A ministerial conference to prepare a regional agreement to facilitate the return of Somali refugees kicked off in Nairobi on Friday ahead a regional Heads of State Summit on the status of one million Somali refugees displaced by nearly three decades of fighting.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Summit seeking durable solutions to the Somali refugee situation, reintegration and sustainable returnees in Somalia, brings together ministers in charge of social services, security, interior and foreign affairs from East Africa.
The ministers met to discuss the Nairobi Comprehensive Plan of Action for Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees, outlining the most comprehensive plan so far, to help lessen the suffering of the refugees.
“Somalia is now moving towards consolidation of peace after the recent elections and the transition. This step will further enhance the ability of Somalia to handle the resettlement of the refugees,” said Abdulfetah Abdullahi, Ethiopia’s Minister of Labor and Social affairs, chair the ministerial meeting.
Ethiopia declared its readiness to work with partners to find a solution to the problems facing Somalia.
The Ethiopian authorities believe fighting the Al-Shabaab is a key step towards enhancing the ability of the Somali authorities to effectively handle the services required by returning Somali refugees.
The Ethiopian government official said enhancing the ability of the Somali security services was also important.
At the Summit, the heads of state are gathering to discuss how the plight of some 900,000 Somali refugees could be addressed through comprehensive plan of action, building on previous commitments.
The Heads of State will consider a report on the stabilization of Somalia, which is considered an important first step in creating the social, legal and the socio-economic conditions in Somalia.
IGAD ministers say at least 2 million Somali refugees have been displaced due to the fighting in Somalia over the last 26 years.
“We need to renew our efforts to find solution to the refugees,” said Joseph Nkaissery, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Interior.
Nkaissery said ensuring the voluntary return of the Somali refugees would enhance their dignity. He said the refugee status was a dehumanizing experience and should be ended.
However, the countries of the region have made proposals aiming to lessen the suffering of the Somali refugees. In Nairobi, the government has agreed to begin setting up youth training centres in refugee camps.
“We need to support the self-reliance of Somali refugees. We need to put into consideration the issue of forced displacement,” Nkaissery told the ministers.