Kenya -13th Update Situation on Somali Refugee Crisis 28th October 2011

by Lennart Hernander, LWF Kenya-Djibouti Country Rep.

Update – During the three weeks since the last update on Dadaab a lot of things have happened, especially with regards to security (and insecurity). Two female MSF-Spain aid workers were kidnapped from Dadaab and a driver seriously wounded by the kidnappers. Kenya has blamed the Al-Shabaab for this kidnapping – and for recent previous kidnappings of foreigners in Lamu district (a French lady, later confirmed to have died in Somalia, and a British lady). Al-Shabaab has repeatedly denied any involvement in any of these kidnappings. A few days after the kidnapping in Dadaab, the Kenyan army began a military operation inside Somalia, with the aim of creating a buffer zone along the Kenyan – Somali border. Al-Shabaab immediately responded by issuing threats of retaliatory attacks inside Kenya, mentioning “high buildings” and “tourists” as potential targets. Since the military operation began, three attacks with small grenades have been reported in Kenya; one in a nightclub in Nairobi, one in a bus station in Nairobi and the third when a bus was ambushed in Mandera. At least 9 people have died in these attacks and 15 have been injured. Another incident of kidnapping aid workers also took place, when three employees of the Danish Refugee Council were kidnapped when working inside Somalia. Though this incident happened inside Somalia, it points to the fact that aid operations and aid workers can be targeted specifically.

According to security sources, the three attacks in Kenya since the military operation in Somalia began are likely to be isolated incidents carried out by sympathizers rather than being organized by Al-Shabaab. At the same time, security sources say that a more organized attack in Kenya is “very likely”. Mombasa and/or Nairobi would be likely targets, and security has been increased in hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and etcetera. Events such as the upcoming Nairobi Marathon (October 30) is also mentioned as a possible target. Dadaab is an unlikely target for a terrorist attack, being one of the major Somali cities and being part of coping mechanisms for many Somalis. Kidnapping of aid workers for ransom is not an unlikely event, carjacking and ambush on trucks carrying relief items are also possible.

Somalia’s president spoke out against Kenya’s military incursion, saying that his nation’s African neighbor had “overstepped its bounds by pursuing Islamic militants beyond its borders”. This has caused confusion in Kenya, as other parts of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have expressed support for Kenya intervention. President Sharif Ahmed said that the strike degrades the trust built up between the two countries over the past few decades, and called Kenya’s actions “not good.”  This could indicate a serious split within the TFG,  that is known to have different factions that do not always agree.

 Life saving activities – Since the abductions in Dadaab, all relief has been scaled down to a minimum of “life saving activities” and all movements have been restricted. Some agencies have evacuated staff and scaled activities down permanently. The Kenyan police have promised to increase the number of police officers from the current level of 255 to, initially, 315 and then further up to 500. To put this is in perspective, to have the same ratio of police-to-refugee population in Dadaab as there is currently in Kakuma, there is a need to have more than 700 police officers posted in Dadaab. And Dadaab is more demanding than Kakuma, with movements between camps that require escorts, a much larger geographical area to cover and a more challenging security environment being close to the Somali border. An increase of police is welcome, but there will still be challenges to provide all the escorts and patrols needed.

The LWF managed Community Peace and Security Teams (CPSTs) have been recognized widely for their important role in managing peace and security in the camps, and we have met with the UNHCR as well as with various departments in the Government of Kenya (GoK) about this. CPSTs are now seen as a model that can be used elsewhere, and we are also looking at how to increase the cooperation with the Kenyan police to handle criminal offences (easier reporting and get quicker response). We are also planning to double the number of CPSTs from 2 persons/block to 4 persons/block in the camps. As the CPSTs are volunteer the recurrent cost is rather small, but the recruitment, vetting, training and equipment needs support.

We also want to say that even though the big media attention now is elsewhere, and activities have been scaled down in Dadaab due to insecurity. There are 465,000 refugees in Dadaab now. They need our assistance and support. Let’s not forget them!

 The bigger picture – Insecurity along the Kenya/Somalia border region continues to decrease humanitarian space, adversely affecting distribution of relief aid to hundreds of thousands of drought-affected Kenyans and hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Dadaab complex. Insecurity is also high in Mandera and Wajir, also located in northeastern Kenya. In Dadaab, most aid agencies suspended non-essential operations after the 13 October aid worker abductions.

The rains have started in many parts, and have been heavy in some areas. This has no immediate positive impact, but is good for the coming agricultural season. In Somalia many people have left during the drought, some IDPs are reportedly returning to plant crops, but the prediction is that even with good rains the harvest will not be sufficient.

There are reports of an increased influx of refugees into Yemen. The reasons behind this is a bit unclear, but as we have reported before there has for sometime been an influx of refugees to Djibouti that after a few days “disappear”. The belief has always been that these people are trying to cross the Gulf of Aden into Yemen, possibly to continue to Saudi Arabia to find various employment opportunities. The increased influx into Yemen reported now is therefore logical.

Arrivals in Dadaab –  Arrivals in Dadaab have come to a stop. This is partly due to the rain in Somalia that both makes it difficult for people to move and will encourage some people to stay and try to plant. It is also due to the military operation that is hindering and scaring people from moving towards the Kenyan border. Department for Refugee Affairs have also officially announced that there will be no more registration of refugees in Dadaab, instead refugees must find their way to Kakuma where they can be registered.

Again, even if the new arrivals would stop now, there are 465,000 refugees there already.

The new camps – relocations  Relocations have been halted during the past weeks, when only life saving activities has been allowed (food, water and some medical services). There is a big need to relocate from outskirts and to decongest the older camps. At the same time there is a controversy over the Kambioos camp, some officials mean that it was never officially approved to be opened. This means it may be forced to close again, but 12,000 people already live there.

There is also some talk about a cap of 400,000 refugees in Dadaab, which would mean that 65,000 need to be moved. This move could be to Kakuma, other locations in North East Province of Kenya or there could be a push to re-locate refugees into IDP camps in Somalia. But it is important to note that there are many rumors and statements made, and no definite decisions have been made. There are different opinions within the GoK and between different donors. In a series of meetings over the coming weeks the whole situation will be discussed, scenarios and the new paradigm will be discussed and new strategies be developed.

LWF has requested to continue preparing new areas, e.g. opening up roads, and to be granted police escorts for this. We see the preparation of camps/plots as life saving – because without plots to prepare shelter on, the refugees will continue to live on the outskirts in makeshift shelters and be more exposed to various threats including sexual violence.

Security – Remains a main concern . In Dadaab the main concern is on isolated incidents like kidnapping aid workers for ransom, carjacking and ambushing trucks. There are credible threats against Kenya from the senior Al-Shabaab leadership, and an attack in Mombasa or Nairobi must be considered as very possible. Possible targets include Government buildings, public transportation, shopping malls (such as Westgate, Junction, Village Market, Galleria and others), hotels and restaurants frequented by tourists/foreigners (e.g. Carnivore, Nairobi Safari Club, New Stanley) and main events such as the Nairobi Marathon.

LWF will not take visitors to Dadaab for the time being. But we have resumed visits by Nairobi based staff, and we hope to be able to bring visitors and journalists there again soon. We do feel there is a need for visitors to come in and see what’s going on, and to communicate this so that Dadaab and the 465,000 people living there aren’t forgotten.

A major security concern that we have is that with all services at a minimum, the frustration is growing in the camps. There are 100,000 or so young men there, with little to do, with little hope at the moment and they are becoming very frustrated.

A new committee of seven agencies has been set up, including the LWF that together with the INHCR will be prioritizing activities and allocate escorts. There has also been an agreement not to do any work around Dadaab without police escort.

Funding – Funding is coming in rather well, at around 80% of the appeal target so far for the LWF component of the SOM_111 appeal, and 70% of the KEN_111 Appeal.

Due to the security situation and the forced scaling back/go-slow in Dadaab, very few activities under the appeal have been implemented during the past weeks. We also foresee delays in implementation, but at the same time we see the needs building up. New work plans will be developed to prioritize activities, the coming 2 months and the first quarter of 2012 will be very important – even though implementation is delayed, this does not mean that needs aren’t there!

The LWF – As mentioned the activities are on a low scale – and a lot of work has been put into security, meetings, planning etcetera both in Dadaab and in Nairobi. The LWF works closely with the refugees in e.g. Self governance structures and committee and with the CPSTs. This works continues as before, to minimize staff movements, coordination is done via phone and radio call, and the refugees will come to the LWF compound rather than staff going to the refugees. Camp management is continuing as before, the social work and the work in schools that is done by refugees also continues while the work done by national staffs has been scaled down and staffs have been encouraged to take leave or R&R.

Opening up of roads has continued, while surveying new parts of the camps have been put on hold. The opening up of roads is important to establish the new camps and provide services, it was also a priority because we had already hired bulldozers and equipment that is very expensive.

In education, the schools are on a go-slow until more police have been posted to Dadaab so that staff movement can continue, but we are preparing to produce school desks and supply material under the emergency education program. Refugee staffs are working, while national staffs are not able to go to the schools at the moment.  Production of clothes for women and girls are also being prepared with material etcetera bought, but cannot start until more security is provided.

A decision has been taken that one new camps (IFO3) shall be managed by the Kenya Red Cross Society with support and funding from the IFRC in Geneva. Plans for this are being made, in order to hand over to KRCS as soon as possible. KRCS have already taken over the medical services previously managed by MSF Spain (they evacuated after the kidnapping of their staffs). It is not absolutely clear yet how IFO3 will be managed and what the exact role of KRCS will be. The LWF has seen in past that handing over between agencies have not always been without complications and we are therefore pushing very hard for a proper plan, that would involve all agencies and UNHCR so that the handing over is smooth and doesn’t hurt the refugees.

As the Kenyan police have promised that the number of police officers will be increased before the end of October, we do believe that by the coming week we will be able to scale up again, and continue all the important services in different sectors and camps. With the strict policy that no work is done without an escort, there will be challenges and delays – but with more coordination between agencies to enable the use of the same escort, we believe it will be manageable.

Lennart Hernander

Representative

LWF/DWS Kenya-Djibouti

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