Kerry announces aid, support for Somali refugees in Kenya
He announced an additional $100 million aid to Kenya
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged to step up assistance to Somali refugees in Kenya, saying that a major refugee camp in northern Kenya would remain open for the time being.
" Kenya needs international assistance on hosting refugees," Kerry told a press conference held inNairobi.
"Thousands of them [refugees] have fled from war in their country," he said, calling on international donors to provide them with aid.
"We have given Kenya $645 million in the past years," Kerry recalled. "This year we will give Kenya an additional $100m."
Kerry said he also held talks with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials in Kenya.
"The US will give the UNHCR $45 million to help in providing better schools, food, health facilities and a safe haven for refugees," he declared.
Kerry aid he had spoken with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and that the two had agreed that Kenya's Dadaab camp would remain open – at least for now.
"The camp will remain open as we finish our job in Somalia," he asserted.
Washington's top diplomat said refugee camps were supposed to be temporary – not permanent cities in some other country.
"We agreed that we should come up with a plan so that people in the camps can return home safely and to a safe place," he said.
Kenya had threatened to close Dadaab – the world's largest refugee camp – after gunmen stormed a university in early April and killed 148 people.
"I know Kenyans feel the pain after the Garissa attack that killed many students, but you must be proud that you have for years provided a home for refugees," said Kerry.
At least 148 people, mostly students, were killed on April 2 following a 14-hour hostage crisis – for which Al-Shabaab later claimed responsibility – at a university in northern Kenya.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group has vowed to carry out attacks in Kenya as long as the country keeps troops in neighboring Somalia.
In the past, Nairobi has claimed that Somalia's Al-Shabaab militant group was using the Dadaab camp as a launch pad for staging attacks inside Kenya.
Kenyan authorities recently agreed with the Somali government and the UNHCR to expedite the repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya.
According to UNHCR figures, there are 423,153 registered Somali refugees in Kenya, including 335,565 in the northern Dadaab camp alone.
There are also 55,432 registered Somali refugees in the Kakuma camp and 32,156 in capital Nairobi.
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said last month that his country had given the UNHCR three months to move Somali refugees from the Dadaab camp to areas inside Somalia.
One year ago, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed an agreement calling for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees.
Kerry said, meanwhile, that he had held talks with Kenyan opposition leaders who had previously supported the withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia so as to end Al-Shabaab attacks.
He said he had explained to the opposition that Kenya is playing a role similar to that played by Washington in other countries.
"We have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops have helped in bringing peace and democracy in that region," Kerry said.
"Kenya is playing that role in Somalia and Sudan," he added.
Kerry asserted that the role that Kenya plays in Somalia "is a very important role."
"Al-Shabaab is being beaten and Kenya will only be safe if Somalia, Sudan and the refugees are safe," he insisted.
"We will also assist Kenya with border security, intelligence gathering, law enforcement and capacity building," Kerry said. "We will also provide equipment and training to Kenyan forces."
Kerry announced, meanwhile, that the U.S. will give South Sudan $5 million to setup a court which will charge perpetrators of violence.
"The U.S. has been asking South Sudan to silence its guns, unfortunately South Sudan leaders have not done so," he said.
"The court will help document and prosecute these violators," Kerry asserted.
He asked international donors to step in and help in the setting up of the court.
South Sudan – which seceded from Sudan in 2011 – has been shaken by violence since late 2013, when President Kiir accused sacked vice president Riek Machar of leading a failed coup attempt against his regime.
Tens of thousands have reportedly been killed in subsequent violence, with some 2 million uprooted from their homes and 2.5 million at risk of starvation, according to recent UN estimates.
On-again, off-again peace talks in the Ethiopian capital have failed to reach a breakthrough.
Last Modified: 2015-05-04 19:11:25
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