Host community hold demonstrations, accuse UNHCR for neglect
Hundreds of disgruntled host residents at the expansive Dadaab refugee camps on Thursday held demonstrations outside the UNHCR offices accusing the organisation of years of neglect,
They vowed to hold the demos on a daily basis until their grievances are addressed to their satisfaction.
The operations at the busy offices that serve over 230,000 refugees mainly from Somalia were disrupted for the 3rd day when the demonstrators waving placards and twigs lit borne fires at the main entrance to the UNCHR offices blocking vehicles from either getting in or out.
A contingents of security officers watched from a distance as the demonstrators denounced the UN body and NGOs involved in humanitarian assistance to the refugees.
The host community claims the refugees have depleted environment as a results of charcoal burning, hunting and cutting down trees with no clear indication that UNHCR intend to compensate them following plans to close the refugee camps.
Kambi OS refugee camp has been closed down while Ifo II camp will be closed by March next year.
“We are demanding that UNHCR moves out of Dadaab if they cannot address our issues. They have brought much suffering to the host community without any benefit,” said Nasibo Abdi Farah.
“Livestock have nowhere to graze since the environment has been destroyed for the last 26 years with little or no benefits to host community,” Nasibo added
She claimed UNHCR and other development partners have been overlooking the host community when it comes to employment, saying most of its employees are foreigners whereas Kenyans with similar or better qualifications are denied jobs.
Nasibo also took issue with notice of termination of services by UNHCR to more than 100 youth from host community who are slated to be axed next month.
Idriss Garat said the refugee‘s agency claim that their funds have been reduced to warrant staff layoff but noted that this could be managed by reducing the number of international staff who he allege are paid handsomely compared to locals.
“We have been generous, we have hosted refugees for the last 26 years but this has come with grave consequences that we now need immediate intervention,” he said.
However, Dadaab Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), Harun Kamau said UNHCR and the host community have never had issues.
“The squabbles have been as a result of reduced refugee numbers due to the ongoing voluntary repatriations,” Kamau said.
Kamau said the Kenya government signed a tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the Federal government of Somalia two years ago to voluntary assist refugees willing to go back home. Since then the number of refugees at the camps have gone down, he added.
“The number of refugees has reduced to almost a half because in 2011 they were about 470,000 while currently they are about 230,000. The workload for UNHCR has also reduced so as the funding. This has resulted in layoff of staffs working for these organisations,” he said.
Kamau said talks between the host community and UN refugee agency are going on in a bid to find a solution to the current stalemate.
By Jacob Songok