United Kingdom High Commissioner to Kenya, Nic Hailey, was among 20 European Union ambassadors for a breakfast meeting at State House in Nairobi hosted by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday (10 June).
During the meeting, ahead of the President’s official visit to Brussels next week, they discussed issues around security and the planned repatriation of Somali refugees as well as the ongoing political dialogue between Kenya and the EU on trade, environment and the economy.
Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohammed described the meeting as both inquisitive and productive.
The political dialogue formally started in April and so far the cabinet secretaries for Treasury, Interior and Enviroment have held separate meetings with EU representatives.
President Kenyatta underlined the importance of the political dialogue between the two parties saying the EU, with its 500 million people, remains the country’s biggest trading partner.
The lives of many Kenyans depend on trade between Kenya and the EU. To Kenya, the EU is a very important partner.
He also said there is need to strengthen the Kenya-EU partnership adding that Kenya offers huge investment opportunities to the EU countries.
Over 40 years of co-operation, Mr Kenyatta said the EU has remained a strong supporter of Kenya’s development agenda, both collectively and at bilateral level of individual countries.
EU Ambassador Stefano A Dejak who led the EU team to State House said the political dialogue between Kenya and the EU is quickly gaining momentum, adding that the meetings between Cabinet Secretaries and the EU will continue on a friendly and informal manner to foster continued co-operation.
Currently, the EU provides critical funding in areas of socio-economic development including transport infrastructure, energy and food security, but the meetings comes less that two weeks before the UK’s referendum on continued membership of the EU. A recent poll by The Independent showed a massive swing towards those campaigning to leave with 55 percent saying they intending to vote for Brexit.
Dadaab refugee camp
On the planned repatriation of Somali refugees and closure of the Dadaab camp, President Kenyatta assured the international community that the process would be carried out in a safe and humane manner.
Let’s work together to relocate the refugees back home in a process that is safe and dignified. That process should also recognise their human rights and security.
The Head of State who talked at length about the Somali refugees said there were no comparisons between refugees in Kenya and the Syrian refugees in Jordan, adding that the scenario is Dadaab was much more complicated and the environmental and security impact of the Somali refugees were being felt as far as Lamu county and Namanga (Kajiado County) on the Tanzanian border.
Besides the Dadaab camp itself, said the President, the refugees extend their threats of terrorism, radicalization, recruitment and environmental degradation to the neighboring counties.
According to President Kenyatta, he environmental impact caused by the refugees and their livestock is already threatening to ignite a major conflicts with the local communities, and he called on the EU members to continue partnering with Kenya to assist Somalia rehabilitate the returning refugees and rebuild their country.
We should not forget Somalia. We need to deal with this situation (of refugees) together.
Over the past 20 years, the President said Kenya had carried a huge responsibility over the Somalia crisis adding it was now time to assist the Somalis go back home.
Kenya is not talking about the financial burden. We are talking about security and environmental burden.
The President intends to reiterate these concerns during his forthcoming official visit to Brussels where he is expected to meet with both the Head of State and the Head of Government.
2010 Kenyan Constitution
President Kenyatta also recalled the painful political road the country travelled before the country successfully adopted the new constitution 2010 which he described as the most progressive dispensation in the world.
He added that Kenya needs full support to both implement and protect the new constitution adding that any reforms must be done within the provisions of the constitution.
Such reforms, said the President, must also follow the parliamentary route as envisaged in the new constitution including any changes to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).