News 2008


Return, refugees told

February 11, 2008


By Beauttah Omanga and Robert Wanyonyi

The Government has petitioned Uganda and Tanzania to facilitate the return of Kenyan refugees.

East African Cooperation minister, Dr Wilfred Machage, said the refugees had no reason to continue living in neighbouring countries.

"We have formally asked our neighbours to help Kenyans in their territories return because the skirmishes that drove them away have ended," he said.

Machage said records indicated there were between 10,000 to 12,000 refugees in Ugandan camps.

"While there are thousands of Kenyans, mainly from the pastoralist communities in Ugandan camps, those in Tanzania went there with visas. They are staying with their relatives, but they should now start coming back," said the minister.

He said the Government had asked the host countries not to harass the refugees, but treat them humanely as they prepare to return.

Reports from Uganda indicated that Kenyan refugees had over stretched facilities at a camp they had been allocated.

About 50 families, mainly from Migori District, also crossed over to Tanzania, where they sought refuge. However, Tanzanian authorities refused to grant them refugee status.

Machage said he would visit the camps to convince Kenyans to return home.

Meanwhile, Opposition MPs in Uganda have told President Yoweri Museveni to withdraw a congratulatory message he sent President Kibaki.

Forum for Democratic Change MP, Mrs Christine Bako, said Museveni would be viewed as a leader who promoted fair play if he withdrew his support for Kibaki.

She said the Kenyan elections had raised many issues and it would not be wise for one side to be recognised as victors now.

"We demand a formal withdrawal of that congratulatory message because no other leader in the world has sent a similar message due to the prevailing circumstances in Kenya," Bako said.

She added that Museveniís message to Kibaki had caused Ugandans, especially long-distance truck drivers, a lot of agony on Kenyan roads.

They had been attacked and killed by demonstrators who felt stung by Museveniís recognition of the Kibakiís presidency, she claimed.

"Most Ugandans in Kenya have become easy targets due to the perception that our country is involved, in one way or the other, in the Kenyan crisis. The opposition in Kenya was even skeptical of our Governmentís role in the mediation process," said the MP.

But ruling National Resistance Movement MPs defended Museveni, saying the Ugandan Head of Stateís gesture should not be construed to mean that he had taken sides in the Kenyan conflict.

Mrs Margaret Muhanga said by sending the message, Museveni was only being courteous and fulfilling his duty as the head of the East African Community.

Muhanga said Museveni was not the Electoral Commission of Kenya and it was ludicrous for anyone to blame him for the election results and the violence that followed.

On Thursday, the Ugandan parliament unanimously passed a motion condemning the violence in Kenya and urged for a quick resolution.