Kenya orders all refugees back to camps

Updated 18 December 2012
0

Kenya orders all refugees back to camps

NAIROBI: Tens of thousands of refugees living in urban areas in Kenya must return to remote and overcrowded camps, the government said yesterday, demanding all aid be cut off outside the camps.
"All asylum seekers and refugees from Somalia should report to Dadaab refugee camps, while asylum seekers from other countries should report to Kakuma refugee camp," an official statement printed in national newspapers read.
The order follows a spate of attacks in Kenya's northeastern Somali regions as well as in the capital Nairobi, with several blasts in the largely ethnic Somali district of Eastleigh.
The attacks are regularly blamed on members or sympathisers of Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shebab fighters, although they have made no claim to the series of blasts, which escalated after Kenyan troops invaded Somalia last year.
Police have since launched a tough crackdown focusing largely on refugees, including mass arrests sweeping up young men of Somali origin suspected of being connected to the attackers.
The two camps — Dadaab in Kenya's arid northeast, the world's largest refugee camp complex, and Kakuma, in the remote northwest — are already beyond their capacity.
Over 33,600 Somali refugees live in Nairobi alone, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, while Kenya hosts refugees from nine nations in total.
"The government of Kenya has decided to stop reception, registration and close down all registration centres in the urban areas with immediate effect," read the statement from Badu Katelo, acting commissioner for refugee affairs.
"UNHCR and other partners serving refugees are asked to stop providing direct services to asylum seekers and refugees in the urban areas and transfer the same services to the refugee camps," the order added.
Dadaab, around a 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the restive border with Somalia, hosts over 468,700 mainly Somali refugees, but is already full to capacity.
Kakuma, around a 100 kilometres from the border with South Sudan, hosts over 103,600 refugees, almost half of whom are Somalis, the rest largely being made up of Sudanese or South Sudanese.
UNHCR warned last month that the camp has surpassed its original capacity of 100,000.


Tens of thousands protest as Armenia crisis deepens

Updated 44 min 56 sec ago
0

Tens of thousands protest as Armenia crisis deepens

  • Russia — which has a military base in Armenia — earlier said it was watching the situation “very closely” but reiterated it would not interfere
  • Demonstrators marched through Yerevan against the ruling Republican Party’s unwillingness to transfer power after its leader and former president Sarkisian stood down from his new post of prime minister

YEREVAN: Armenia’s political turmoil deepened with fresh protests set for Thursday after the opposition accused the ruling party of refusing to cede power following the resignation of veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian.
Protesters clapped, whistled, beat drums, banged pots and tooted car horns in demonstrations that underscored the political crisis gripping the impoverished former Soviet republic.
Many raised their hands in the air — a sign that the protest movement led by opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan is peaceful — and robed priests joined the rallies in an apparent attempt to prevent possible clashes.
Led by 42-year-old Pashinyan, thousands of demonstrators earlier in the day marched through Yerevan against the ruling Republican Party’s unwillingness to transfer power after its leader and former president Sarkisian stood down Monday from his new post of prime minister.
Pashinyan sported his trademark khaki-colored T-shirt and clutched a megaphone as protesters chanted “Nikol for prime minister” and “We are the masters of our country.”
Stepan Grigoryan, a political analyst who joined the rallies, said it was a do-or-die situation, describing the current system as “criminal.”
“The head has been chopped off,” he said, referring to Sarkisian’s resignation Monday, “but the body — the Republican Party — remains and it needs to be removed.”
In a surprise move, Sarkisian, who served as president for a decade, stood down as prime minister just a week after being elected by parliament, following days of protests by demonstrators who accused him of a blatant power grab.
Pashinyan, leader of the Civil Contract Party, had been due Wednesday to hold talks with acting government head Karen Karapetyan to discuss a “peaceful” power transfer. But the negotiations were canceled late Tuesday.
Addressing supporters on Wednesday night, he called on Karapetyan to “immediately recognize our revolution’s victory and abandon his ambitions.
“If the Republican Party dares to present a candidate the people will surround the parliament and government buildings,” he said.
Pashinyan has insisted the new premier must be a “people’s candidate” and not a member of Sarkisian’s party, and has said he is willing to lead the impoverished country.
“We need the Republicans to leave, or else nothing will change,” said Varazdat Panoian, 28, who joined the crowds gathered in the capital.
The Yelk opposition bloc said Wednesday it would nominate Pashinyan for prime minister. But a lawmaker from the bloc, Edmon Marukyan of the Bright Armenia party, said Pashinyan was currently 13 votes short of a majority. A candidate would need 53 votes to get elected.
A small member of the current ruling coalition, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, said it was leaving the coalition on Wednesday evening calling for a new prime minister to be elected to “overcome the political crisis.”
But the move posed no immediate threat to the Republican Party’s rule as it still held 58 seats in parliament.
On Wednesday, Serzh Sarkisian called a meeting with Republican MPs to explain the reasons for his resignation and discuss the party’s future in a statement reported by Armenian media.
“As much as I am determined not to interfere in political processes after my resignation, I now believe that I must do this,” Sarkisian said.
“I invited you to talk about peace and stability,” he said.
Karapetyan, who has accused Pashinyan of promoting his own agenda, proposed holding a snap election so voters themselves could decide on the new leader under a parliamentary system of government.
Armenia’s President Armen Sarkisian, who is no relation to Serzh Sarkisian, and is a ceremonial figurehead, urged compromise.
The Kremlin on Wednesday said Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke to Armen Sarkisian, urging “all political forces in the country to show restraint and responsibility.”
Russia — which has a military base in Armenia — earlier said it was watching the situation “very closely” but reiterated it would not interfere.
Russia hopes that a “stable solution” can be found, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, stressing that it was however an “internal matter” for the country to deal with.
The opposition had accused 63-year-old Serzh Sarkisian of wanting to extend his grip on power under a new parliamentary system, saying he failed to tackle a litany of problems including poverty and corruption.