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Occupational Hazards – thoughts on Kenya and Somalia, Post-Garissa Attack

 

Demands for the removal of Kenyan troops from Somalia are usually heard from Al-Shabaab, most vociferously in the wake of attacks carried out in retaliation for the ongoing occupation, and targeting Kenyan civilians.

Now the Somali government is reportedly calling for the withdrawal of Kenya Defence Forces by 2017. This demand cites an agreement under the African Union Mission in Somalia treaty.

The two-year time frame seems forgiving and realistic, compared to Al Shabaab’s methods, and even relative to the three months Kenya is reportedly giving the United Nations to move the Dadaab camp—and its more than 350,000 refugees—across the border into Somalia. In the past Kenyan authorities have accused Islamist Somali militants of using the Dadaab refugee camp as a hideout and staging ground.

Dadaab sits barely 60 miles (104 km) from Garissa, the town in northeastern Kenya where on April 2 an attack at a university left at least 147 dead. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the Garissa massacre.

While representatives with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) say they haven’t yet received official word from Nairobi on closing of camps or relocation of refugees, they say they have signed a tripartite agreement with the governments of Kenya and Somalia, emphasizing the importance of voluntarily repatriation.

In the early ‘90s, Somalis fleeing Siad Barre’s brutal regime wound up in Eastleigh, a suburb in the heart of what is now Nairobi’s central business district. With the swelling refugee population, Eastleigh has since flourished, growing into a city in its own right—nicknamed “Little Mogadishu.” During Kenya’s military occupation of Somalia, beginning in 2011, Eastleigh has become the target of grenade attacks and mass arrests of women, children and the elderly.

Perhaps the Kenyan government is concerned that that if refugees are not evicted Dadaab and its environs it may become the next Eastleigh. 

 

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