May 4 (GIN) – At a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Secretary of State John F. Kerry this week pledged an extra $45 million for the U.N. which is sheltering over a half million refugees fleeing civil unrest, terrorism and violence in Somalia and South Sudan.
The Dadaab refugee camp – the largest in Africa – was threatened with closure after Somali militants of the al-Shabab insurgent group attacked a Kenyan university not far from the Somali border. Over 147 students, mostly Christians, were slaughtered by the group.
The U.N. set up the first camp at Dadaab in 1991, and many who live in the now-sprawling complex are teenagers and children who have never been to the countries their parents fled.
The funding brings Washington’s refugee aid to Kenya to $289 million in the past two years. The U.S. also has a widening military footprint in the region. U.S. drones have been hunting down and striking at al-Shabab militia from a military hub in Djibouti. This year the U.S. will spend $100 million on anti-terrorism efforts in Kenya, Kerry said.
This anti-terrorism effort could include the sharing of intelligence, which would be useful in preventing future attacks, as well as help with funds to combat youth radicalization and for counter-terrorism training.
Kerry took issue with opposition leaders in Kenya who call for the immediate withdrawal of Kenyan troops from Somalia – a presence that is blamed for the al-Shabab attacks on Kenyan citizens. Urging Kenya to be a little patient, he added: “The exit strategy needs to be a success.”.
Kerry said the Kenyan president has now agreed to leave the refugees in place for the time being. “Kenya has a great tradition of hosting refugees, and the key is to accelerate efforts to have a plan in place for the people in all the refugee camps to be able to return home, in an orderly and voluntary manner, with dignity and with safety,” he said. “That’s his goal. That’s our goal.”
Kerry outlined other planned spending in the region, including $5 million to finance a court in South Sudan to hold perpetrators of violence to account.”
The trip to Kenya was the first by a senior U.S. official since 2012, ending a freeze between the two countries started by charges against Kenyatta for crimes against humanity over post-election violence in 2007 and 2009. The case by the International Criminal Court was closed after failure to win cooperation last year.