A week after the horrific attack in the Garissa University by the Al-Shabab militants, leaving 148 dead and the world in shock, the Kenyan government is turning its attention to Dadaab refugee camp in the Garissa District as a counter-terrorism measure.
Dadaab Refugee Camp – built in the early 1990s, is the largest refugee camp in the world with around 350, 000 mostly Somali refugees who have fled famine, violence, and persecution in their home countries. The Kenyan government is fearing the refugee camp and believes it is a security threat and there are allegations stating that the camp is an attack target of Al-Shabab.. Shortly after the Garissa shooting, the Kenyan government suspended the licences of 13 money remittance firms as a counter-terrorism measure. Many refugees in Dadaab rely on such firms to receive money from friends and relatives overseas.
“Remittances are very important,” said John Kisimir, a spokesman for World Vision, an aid agency with programmes in Dadaab. The closures mean “most families won’t be able to receive money from friends and families from abroad. It will make things difficult for people who already have a very difficult life. Refugees have no access to jobs and no other sources of income.” He further explained that “Food aid is never enough, and remittances fill the gap between what humanitarian agencies supply and what people need.”
One regular customer of a remittance firm, Mohamed Abdi Shire, is an unemployed father-of-seven, who has lived in Dadaab since fleeing his home in the Somali port of Kismayo in 1992 after the start of Somalia’s civil war. Shire normally receives USD200 a month from his brother who lives abroad. He exclaimed, “Those who carried out this massacre should go to hell! Not only did they kill innocent students, they also stopped the lifeline of the refugees. I am now jobless. I can’t afford to put food on the table. I am anxious. What should I do?”
On top of the closing down of remittance firm, a threat was issued 9 days after the shooting by the Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto, to repatriate the refugees within 3 months when many areas in Somalia are still unsafe. Although UNHDR said they have not received any formal request, Dadaab’s huge refugee population – who are voiceless and defenseless – are facing the brunt of the backlashes.
Meditation on Scriptures:
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
The Maker of heaven and earth,
The sea, and everything in them –
The Lord, who remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
And gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
The Lord gives sight to the blind,
The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
But he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
May our Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them:
- Comfort the victims of violence in Kenya and Somalia.
- Protect and grant peace that surpasses all understanding to the refugees.
- Grant wisdom to the countries’ leaders to make sound judgment.