Kenya’s deputy president Wil­liam Ruto issued an extraordinary ultimatum to the United Nations. He told the UN High Commis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to shut down Dadaab refugee camp within three months, or else Ken­ya would shut it down itself.

The remarks by the deputy president came after leaders from North Eastern led by parliament majority leader Aden Duale who called for the closure of the camp following the killing of at least 147 students from Garissa University by Al-shabaab militants.

“The camps have been the cen­ters where the training, co-ordi­nation and the assembly of terror networks is done. We want the refugees to be relocated, across the border,” Duale told the Press in Nairobi.The leaders argued that the refugees could still be taken care of by the UNHCR while in their country.

The demand could stir human rights defenders, who have con­tinuously argued for a voluntary repatriation. Kenya, Somalia and the UN refugee agency signed an agreement in 2013 to allow for voluntary return of refugees.

The camp is believed to be host­ing more than 360,000 refu­gees from Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo.

Dadaab is no ordinary refu­gee camp (not that any refugee camp, home to society’s most vulnerable, can or should ever be described as normal). A quarter of a century old, it is the world’s largest refugee camp, home to more than 600,000 mostly So­mali refugees who have fled fam­ine, violence, and persecution in their home countries (this is a Kenyan government figure. UN­HCR puts the camp population at “more than 350,000). They ar­en’t there because they want to be; they are there because they simply have nowhere else to go.

The move by the political leaders in Kenya has already caused pan­ic within the refugee camps in Kenya and many refugees both in the camps and urban centers.

Life isn’t easy in the camp. Jobs are scarce, food is minimal, and healthcare is basic. But it is a safe haven, and has likely saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Its existence is one of modern Kenya’s finest accom­plishments. “That Dadaab has been able to provide refuge for so many years and to so many people, first and foremost to the Government and people of Ken­ya,”said UNHCR spokesperson.

The United Nations said it plans talks with Kenya’s government to reach an “amicable solution” after the deputy president de­manded the closing of a camp hosting Somali refugees within three months.

An agreement between the Ken­yan and Somali governments and the UN agency is “very clear that refugees can only return back to their country voluntarily,” UN spokesperson said.

“We are aware that the gov­ernment has a responsibility of protecting its citizens, but at the same time the refugees have rights too,” Nyabera said. “I be­lieve we will have discussions with the government and we will get an amicable solution.”

According Ismail Hussein, 24, a refugee in Dadaab Refugee camp, says that the move by the Kenya government is untimely and will worsen the situation of many refugees already living at the Dadaab refugee camp.

“The solution is not moving the camp back to Somali, even at the camp life is not better, few elements cannot make innocent people suffer, the government should ensure that our lives are also protected,” he laments.

Hussein now believes that both officials from the government and United Nations will find a lasting solution which will protect the welfare of the refugees living in Kenya.

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