Somalia for the second time has pulled out of a long-awaited deal to repatriate more than half a million Somali refugees, and Kenya is now considering dealing with the administration of the Jubaland region.
The tripartite commission was to be launched yesterday but the Somalia delegation failed to “show commitment” to the process, hence, cancellation of the event at the eleventh hour.
A source at the ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Star yesterday that Nairobi may instead engage with Jubaland, which borders Kenya and where most of those repatriated would return to “if the Somali government fails to move the process forward”.
“This process cannot be held to ransom by Mogadishu, which apparently is not willing to take this process forward,” he said, speaking on condition he not be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Kenya was instrumental in the formation of the semi-autonomous region whose capital is Kismayu where the Kenya Defence Forces are based.
“I can tell you this government (Kenya) is not happy. This process must go on with or without Somalia,” the source said.
The latest attempt to kick-start the process was slated for yesterday in Nairobi where Deputy President William Ruto, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary xxx NAME and her Somalia counterpart were expected to participate. Senior officials from international humanitarian organisations were also expected.
The Star has learnt that the Kenyan government is now considering convening a meeting in which it will seek to bring onboard Jubaland, instead of the Somalia government based in Mogadishu.
Last week, a delegation led by Jubaland Deputy President Abdullahi Ismail Fartaag was in the country.
In May, Kenya had appointed Hillary Kyengo as the consul to Kismayu.
However, the spokesperson for the ministry of the Interior Mwenda Njoka and Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia Josephat Maikara downplayed the latest rift between the two neighboring countries.
In May, the Somalia government pulled out of the talks in what it called a protest against the “harassment” of its nationals in Kenya. It called Kenya’s actions, part of its anti-terrorism campaign, contrary to the “letter and spirit of both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Tripartite Agreement”.
It was not immediately established why President Hassan Shiekh Mohamud’s government pulled out again. An official reason was not given.
Jubaland is headed by former warlord Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, who before he was installed as the leader of the semi-autonomous region, was the head of the Ras Kamboni brigad that fought along the KDF in the fight against the al Shabaab militia.
Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya was not available for comment on his country’s latest withdrawal, since he is said to be visiting Canada.
According to government sources, the process of refugee repatriation has been dogged by confusion after the Somalia government ‘showed no commitment’ to play an integral role in the process.
The scheduled launch was also expected to produce agreements on a number of joint actions, including the launch of a pilot phase of a voluntary return programme that has been on hold for several months.
This pull-out has also left in limbo thousands of Somali refugees expelled from cities during the recent security crackdown and sent totcrowded refugee camps.
According to the tripartite agreement signed in November last year, the formation of the12-member commission was crucial to kick-start the gradual and voluntary repatriation of refugees.
The commission members are from Kenya, Somalia, and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
In May, the Star revealed that Somalia was offended by the inroads Nairobi has been making in t Jubaland and Somaliland, the two main self-proclaimed independent states within Somalia “without involving the leadership of the Somalia government.”
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