Dadaab closure may affect relations with Somalia, says Mohamud in surprise visit

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Legal Advice Centre say the disbandment of the Department of Refugee Affairs is illegal.

Somali President Hassan Shiekh Mohamud yesterday made an unannounced visit to the Dadaab camp, which mainly hosts Somali refugees, amid piling pressure on his administration to take them back.

The visit is expected to set the stage for Kenya’s planned closure of the camp. Mohamud’s visit comes as the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights moved to court to challenge the decision to close down the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.

Under a certificate of urgency, the rights body and Legal Advice Centre said the disbandment of the Department of Refugee Affairs is illegal, saying it can only be disbanded through a legislative process.

The move is said to have far-reaching effects on the rights and fundamental freedoms of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers. The commission says the closure will deny the refugees access to vital services by the department.

During his visit, Mohamud was with Somali ambassador to Kenya Gamal Hassan, Foreign Affairs minister Abdisalam Omer and other high-ranking officials.

Also present were Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery and Northeastern regional coordinator Mohamud Saleh. Mohamud becomes the first sitting Somali President to visit the camp.

(+) Group, Aid agencies object to closure

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s visit comes as Kenya says it will shut down the refugee camp, a move the international community and aid agencies have criticized. President Uhuru Kenyatta has been urged to rethink the move. Somalia has previously objected to the shutting down of the camp, saying forced repatriation is not in the best interest of either country.

When he spoke in Turkey last week, Mohamud said it is important to agree “on the best way to bring the refugees in an orderly and dignified manner and in accordance with international laws”. He said he does not want “relations with Kenya to be affected”.

Last week, a task force formed to work on formalities on the refugee camp shutdown was finalised. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon nd his deputy Jan Eliasson recently urged Kenya to reverse the decision.

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