Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- The UNHCR staff in Kenya will observe this year's African Refugee Day (20 June) in high spirits for more reasons than one.
They have every reason to celebrate, not least the decision by the US government to host some 12,000 Bantu Somalis who no longer want to return to their adopted country.
"It is a story with a happy ending after having had to battle with a series of scandals and conflicts in the camps," says Emmanuel Nyabera, associate public relations officer at UNHCR in Nairobi.
First there was the scandal in which some officials were accused of taking bribes from refugees to relocate them in countries of their choice (usually the United States, Canada or Australia) for permanent abode.
"The case involving three officials is still in court and we have done everything to put the house in order and ensure that this type of thing never occurs again," Nyabera told PANA in an interview.
He said there has been a thorough cleanup of the office, with the reorganisation of the resettlement unit, the security systems and the improvement of communication between officials and the inmates.
But the office had barely started to resume normal operations when on 18 April, tragedy struck in one of its facilities in Nairobi, housing refugees in transition.
Unknown assailants slashed to death the two children of a Rwandan woman believed to be related to late President Juvenal Habyrarimana of Rwanda.
The assailants also stabbed the woman several times with machete.
The agency was still trying to grapple with the matter as Kenya security agents tried to unmask the masterminds of the killings when another pressing refugee crisis sort of eclipsed the crime.
The new problem was an outbreak of clan fighting in the Bulla Hawa border town of Somalia, causing an influx of thousands of Somalis fleeing the fighting into Mandera, on the Kenyan side.
According to Nyabera, the situation posed a dilemma for the UNHCR.
First, the agency could not give any assistance to the people because of the volatile situation on the border while the fighting lasted.
To make matters worse, the Kenyan government would not allow the agency to move the more than 3,000 fugitives to camps inside Kenya far away from the border.
Government officials were fearful of bloating the already large numbers of Somali refugees in the country, currently estimated at more than 200,000, according to some estimates.
Aside from their large numbers, the refugees, especially those from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, as said to be the source of small arms trafficking which have increased the wave of banditry and armed robberies in Nairobi and other urban parts of Kenya.
While the standoff lasted, the conditions of the Somalis worsened as malnutrition and disease took their toll.
At least 13 people were reported to have died of illness and a number of others from stray bullets before the authorities in Nairobi agreed that some of the refugees should be moved from Mandera town to camps Daadab in Garissa.
Nyabera said at least 2,400 refugees, out of 3,500 were willing to leave the temporary settlement at Mandera Border Point One for designated camps.
But a majority of the refugees, especially women and children had been unwilling to move hoping that peace would return to their Bulla Hawa homeland.
The officials said the transfer would coincide with another big event in the history of the UNHCR in Kenya.
They were referring to the imminent transfer of about 12,000 Somali refugees of Bantu origin to a camp in north-western Kenya, on the first leg of their resettlement in the US.
The Bantu Somalis, who originated from Tanzania and Mozambique, will be transported by road to Kakuma, where they will undergo further screening to determine whether they qualify for immigration to the US.
The Bantus, who inhabit the Juba River valley in southern Somalia, immigrated from Tanzania and Mozambique several years back.
Their plight came to light after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.
They were discriminated against by the Somali clans who dispossessed them of their belongings, including land, as the warlords and their thugs took control of the country.
The UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) secured the resettlement for them in the US, which also took in 4,000 Sudanese youngsters, the famous "Lost Boys of Sudan" who fled from the war in their country to Kenya in the 1990s.
Nyabera sincerely hopes that the Saga of "The Lost Girls Sudan" who shared the same fate with their now happy brothers would equally end on a happy note, in spite of the fact that the girls' cases are quite complicated.
After the girls' escaped drowning in the huge rivers and the jaws of vicious crocodiles, they were harboured by relations on arrival in the refugee camps, under conditions worse than slavery.
"They are sold off for a few cows by the so-called relatives and end up in conditions often worse than the one they risked their lives fleeing," Nyabera said almost tearfully.
He said Australian authorities have indicated their willingness to host the girls, hoping that the realisation of the project would represent another major landmark for the agency.
Meanwhile, the success of the last months after a major turmoil deserve celebrations, and the spokesman thinks this year's Africa Refugee Day provides one such occasion.
Woven around 'Women: Seeking a Better Deal', the day will be observed all over Africa on Thursday in commemoration of the decision by the summit of the Organisation of African Unity in 1969 to welcome refugees.
Presently, Africa is the continent with the largest number of refugees estimated at 6.
The continent also hosts half of the 20 million displaced people in the world.