Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome you to Nairobi. Our gathering here today is historic. For the first time, IGAD has convened a Special Summit, to deliberate on and deliver durable solutions for Somali refugees.
As host country to the largest population of Somali refugees in the region, and the largest refugee camp in the world, we, as Kenya, are honoured to host this crucial meeting. We believe that our gathering signals a joint commitment to the search for viable solutions to this undesirable and protracted refugee crisis.
For more than 25 years, IGAD countries have generously and openly received refugees, and those fleeing natural disasters like famine, from the region.
The security crises and droughts in Somalia have had a particularly pronounced impact on human security. To date, close to 900,000 Somalis have sought refuge in our region.
The region, and IGAD specifically, has championed initiatives intended to resolve the political and security problems in Somalia. I can say with confidence, we have begun to see positive results of these initiatives in repositioning Somalia.
Indeed, the recent election of President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed is the latest and clearest indication of the progressive success of our collective efforts, alongside the brave people of Somalia. I want to, again, congratulate President Mohamed and the people of Somalia for this critical step toward an ever brighter future.
It has been my privilege to host President Mohammed during his first state visit here as President, and we have had fruitful discussions.
The election and this visit has reminded us Kenyans of the long journey Somalia has traveled back to the Community of Nations.
A journey that included a lengthy search for a political formula to design and launch a transitional government in Somalia, and the region’s security forces joining the African Mission in Somalia to help liberate the country from the grip of terrorists.
Our collective efforts have been made as the world has come under an escalating, and almost unprecedented, migration and refugee crisis. The crisis reflects many of the same factors that have led to the Somalia refugee flows, namely insecurity, natural disasters and human despair.
As IGAD Member States, we are bound by the moral responsibility to this large flow, and have embarked on an urgent search for durable solutions.
We are appreciative that the International Community have joined us to complement our efforts in meeting this challenge.
The presence of IGAD’s partners here is an explicit, and critical, acknowledgement of their responsibilities and willingness to take action.
It is crucial that the lukewarm support and lack of focused attention on Somalia that we have witnessed in the last two decades becomes a matter of the past.
The solutions that will emerge from our deliberations today do not belong to IGAD alone. They should be fully owned and supported by the entire International Community.
What is clear to me, as it is to you leaders, and to all the Somali refugees, is that the time for lasting solutions is now.
A refugee camp was never meant to be a permanent home, nor is being a refugee a promise of losing your citizenship and your country.
For more than two decades, more than 400,000 Somalis have been hosted at the Daadab Refugee Complex. During this time, the Daadab Camp has been operating on a fraction of the resources it requires.
Of serious concern, the camp has, over time, lost its humanitarian character. It is not acceptable to us that a space that is supposed to provide safety and assistance, is transformed to facilitate agents of terror and destruction.
This reality is reflected beyond Kenya, and demands that our responsibility and our humane standards provide a better way forward.
Life in Dadaab is characterized by hardship, deep levels of despair and disenfranchisement from their countries of origin. Occasionally, even the food rations for the refugees are cut due to shortfalls in the budget of the United Nations.
This should not be a permanent condition. It is only a humanitarian measure and as such it should be short-term.
Instead, Dadaab has become a protracted situation, characterized by hopelessness that easily feeds environmental destruction; conflicts between refugees and host communities; insecurity; radicalization; criminality; and allows terrorist operatives to exploit it for their operational efforts. It is for these reasons that the Kenya government made a decision in May last year to close down the Daadab Refugee Complex.
When I met with former President Sheikh Hassan in State House last year, we agreed on a safe and dignified return of the Somali refugees back to their homeland.
His stance reflected the strengthened commitment by Somalia’s leadership to the return home of Somali refugees. Time and again, the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia has expressed its willingness to receive its citizens.
As neighbours, and as members of the International Community, we believe that Somali refugees are entitled to a dignified life. Somalia needs their energy and passion to build a bright future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I believe that this is a turning point. The recent peaceful Presidential election and increased stability associated with AMISOM support, as well as the global situation, offers us all an opportunity to put this situation right.
We have worked together for more than twenty years to help stabilize Somalia. The Somali people have been at the forefront of this effort. We have shed blood together, as a region, alongside the Somali people, to liberate vast stretches of their country that were previously under the control of terrorists.
It is for these reasons that we believe firmly this is the moment to make progress.
And it is why the Kenya Government, the Federal Government of Somalia, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, entered into a Tripartite Agreement in November 2013 to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This being a Special Summit on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees, it is internationally accepted that the preferred solution is voluntary return. Our experience in this regard has been promising.
To-date, (20th March 2017), a total of 60,000 refugees have voluntarily returned to Somalia and are participating in rebuilding their nation.
Most of Somali refugees want to go back home, and to reclaim their place in their motherland. Thanks to the continued pacification of large parts of Somalia by AMISOM, their hopes can come true.
To further this initiative, particularly in regard to Dadaab, Kenya committed USD 1 million in 2016, money used to prepare and initiate repatriation.
In my discussion with President Mohamed this week, my Government pledged to build the capacity of the Somali Government institutions, including training teachers, nurses, and administrators.
Knowing that technical skills are critical for reconstruction, Kenya has also pledged an additional 100 million Kenya shillings to construct a Technical Training Institute in the area of Dadaab that would admit Somali youth for training in various courses.
But more resources are needed from all of us. For refugee returns to be sustainable, I call on the international community to help build the basic infrastructure that will enable and encourage refugee return while we continue to extend security where it is still not available.
This is key, not only as a humanitarian calling and a fulfillment of the international responsibility to refugees, but for the long-term stability and potential of Somalia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The manner in which we extend this support to Somalia is also critical. Humanitarian and development actors must grow their footprint within, and operate out of Somalia.
Now that Somalia is stabilizing we must, all, stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mobilization of financial resources is a crucial component in the re-building of social and economic infrastructure in Somalia. In this regard, I propose the establishment of a Trust Fund for the reconstruction of Somalia under the auspices of IGAD.
Such a Fund would mobilize the resources for the provision of adequate housing, educational facilities, healthcare centers and livelihood activities, among others. I urge the international community to join us in this initiative.
In addition, the remittances from Somalia’s Diaspora can be tapped as part of a framework for rebuilding.
We are informed by the World Bank that in 2015, Somalia received US$1.4 billion in remittances, which is almost a quarter of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
There is also an available solution in the utilization of accelerated resettlement to third countries, as stipulated in the 1951 Refugee Convention. It is my hope that partner countries will open their doors to increase their resettlement quarter for Somali refugees.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, let me reiterate Kenya’s commitment to our international obligations. However, I also note that providing protection to refugees is not the preserve of a few nations.
It was, it is, and it remains a shared burden and responsibility of the entire community of nations as enshrined in the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants.
Let us use this meeting to make true our promise to Somalia, and bring boldness and ambition to this urgent responsibility.
I thank you.