In the wake of the al Shabab attack on Garissa University College that left 148 dead in Kenya last month, the Kenyan government is considering closing the world’s largest refugee camp. 350,000 people live in Dadaab, a camp established in 1991 to house ‘temporary’ refugees from Somalia—only the crises in Kenya’s north-eastern neighbor never ended.
Now, the government, which alleges that multiple al Shabab attacks have been aided by members working within the camp, is saying that Dadaab represents an intolerable security threat. Radio reports have informed residents they have three months to relocate.
Many experts doubt that the government will go through with its threat—not least because, as Somalia is still in turmoil, most of the refugees would have no place to go. The humanitarian crisis would be enormous; radicalism would also likely increase.
And yet it’s hard not to feel for Kenya, as well. As The Washington Post notes:
In North Africa, thousands of African migrants and asylum-seekers board shoddy boats to flee to Europe, many of them dying en route. But Dadaab appears to be a symbol of a different kind of refugee crisis — an aging support system for those fleeing conflict and famine, in which resources are stretched thin as tension with host countries mounts.
Two of the deadliest trends in Africa right now are the refugee crises, ranging from Libya to South Africa (and often have the same roots in countries such as Somalia) and the God Wars, raging from Nigeria to Kenya and including the militant Islamic efforts in Libya and the Northern Sahara. Few if any of the states in Africa encountering these threats have the resources necessary to fully confront either. Combined, they have the potential for humanitarian disasters of unimaginable proportions.
Or rather, given human history, we can imagine them—but shudder to do so.