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Slow repatriation drags back Dadaab shutdown plans



Somali refugees from Dadaab refugee camp in Turkana County wait to board a flight to Kismayu, Somalia, on December 19, 2017. Currently, the repatriation had slowed down due to the weather. PHOTO | ROBERT GICHIRA

More than 34,000 Somali refugees have voluntarily returned to their country this year, bringing the total number of those who have gone back since 2014 to nearly 75,000.

The figure is way below Kenya’s 2014 targets to repatriate and shut Dadaab – the world’s largest refugee camp – which currently hosts a total of 238,617 refugees, a majority of them Somalis.

In all, Kenya currently hosts about 285,705 Somali refugees with a few of them in Kakuma in Turkana, and the others in the capital Nairobi.

There were a total of 34,983 repatriations of Somali refugees in 2017 as at last week.


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the process was “completely voluntary” but warned that it might take longer to conclude.

“We are satisfied with the process, that it is voluntary. Those that leave make the decision to leave, nobody is imposing on them to leave,” Mr Filippo Grandi, the UNHCR head, told journalists at a press conference in Nairobi on Thursday.

The Kenyan government had in 2014 announced its intention to close the 26-year-old refugee camp due to alleged security threats.

In all, Kenya hosts a total of 489,071 refugees as at November 30, 2017.

Of the 74,873 that have returned to Somalia since 2014; 48,624 landed in Kismayu, 13,281 in the capital Mogadishu, with the others in Baidoa, Luuq, Afmadow and Afgoye provinces.

Currently, the UN agency said, the repatriation had slowed down due to the weather.

“We are only taking them back now using air because of the weather, and when it gets back to normal, we will re-introduce convoys,” Mr Grandi said.

Earlier, Mr Grandi had held a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta at his Harambee House office where the Head of State said the interests of local communities in areas hosting refugee camps should not be overlooked as the global refugee body caters for the needs of the refugees.

“As we carry out the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees, we must not ignore the interests of the local communities,” President Kenyatta said in the meeting.

Mr Grandi was accompanied in the Harambee House meeting by Mr Ahmed Hussen, the Canadian immigration, refugees and citizenship minister.

Mr Hussen also said Canada will announce an additional Sh618 million ($ 6 million) grant to help people affected by drought to normalise life, particularly in areas hosting refugees.

This will add to the $4 million that Canada contributes to the World Food Programme to help 500,000 refugees in Kenya, as well as three million Kenyans.

Canada is also donating $5 million to help the UNHCR in Kenya.

And while the repatriation process was ongoing, Mr Grandi said, it was difficult to say what effect it will have on Dadaab.

“It is very difficult for me to talk about the future of Dadaab now,” he said, arguing that only if the process of repatriation evolved quickly will the camp be closed.

Of the 22,319 refugees that have arrived in Kakuma since January, the UN agency data show that 16,020 of them, or 72 per cent, were from the neighbouring South Sudan ravaged by civil war pitting the two dominant communities loyal to President Salva Kiir on one hand and his former deputy Riek Machar on the other.

And with the influx of the refugees, Mr Grandi said the international community should continuously fund refugee programmes.

The UN agency warned against what it said was an unfair downgrade of funding for the refugee programmes.


Miraa exporters to Mogadishu boycott trade over high prices



Miraa exporters serving the Mogadishu market have started a boycott on the trade citing high farm gate prices.

Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the traders resolved to boycott buying the twigs to force farmers to lower the prices.

According to Mr Munjuri, a 100kg sack of miraa is now selling at Sh160,000, up from at least Sh20,000 during the rainy season.

This means a 1kg bundle (bunda) of the medium quality miraa is selling at Sh1,600.

The high prices are due to low supply caused by the dry spell that started early December.

“Only traders serving other parts of Somalia shipped their commodity on Monday night.

Traders who export to Mogadishu feel that it is not sustainable to buy 100kgs at Sh160,000 because buyers cannot afford it.


He said the traders met in Eastleigh on Sunday and resolved that they would not buy miraa from farmers.

“This means about 30 tonnes of miraa has not been delivered to Mogadishu,” Mr Munjuri said.

Mr Joseph Muturia, a member of the Miraa report implementation committee, said the premium quality miraa known as ‘Mbaine’ is selling at Sh6,000 a kilo while ‘kisa’ is retailing at Sh4,000.

“I currently sell miraa locally because residents understand the quality of this type of miraa,” Mr Muturia said.

Mr Josiah Mugo, a miraa consumer, said he could no longer afford to chew daily after prices spiked from mid-December.

“A small bundle (surba) of the best quality khat is now retailing at more than Sh400 from Sh150 last month. I am considering shifting to muguka but its quality is not good. I am now chewing occasionally so as not to stretch my budget,” Mr Mugo said.


However, Nyamita termed the move by the traders as futile saying the miraa prices are determined by market forces.

“Miraa trading is highly dependent on supply and demand. At no time do farmers or suppliers meet to fix the price. The exporters have tried this before in vain. Let those who have a market for miraa, at its prevailing prices, buy and sell without undue subjection to mob attempts to fix prices,” Mr Munjuri said.

He noted that farmers are also subjected to poor prices when there is a miraa glut during the rains.

“During the rains, miraa is in plenty and traders pick it for a dime. An attempt by farmers to boycott selling at poor prices have also failed,” the Nyamita chairman said.


Nyamita now wants the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) to move in and address challenges facing the sector so as to stabilise prices.

Earlier, the lobby had faulted AFA for not operationalising an office in Maua, Meru County that was opened in November 2017.

“The fluctuations in supply [is one] of the urgent and critical issues we have been hoping the national government would address. Unfortunately AFA is yet to start operations despite opening their office in Maua,” he added.

Farmers have called on the county and national governments to allocate more funds towards irrigation projects to ensure consistent production of miraa.

In April 2017, traders boycotted selling miraa in Somalia for four days over a tax dispute with Mogadishu authorities.

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Time ripe for Kenyan business people to venture into Somalia



As the economy recovers, it will be wise for Kenyans companies to set eyes on Somalia.

DAILY NATION — Though associated with insecurity for years, recent developments there are making it an attractive investment option.

In fact, in the past year, Somalia was the only neighbouring trade partner that registered strong growth in export volumes with Kenya.

With exports worth over Sh10 billion, it is the third-largest destination for Kenyan goods.


Among factors that make business sense to set up shop in Somalia is strong political leadership, headed by Federal President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed, who came into office in a peaceful transfer of power.

It’s also noteworthy that almost a quarter of the elected Members of Parliament are women — proof of gender parity, hence fairness.

The Mogadishu government is making strides towards sustainable stability. Besides joining anti-piracy efforts and holding security conferences, it now controls its airspace, which was under the United Nations since 1992.

The African Union is preparing to leave the country — a testament of an improved security situation.

There is not much competition in Somalia, more so due to decades of violence, and businesses would get much more returns there compared to other, more mature markets.


There are business distribution lines throughout the country established via the miraa trade. Cargo planes ply the Kenya-Somalia route daily, so logistics should not be an issue.

Again, Kenyan traders enjoy goodwill as our country has hosted Somali refugees for more than two decades.

Since Kenya has a well-developed Islamic financial system, that would serve anyone wanting to do business in Somalia very well.

The communities along the common border have traded for centuries. Indeed, livestock trade has thrived for ages there.

A business can also set base in Garissa and other border counties and use that as a launching pad to Somalia. The presence of airports, government investments such as roads and the counties’ efforts to promote businesses in their localities would be a boon for businesses eyeing Somalia.

Further, the border posts, such as Liboi, ensure safe and efficient travel in and out of Somalia.


Though scarred by war, Somalia has many universities, whose graduates, together with Somalis returning from the diaspora, would provide skilled labour.

Public services are devolved and one doesn’t need to go to Mogadishu for every business need.

The UN and other international organisations and multinationals have been in Somali for a long time and a business would not be venturing into Somalia in isolation.

Rather, it would have abundance of knowledge and information to tap into. Besides, one can partner with locals in joint ventures.

As war ends ands and normalcy returns in Somalia, our youth can invest or seek jobs in Somalia.

That would also boost the fight against terror, both there and in Kenya.
Kariuki Gathuitu, Nairobi.

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Somali militants “lecture” frightened Kenyan villagers before escaping



LAMU, Kenya, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) — About 100 Somali Al-Shabaab militants on Sunday stormed a village in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region where they “lectured” frightened villagers.

The militants flushed out Ishakani villagers from their houses and preached to them radical teachings at the border village between Kenya and Somalia.

According to witnesses living in Ishakani, the militants joined other Muslim faithful for prayers in the mosque in which they lectured them before escaping into Somalia.

Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo confirmed the incident on Sunday evening, saying that they got information and sent officers to pursue the militants.
Kitiyo confirmed that a group of between 60 to 100 suspected Al-Shabaab militants invaded Ishakani village on Sunday.

“However, within 30 minutes, we had already sent out a special team of KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) to pursue the terrorists. Our officers are pursuing the criminals who suspected that our security team must be following them,” Kitiyo said.

The government official reiterated that the national government is aware of the militants’ threats and are working towards weeding out the Al-Shabaab group from Boni forest which he said continues to be their base of operations.

He further said that KDF from the local camp together with the special squad are hunting down the militants in Boni forest.

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