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Why donors are yet to commit to Kenya’s refugee reform plan

Why donors are yet to commit to Kenya’s refugee reform plan
An aerial view of Kakuma 1 Refugee Camp located on the Kenya-Somali border on June 10, 2018 | Credit | Francis Nderitu/NMG

Kenya’s refugee reform program is still awaiting donor funding to kick off months after Nairobi detailed the planned shift from encampment to settlement towns.

And donors, The EastAfrican understands, have demanded an elaborate strategy of more direct benefits to refugees as the basis for committing funds that could see Kakuma and Dadaab Refugee camps turned to formal towns whose residents will no longer be restricted in movement.

And although Kenya has asked other countries to expand the proportion of refugees they resettle from Kenya, development partners also want Kenya to adopt the idea of resettling more of the refugees it hosts, including granting citizenship to those who have stayed for decades as refugees, to whom donors will then grant seed capital to start sources of livelihood.

Read: Kenya gets $199m for refugee transition plan

The five-year strategic shift, known as the ‘Shirika Plan’, was formally announced in June during the World Refugee Day. But Nairobi has been asking more partners to join in to support what it calls the best policy for those fleeing persecution in neighboring countries.

Kenya’s Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi was this week remarketing the plan to development partners in Geneva, where he said encampment was in fact a big challenge to environmental conservation.

“Refugee camps like Kakuma and Dadaab grapple with significant environmental challenges due to high population density, limited resources and inadequate infrastructure. These complex issues underscore the need for comprehensive and strategic responses to ensure the wellbeing of both refugees and host communities,” he said on the sidelines of the 74th session of the Executive Committee of High Commissioners (Excom) program in Switzerland.

“We call upon our global partners to support our efforts in refugee management that seeks to empower both refugees and host communities.”

Mudavadi, however, did not pledge more citizenship. Nairobi has recently granted the Makonde and Pemba citizenship after years of staying in Kenya as refugees.

Read: Forced migration a curse for the EA region that also brings blessing

According to the reform plan, Kenya pitched to provide a comprehensive database of refugee numbers, identities, sources and status as well as economic activities. Kenya was also to provide special IDs to the refugees away from the restrictive refugee cards and which would allow them to move freely in the country for business or jobs.

Dr Korir Sing’oei, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs said there will be special identification documents for the refugees.

“It is based on years of learning by Kenya from hosting refugees. There has been quite some enthusiasm from our development partners for this Plan and the details of financing it are being worked on to support the program,” he told The EastAfrican.

“If you look at our refugee camps, the population has grown beyond their capacity so the whole idea is to work with humanitarian agencies to rethink these settlements, and to have a better relationship with the host communities.”

The camps in which they live today would still be turned into formal towns with regular water services, sewerage system, roads, schools, hospitals, agriculture and other “durable solutions,” according to Mudavadi.

Read: Kenya’s radical solution to age-old refugee problem

“All these are underpinned by a robust legal framework for the benefit of refugees,” he noted.

Mudavadi, who is also the new Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, met with UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi as well as Julieta Valls Noyes, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.

“We look forward supporting the plan after Kenya’s approval of the final foundational policies,” Noyes said after their meeting.

According to Grandi, the UNHCR is encouraging localized sustainable solutions including what Kenya wants to do.

“We are focusing on ensuring that climate-related displacement is an element of national adaptation plans, including through early warning systems, and that services and assistance provided are environmentally sustainable,” he told an audience in Geneva on Tuesday.

“We work with partners to help governments strengthen resilience, prevent displacement where possible, or support the displaced withstand the massive shocks and stresses arising from the climate emergency alongside their host communities.