The Kenyan government…insists they must go because they pose a security threat and are too costly for the country to continue to maintain. Specifically, the government argues that they provide a base for al-Shabaab terrorists who have been engaged in mass atrocities in the country. There is however no evidence that the terrorists were from the camp.
Africa currently has over four million refugees, most of who had run away from repression, civil wars and persecution from their countries. The main culprits have been Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Eritrea. Religious extremism has added to authoritarianism as a driver of instability and conflict pushing people out of their homes and countries. Nigeria has recently joined the list with over 200,000 refugees spread across Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Unfortunately, we do not even have a legal framework to address the crisis posed by this huge number of refugees and the over 3.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in our country. The law establishing the National Refugees Commission was made to specifically address the registration and care of Liberian refugees into Nigeria, and did not envisage that we would one day have our own refugees and IDPs to cater for.
This week, I write from Kenya where the government announced it is closing down its two refugee camps and sending the 600,000 refugees in its Dadaab and Kakuma camps to their home countries. Maybe to prove its seriousness about the issue, the government immediately disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs, which had responsibility for the dossier. The Dadaab camp housing about 350,000 Somali refugees is the largest camp in the world and it’s not clear how they can be returned home given the situation in their home country. The Kenyan government however insists they must go because they pose a security threat and are too costly for the country to continue to maintain. Specifically, the government argues that they provide a base for al-Shabaab terrorists who have been engaged in mass atrocities in the country. There is however no evidence that the terrorists were from the camp.
The attack on Garissa University College, not far from the camp, 13 months ago was a major turning for the Kenyan Government. Even before the attack however, the Kenyan Government had signed a tripartite agreement in 2013 with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Somalia for the return of the refugees. As the said return is almost impossible and neighbouring countries are unwilling to take them in, the Kenyan government might well be using the threat as a bargaining chip to get the international community take more responsibility for the cost of maintenance of the refugees. The government might also be responding to mounting prejudice against Somalis, but the reality on the ground is that there is an indigenous Somali population in Kenya, so stigmatising the community can only create more harm for the country.
The corruption debate was a hot topic because a major self-styled anti-corruption crusader, Jacob Juma was killed on the road last Thursday as his assassins had pumped ten bullets into him on a highway. He was said to have made major exposes on corruption in government and had been threatened by Deputy President William Ruto.
Many of my civil society friends in Kenya were keen to tell me that their beloved country has now beaten Nigeria and is presently the most corrupt country in Africa, at least on a per capita basis. My response was that in today’s Nigeria, President Buhari is combatting corruption, so they should get their own Buhari or turn President Uhuru Kenyatta into one. Their claim was that the current government has observed an open door policy for mega looting. The corruption debate was a hot topic because a major self-styled anti-corruption crusader, Jacob Juma was killed on the road last Thursday as his assassins had pumped ten bullets into him on a highway. He was said to have made major exposes on corruption in government and had been threatened by Deputy President William Ruto.
The major event of the weekend was of course the burial of 82-year old former First Lady, Mama Lucy Kibaki. She was an old style First Lady known for directly projecting her husband’s power physically. She became famous for slapping men who annoyed her at least four different times. One of them was a photojournalist from Nation Media who was photographing her after she stormed the media office at dawn to warn them to stop criticising her husband. Another journalist was slapped for calling her Lucy Wambui. She took it as an unforgettable insult because at that time a certain Mary Wambui was rumoured to be a lady friend of President Kibaki. The war continued on Saturday when Mary Wambui, who is currently a Parliamentarian, was refused recognition when she attended Lucy Kibaki’s funeral. President Mwai Kibaki had once called a press conference at the State House, with Mama Lucy at his side, to announce to journalists that there was no basis to the rumours that he was a polygamist. His words were: “I want to make it very clear that I have only one dear wife, Lucy, who is here, and I do not have any other.” It was therefore not surprising that Mary Wambui was not recognised at the funeral.
At the political level, the 2010 Constitutional Reform Process has had a profound effect on the Kenyan political system. The devolution process in particular has moved substantial powers and money from the centre to the county levels. Service delivery including health, primary education and local roads are now local issues, so county governors and their work now matter to citizens. Next year’s elections may therefore see more interest in local elections. The presidential elections which is a winner-takes-all combat between two equally powerful ethno-regional alliances will however certainly remain the major stake in the elections. The present ruling Jubilee Coalition is comforted by the way their cases have been thrown out by the International Criminal Court while for the CORD opposition, the coming elections looks as their last opportunity to change the country’s political equation.
A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development and Chair of the Editorial Board of Premium Times.