Honorable Ministers,

The Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Prof. Ntumba Luaba,

Executive Director of UN habitat, Dr. Joan Clos

UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Mr. Said Djinnit,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

National Coordinators, 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to Nairobi and to this important meeting and hope that so far you have enjoyed your stay.  I thank the organizers for choosing Kenya as the venue for this important meeting. I also wish to thank un-habitat for their continued support not only to the organization of this meeting but also to other projects and programs of the ICGLR.

The issue of return of refugees and IDPs to their original homes, if not properly managed may re-ignite local conflicts over land and other resources and lead to a never ending cycle of crisis and displacement. The protocol on the property rights of returnees offers a key guide for member states to ensure that refugees and internally displaced persons, upon return to their areas of origin, recover their property and get legal remedies for loss or destruction of their property. This is a prerequisite for refugees to feel safe and confident to return home and rebuild their lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This meeting comes at a time when the issue of refugees and IDPs have become topical in Kenya and the region. As you may be aware, in addition to IPDs, the conflict in our region has also produced millions of refugees. Refugees have benefitted from unrestricted access to the territories of those countries. This displaced population outside their country encounter harsh environmental challenges in the new areas of settlement that include drought, floods and diseases.

Kenya hosts the biggest refugees population in Dadaab and Kakuma camp with more than half a million people. A whole generation of young people has grown to adulthood in these refugee camps due to the conflict situation in their countries and knows no other home.

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the foregoing acts of generosity, the consequences of hosting large number of refugees have been severe to the governments and the host community. the sudden large influx of refugees exerts new pressure to the environment that could further weaken the livelihood base and social safety net of the host communities. further, the refugees not only impact on economy but also compete for resources with host communities.

In particular, Kenya has borne a huge economic, social and environmental burden of hosting such a large number of refugees for a long time. Further, some undesirable elements have taken advantage of the congestion and desperation in the refugee camps to organize and perpetrate terrorist attacks in the country.

The government of Kenya remains committed to its international obligations to offer refuge to those who face danger and persecution in their countries. However there is need to ensure that refugees who want to return to their countries once the security situation has improved are accorded the necessary support to settle and live normal lives again. Countries recovering from conflict situations should therefore make deliberate efforts to encourage and facilitate their nationals living outside the country to return home and contribute to national development.

I believe that this meeting’s deliberations and outcome will act as an impetus for member states to rededicate themselves to the full implementation of the protocols on the property rights of refugees and internally displaced persons and create conducive environment for them to return to their home countries when their safety and subsistence are guaranteed.

There is also need for countries whose nationals are hosted in other member countries to initiate conversations on the modalities and timing for the return of such refugees.  To this end, I am pleased to inform that Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR have already signed a tripartite agreement and launched tripartite commission to govern the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees living in Kenya. It’s my sincere hope that the process will immensely help the refugees return to their normal lives.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Of equal importance is the need to ensure that the emergence of violent conflict which leads to an increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in member states is prevented. I urge member states to work together to address emerging threats such as youth radicalization and terrorism to ensure that they don’t lead to mass displacement of persons. Clearly, the cost of hosting, resettling and re-integrating refugees is extremely high compared with the cost of preventing their displacement in the first place.    

As I conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to invite you to take time off your busy schedule to visit and enjoy the beautiful tourism attractions and the hospitality of the people of Kenya before returning to your countries.

Finally, I wish you fruitful deliberations and hope that the outcome of this meeting will go a long way in improving the policy framework in member states for the re-integration of returning refugees and internally displaced persons.

Thank you

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