A $3 million “peacebuilding” initiative has been launched by the United Nations (UN) to help the voluntary departure of 3,000 Somalian refugees from Kenya’s Dadaab camp. The 18-month-long pilot project will be unique in terms of its cross-border scope, according to UN officials.
In Somalia, peacebuilding efforts will be focused on the Baidoa area, which is about 155 miles west of the capital Mogadishu and was the scene of a violent Al-Shabaab attack that killed 30 civilians in February.
The initiative, which was announced Wednesday, could be expanded and extended in assisting more Somali refugees return back home.
In response to the lack of economic opportunities in Somalia, the UN project aims to train and empower refugees at the camp with relevant skills that will spur job creation in Baidoa and grow the local community.
Skills development in Dadaab through the peacebuilding pilot project “will be tailored to the beneficiaries, depending on areas of return (urban vs rural) in Baidoa,” according to spokesman for the UN Peacebuilding Fund, John van Rosendaal.
Rosendaal added that business start-up grants, mentoring, and enterprise training will be provided to those returning refugees who settle in Baidoa, while those returning to rural areas will be provided “agricultural and livestock inputs” to help them establish livelihoods involving farming and herding.
“To promote peaceful coexistence with the host community, vulnerable host community members will also be assisted.”
The pilot project is part of a larger UN peacebuilding effort that seeks to stabilize areas of Somalia which have recently been freed from Al-Shabaab control.
The Kenyan government has been pushing for the closure of the Dadaab camps, which held 275,529 refugees as of December 1st, due to security concerns.
Last week, the UN revealed that it has helped more than 32,000 Dadaab refugees return to Somalia in 2016 and the pace of voluntary departures appears to be accelerating. A total of 1,743 refugees were flown from Kenya to Somalia during the first half of December alone.
Due to the rainy season, refugees are being airlifted to Mogadishu, Baidoa, and Kismayu, with supported returns by road expected to resume next month.
BY CHARLES GICHANE