Is Somalian refugee camp breeding terrorists?
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/19/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The Dadaab camp in northern Kenya is home to more than 300,000 Somalis, making it the largest gathering of Somalis after the Somalian capital of Mogadishu. In existence since 1991, Dadaab has long worn out its welcome with many Kenyans. They blame Somali refugees for harboring Somali al Shabaab extremist militants who have carried out a series of terrorist attacks on Kenyan soil.
Composed of squalid, overcrowded camps in arid north Kenya, Dadaab is no tourist spot.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When al Shabaab attacked Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last year, 67 people were killed. In response, a senior Kenyan MP urged the government to close Dadaab. The camp costs the international community between $100 million and $200 million annually, and has become in many people's minds as a "nursery for terrorists".
Former Human Rights Watch researcher Ben Rawlence denies this. Studying and researching the refugees in the camp for a year, the compound is full of businesses large and small. Rawlence calls Dadaab an "engine for moderation".
Dadaab is full of rural, conservative Somalis. Many have grown up in the camp away from the war in an atmosphere of peace. Dadaab hosts some of the best educated Somalis in the world.
"They've been marinated in the NGO culture of rights for a very long time . it's very much a liberal hegemony, the structure of authority in the camp," Rawlence told a meeting at London-based think tank Chatham House recently.
Composed of squalid, overcrowded camps in arid north Kenya, Dadaab is no tourist spot. The region is also where al Shabaab militants, bandits and smugglers are active. Aid workers and police have been attacked there, and visitors need a police escort to visit the site.
It's also one of the most monitored places on earth, in terms of mobile phone surveillance, Rawlence said.
The idea that Dadaab harbors militants long predates the Westgate attack.
"Dadaab presents a huge threat to Kenyan security . the refugee camp is probably crawling with militia," a columnist for Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper wrote in 2011. "What better way for al Shabaab to penetrate Kenya's borders than to become refugees within our borders?"
As an academic who worked in Dadaab with UNHCR, Rawlence said it was more likely that a small number of trained fighters were operating in the camp supported by a small minority of refugees, while the rest of the population lived in fear of them.
Police began a crackdown on people living in Nairobi's Eastleigh district in April. Home to many Somalis, police rounded people up night after night, and released them on payment of a bribe. The government has also ordered all Somali refugees living in urban areas to return to Dadaab.
"This sort of fomenting - whether or not it's intentional - is resulting in growing animosity and vilification of Somalis," Rawlence said.
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