is representing President Uhuru Kenyatta at the World Humanitarian Summit said Kenya was participating in the conference specifically to discuss the repatriation of Somali refugees at the Dadaab Refugee Camp, not haggle on keeping them.

He spoke to an audience including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who recently asked President Kenyatta not to close the camp as it would worsen the security situation in the region.

Others included German Chancellor Angela Merkel who recently spearheaded a deal that would allow refugees heading to the European Union from the Middle East to be absorbed by Turkey; and Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erdogan among other world leaders.

Two weeks ago, Kenya said it was closing the Dadaab camp, the world’s largest by population with 335,000 refugees, due to security threats it posed, as well as various illegal trading practices the government said originate from there.

At the time though, Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery told journalists the government had been frustrated by the slow implementation of a tripartite agreement signed between Kenya, Somalia and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to repatriate refugees to Somalia.

That agreement expires this November, and though Mr Ruto said the hastened closure decision will be done humanely, he asked the international community to support the closure rather than ask Kenya to reverse the decision.

At a later roundtable meeting, he said: “In view of this situation, Kenya took the decision to expedite the repatriation of the refugees and close the camps, within the framework of the Tripartite Agreement.

“We anticipate that the international community will fulfil its promises to the Federal Government of Somalia in assistance to help them receive their citizens.”

On the sidelines of the conference, Mr Ruto met with Mr Ban and later Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud where he defended Kenya’s record on humanitarian obligations but insisted the camp will have to be closed in the interest of national security.

The Deputy President is being accompanied by Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery, Foreign Affairs PS Monica Juma, National Assembly Security Committee Chairman Asman Kamama, Defence and Foreign Relations Chairman Ndungu Githenji.

During the conference, Kenya’s Ambassador to Turkey Kiema Kilonzo and MPs Kimani Ichungwah and Barre Shill also attended.