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The East African : Apr 19th 2015
16 The EastAfrican NEWS APRIL 18-24,2015 RISING INSECURITY Kenya engages UN in a bid to The talks aim at add≥essing secu≥ity lapses in the camp that may have led to infilt≥ation by ext≥emists By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent Somalia’s Al Shabaab militant group official Robow Abu Mansur (centre) is escorted on December 14, 2008 by bodyguards to a press conference outside Mogadishu. Picture: AFP Govt fo≥ces committing sexual violence, says UN By KEVIN J KELLEY Special Correspondent SEXUAL VIOLENCE is being committed in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan’s Darfur region by “state actors or armed groups associated with the state,” the United Nations said last week. Members of Somalia’s Na- tional Army have also reportedly carried out sexual assaults, the UN added in a report released on April 14. But the report also indicates that many of the documented rapes in conflict zones in East and Central Africa were carried out by members of insurgent groups such as Al Shabaab, the South Sudan rebel forces and various militias in eastern DRC. Representatives of about 70 countries took part in an April 15 debate on the report that describes sexual assault as “a tactic of war.” Rwanda’s delegate said that this type of violence should be termed “sexual terrorism.” The UN documented thou- sands of such cases last year in Africa and the Middle East but noted that the actual total is probably much greater. Full accounting Meanwhile, the UN is fail- ing to make a full accounting of sexual assaults committed by its own or associated forces, Human Rights Watch charged last week. As an example, the group pointed to its findings last year that members of the UN-supported African Union Mission in Somalia had sexually assaulted women and girls at two Amisom bases in Mogadishu. Similarly, a recently leaked internal UN report — not cited “Al Shabaab is said to be responsible for an unknown number of 2,891 incidents of gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone. ” in the official document published last week — found that UN peacekeepers have engaged in sexual abuse in South Sudan, the DRC, Liberia and Haiti. In addition to examining sex- ual violence in 18 countries experiencing or recovering from internal conflicts, the April 14 UN report calls attention to an increase in sexual assault in refugee camps in Kenya. Some 53,000 South Suda- nese, many of them unaccompanied minors, fled to the Kakuma camp in 2014 “with a corresponding increase in reports of sexual assault, teenage pregnancies and forced marriage,” the report says. Sexual violence has also in- creased in the Dadaab refugee complex, the UN adds. Sexual violence in Darfur In its tally of 206 victims of sexual violence in Darfur last year, the UN excludes at least 221 women and girls who were raped by Sudanese soldiers in the village of Tabit, HRW said in a commentary on the UN report. The report’s allegations in regard to Darfur are “naive,” Sudan’s UN delegate Hassan Hamid Hassan said during the April 15 debate. In the DRC, members of gov- ernment security forces were responsible for 31 per cent of nearly 700 confirmed cases of conflict-related sexual violence, the UN said. The other 69 per cent of cases are attributed to armed rebel groups, with Mai-Mai Simba/Morgan identified as the main perpetrators. Men belonging to that group committed 117 rapes, the UN added. Al Shabaab is said to be responsible for an unknown number of the 2,891 incidents of gender-based violence in Mogadishu alone during an eight-month period ending in August last year. In South Sudan, the report states, sexual violence remains “prevalent” and is “exacerbated by impunity and a militarised society in which gender inequality is pronounced.” T he Kenyan government has started talks with a UN agency aimed at addressing security in the Dadaab refugee camp, which it wants closed for allegedly being a breeding ground for terrorists. The talks seek to address se- curity lapses in the camp that may have led to infiltration by extremists, prompting Kenya to order the relocation of more than 350,000 refugees back to Somalia in three months. The EastAfrican has estab- lished that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) country representative in Kenya, Raouf Mazou, held discussions last week with Cabinet Secretaries Amina Mohamed (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) and Joseph Nkaissery (Internal Security). The talks aim at striking a middle ground between addressing the fears that Dadaab has become a recruitment ground for Al Shabaab terrorists and safeguarding the rights of refugees under international treaties. “Forced return is one of the most serious violations of international refugee law,” said Mr Mazou. “More than humanitarian assistance, it is asylum that someone fleeing danger and persecution most needs.” Following the April 4 Al Shabaab attack on Garissa University College in which 148 people died, Deputy President William Ruto said the government had given UNHCR three months to close the Dadaab camp, failure to which Kenya would relocate the 350,000 refugees to Somalia. Mr Ruto reasoned that the way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa. “We must secure this country at whatever cost,” Mr Ruto said in his statement. However, according to Mr Mazou, refugees would face a bleak future were Kenya to declare them unwanted guests. At home, Somali militants Al Shabaab control various parts of the country while Yemen, previously a safe haven, is at war. Already, international medi- cal organisation Médecins Sans Frontières has warned that the conditions do not allow for a safe and dignified return of the refugees to Somalia. According to Charles Gaudry, MSF’s head of mission in Kenya, the move would force the refugees to return to a country where safety and medical care is not guaranteed or is non-existent. Since the collapse of Soma- lia’s central government in 1991, Kenya has borne the brunt of the crisis with some refugees knowing Dadaab as their only home. UNHCR has warned that abrupt closure of the camps and forcing refugees back home would be in breach of Kenya’s international obligations. “In order to ensure that re- turns are sustainable, they should be voluntary and be adequately supported to ensure that those reaching their places of origin have access to social services,” said Mr Mazou. “We, therefore, have to continue mobilising the international community to make sure of that. “For now, we consider that large-scale returns are still not possible in many parts of the country.” In December last year, a pilot scheme was launched to support voluntary repatriation to the relatively safe areas of Luuq, Baid- Somali refugees sit outside a transport centre in Dagahaley Refugee Camp near Dadaab in Kenya in July 2011. Pic: AFP oa and Kismayu but only 2,000 refugees have returned so far against a target of 10,000. “We are ready to work with the governments of Kenya and Somalia to step up this programme where there are opportunities for voluntary repatriation,” Mr Mazou added. The war in Yemen between For now, large-scale returns are still not possible in many parts of Somalia.” Raouf Mazou, UNHCR country representative in Kenya Houthi rebels and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has forced many Somali families to cross back into Somaliland or Djibouti. The UNHCR said up to 130,000 refugees could be received in the three countries by October. Yemen was home to more than 238,000 Somali refugees. Gerry Simpson, senior refu- gee researcher at Human Rights Watch, said stateless refugees — those born in the camps — and where the refugees would go were among the complex issues that would ensue from a forced Wheneve≥ the≥e is a te≥≥o≥ist attack By ABDULLAHI HASSAN Special Correspondent AS KENYA MOURNS with the families who lost their loved ones in the attack of Garissa University College by Al Shabaab, the refugees living in Dadaab are gripped with fear. Politicians are once again demand- ing that the refugees “go back home” to Somalia, accusing them of harbouring extremists within the camps. At the same time, the residents of the camp are being subjected to a violent aftermath of police arrests, extortions and door-to-door operations with little regard for human rights. But why blame refugees when all the evidence points towards Al Shabaab fighters and even Kenyan citizens? Whenever there is a terrorist at- tack, even far away from the camps, the response is felt in Dadaab. This creates suspicion, discrimination and stigmatisation among the very community that the police should be working with to root out Al Shabaab from among the refugees. The belief that the gunmen in the recent Garissa attack were refugees of Somali descent without evidence seemed more common among Kenyan Somali populations than the rest of the Kenyan population. A group of ethnic Kenyan Somali politicians, led by the Kenyan parliament majority leader Aden Duale, called for an immediate facilitation of the proposed repatriation and a change of government policy on that matter. “The refugees have been with us for the past 20 years,” said Mr. Duale. “I think time has come when the national security of our people becomes 1991 The year when the writer fled civil war in his country, Somalia. He has lived in Kenya as a refugee since then.
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