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Kenya’s Dadaab shut down puts Somali refugees at risk: rights groups

Forcing them to go back to face violence or persecution would be inhumane and a violation of Kenya’s legal obligations

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Photo Credit: Amnesty International

A quarter of a million Somali refugees face violence back home if Kenya continues with plans to shut the vast Dadaab camp, rights groups warned Thursday.

Kenya has submitted plans to shut the camp complex located in the east of the country near Somali border by August, according to internal UN documents.

“Many Somali refugees are themselves victims of violence, from which they fled to seek protection,” said Otsieno Namwaya from Human Rights Watch, adding that the plan “threatens the rights and safety” of the people.

“Forcing them to go back to face violence or persecution would be inhumane and a violation of Kenya’s legal obligations,” Namwaya added.

Amnesty International said Kenya should look for solutions, including integration into Kenyan society and resettlement to third countries.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a document seen by AFP it was committed to working with the government on voluntary repatriation to countries of origin, relocating refugees to other parts of Kenya and resettlement to third countries.

A Kenyan foreign ministry official confirmed to AFP on condition of anonymity that government had sent a note to the UNHCR advising them of the closure of the camp, but would not discuss the matter further.

“Kenya courts a humanitarian disaster and international criticism if it intends to forcibly return hundreds of thousands of refugees to Somalia without proper consultation, planning and regard for their safety,” Kenya’s Amnesty chief Irungu Houghton said.

Dadaab is home to some 230,000 people. The vast majority of them are Somalis who fled civil war in 1991. Many have lived there ever since.

For many years Dadaab was the world’s largest refugee camp — with once as many as 580,000 residents — although it is now far smaller and dwarfed in size by Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, home to some 600,000 people fleeing Myanmar.

Kenya, which sent troops into Somalia in 2011 following a spate of kidnappings by Somali-led Al-Shabaab insurgents, claims the camp is a security risk. Kenya’s military remains in Somalia, prompting revenge attacks by the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab in Kenya.

Kenya has moved to shut the camp before.

In May 2016, Kenya decided to close the camp, and tens of thousands of refugees returned to Somalia under a repatriation package.

However, many encountered drought, hunger and dire conditions in a country destroyed by decades of conflict, where five million lack enough food, and where war continues.

A year later, Kenya’s High Court ruled the plan to close the camp was unconstitutional.

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East Africa News & Stories

Internet blackout hits cities in Ethiopia

An investigation found that with the exception of the capital Addis Ababa, most of the country’s cities had no internet.

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Internet blackout hits cities in Ethiopia

Most of Ethiopia was without internet access on Tuesday on the eighth consecutive day of an unexplained break.

An investigation found that with the exception of the capital Addis Ababa, most of the country’s cities had no internet.

Cherer Aklilu, executive director of the state monopoly Ethio Telecom, declined to give any details to explain the break.

“We expect to release an official statement on the internet blackout before the end of this week and we urge our users to be patient until that time,” she told AFP.

Internet access was cut on June 11, briefly restored and then severed again. It was restored for the Addis area on Friday.

The cut is the longest since reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to office in April last year in the Horn of Africa country.

The current break coincides with annual school-leaving exams, which end on Friday. In 2017, the authorities defended a similar blackout by saying they wanted to limit cheating for the important tests.

However, the internet was also repeatedly cut between 2015 and 2017 when the government at the time faced waves of protests.

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Africa News & Updates

Kenyan authorities say Ebola case is a “false alarm”

The Health Ministry has spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya has already taken.

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Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki speaks to the media as travellers at the arrival terminal are screened by port health service, at the Jommo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi

Kenya sought to reassure the public and foreign visitors on Monday after a suspected Ebola case, which turned out to be negative, was detected near the border with Uganda.

Uganda last week reported three cases of Ebola, two of them fatal, among people who had been to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an epidemic has been underway since last August.

Kenyan Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said a 36-year-old woman in the western county of Kericho had fallen ill with headache, fever and vomiting, which can also be symptoms of Ebola.

Further examination found she did not have the disease, Kariuki said at a press conference staged at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“The Rapid Surveillance and Response Team has examined the patient, who is in stable condition, and has confirmed that she does not meet the case definition for Ebola,” she said.

“I wish to reassure all Kenyans and our visitors that we do not have any cases of Ebola.”

The Ugandan cases were confirmed in a town that is more than 600 kilometres from the border with Kenya.

Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken.

They included the installation of thermal cameras at entry points to detect people with high temperatures, as well as isolation units to host suspected cases. More than 250 health ministry workers have been deployed at entry points as part of this strategy.

The minister called on the public to be vigilant, urging anyone with Ebola-like symptoms who had travelled to affected countries to go to the nearest hospital.

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Conservation News & Stories

Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

An agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather

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Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals – including elephants and giraffes – to generate $1.1 million for conservation.

“Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management,” environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the country estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. 

“The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation,” Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.

Namibia’s cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.

They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus — all from national parks.

The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.

The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.

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