Dadaab closure to be done within the Law

By Christine Muchira
The Government of Kenya has confirmed that the closure of the Dadaab Refugee Camp will go on as planned but would not be in contravention of international humanitarian law.
The decision to repatriate the refugees at the camp is neither cruel nor a change of heart by the Government but one designed to balance between the country’s security interests and her obligations under international human rights laws and conventions.
The remarks were made Tuesday morning by the Government’s Chief Legal Advisor, Professor Githu Muigai during the official opening of the Fourth Regional Seminar on National Implementation of International Humanitarian Law at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi.
The Attorney General reiterated that Kenya had taken great strides under the AMISOM framework to liberate large parts of Somalia culminating in the creation of an increasingly stable, safe and secure environment for repatriated Somali citizens to return and rebuild their country.
Muigai went on to state, “The Government of Kenya has for many years and at times on its own played a significant part in ensuring that peace and stability return to Somalia. It is important to note that this decision to repatriate is also based on the practical realities of protracted refugee statuses that have had adverse effects on socio-economic and political circumstances of host nations and especially in Kenya. For example, since the setup of the camp in the 1990s, the Northern Kenya region has been clouded in controversy ranging from illicit trade in goods and weapons, general insecurity and now, posing the greatest existential threat facing the Republic of Kenya, Terrorism.”
Convention on Refugees
The Legal Advisor stated that the Government’s focus had over the years shifted from humanitarian assistance to engage in aspects of camp management and organization, including security provision, urban planning and infrastructure development aspects that had not been envisaged in the government’s plans.
The situation in the Northern region of the country has led to national dissatisfaction with the continued state of permanence due to the exacerbation of peace and security interventions in the region.
This, the Attorney General noted was a challenging situation that had not been envisioned within the context of the 1951 Convention on Refugees.
The three day Regional Seminar seeks to review the implementation status and facilitate the process of national implementation of international humanitarian law, a law that has continued to assume considerable importance in the world.
Kenya has over the years continued to play a critical role in the process of resolving conflicts and restoring peace within the African continent to the extent of hosting one of the largest population of refuges in the world.  
To date Kenya has ratified more than 400 International Humanitarian Law conventions and protocols; these include laws on the recruitment or use of children in armed conflict; laws governing internally displaced persons; laws on penal repression; laws on sexual violence in conflict situations; use of force in law enforcement; laws on weapons, both conventional and unconventional; among many others.
Currently, there are various draft Bills before Parliament to domesticate the Chemical Weapons and the Ottawa Treaty on Anti-Personnel Mines.
The government is also incorporating international humanitarian law as part of the training manuals for the military and police while also exploring ways of including the studies in the country’s school curricula.
The Attorney General further observed that the government appreciated the support it received in implementing and promoting humanitarian treaties and called for a broad and expanded alliance of like-minded partners committed to the values and principles inherent in humanitarian law.
“Kenya and the world at large remains indebted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the work it continues to carry out within the context of international humanitarian law,” the Legal Advisor stated of the organisers of the seminar.
He challenged delegates from the 13 member states of the African Union at the Seminar to deliberate on the diverse challenges attendant to the implementation of international humanitarian law with a particular concern to issues such as underdevelopment, uncontrolled demographic growth, unemployment, mass migration, drugs, weapons, international crime and the environment.
“These, it is my belief require concerted efforts in the strengthening of various coordinating bodies, international bodies as well as capacity. While doing these we must be cognizant of the fact that the region has witnessed a significant reduction in armed conflict over the years but these challenges present opportunity for conflict if left unattended,” the Attorney General concluded.

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