Kenya: IGAD ministers discuss Somali refugee resettlement amid looming famine

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Ministers from the East African region met in Nairobi Friday to begin talks on the planned resettlement of Somali refugees ahead of a regional Summit of the heads of state of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) due in the Kenyan capital on Saturday.

The region’s leaders are due to hold the Special Summit on Somalia to highlight the plight of Somali refugees, the safe return of nearly a million people and the status of another one million people displaced inside the Somali territory by years of civil strife and recurrent drought.

“The task at hand needs to lead to more durable solutions for refugees,” said Mahboub Maalim, the Executive Secretary of IGAD, the regional body leading the seven-member states from the Horn of Africa region in the discussions on the future of Somalia’s nearly 2 million refugees.

“The issue of refugees is multi-dimensional. It has peace and security as well as the social issues,” Maalim told ministers attending the opening session of the Ministerial meeting.

The ministers from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia are discussing the Nairobi Comprehensive Plan of Action for Durable Solutions for Somalia Refugees. The action plan would be turned into a regional framework binding the states on a set of measures to assist refugees.

The plan seeks action that would accelerate the stabilisation of Somalia, politically, socially and economically to create conditions for the safe return of the Somali refugees.

Key among the actions chosen for the government’s attention are the measures that are required to extend the authority of the state in Somalia, to cover the country’s territory.

The key issues of training, building of the ability of the Somali army and the implementation of previous aid pledges made towards helping the government of Somalia to take full charge are under discussion.

“We do not want anybody subjected to the degrading status of a refugee,” said Joseph Nkaissery, the Kenyan Interior Minister.

He said the ministers attending the Summit would focus attention on the implementation of measures to support Somali refugees to become self-reliant.

Kenyan officials say at least 60,000 Somali refugees have returned to Somalia since 2014, when the country signed an agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Somalia, for the voluntary returns of the Somali refugees.

Somali government officials plan to increase the pace of voluntary repatriation of the refugees from across the region.

But the planned repatriation of the refugees has been slowed down by a raging drought and fears that it might lead to a famine in the region.

“This Summit demonstrates the gravity and the urgency of the matters at hand,” said Jamal Hassan, Somalia’s Planning Minister.

He said the conflict has caused massive displacement of people across Somalia.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 24March2017

24 march 2017 14:57:29

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