Refugee consortium calls for peace, dialogue amidst protests in Nairobi

A consortium of Nairobi-based refugee led organisations have called for peaceful dialogue in the wake of protests that have rocked the city this week.

The group, which is comprised of immigrants from various countries within the East Africa Community, urged leaders to hold meaningful engagements with citizens in order to better understand the challenges they face and implement policies that respond to their concerns.

“As refugees, we are staunch ambassadors of peace having witnessed the most extreme effects of violence in our home countries,” said Baruani Mbaruku, founder of the Ubuntu Youth Organization. “It is important for Kenyans to agitate for their rights but this must be done peacefully and any kind of sentiments that breed hate or violence must not be allowed to thrive.”

The leaders representing various refugee-led organisations drawn from across Nairobi were speaking during a workshop held at Waridi Paradise Hotel on Tuesday 18th June 2024.

During the event, the consortium announced plans to host the inaugural Kumbatia Africa Peace Festival which aims to foster peaceful coexistence among refugees in Nairobi through cultural showcases, skills training for youth and panel discussions that highlight the contributions of refugees to Kenya’s economic and social fabric.

“There is need for better integration of refugees from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi in Kenya,” said Mike O’maera, Programs and Advocacy Lead at Africa Grassroots Media Alliance and a member of the festival’s secretariat. “Today there are very few countries outside Africa that will accommodate refugees from the continent so as Africans, we must embrace each other as neighbours acknowledging our shared history, values and cultures.”

Among the concerns raised by representatives of the refugee-led organizations during the forum were lack of access to registration services which make it difficult for them to secure documents such as alien identification cards and passports. Additionally, majority of the immigrants are excluded from the formal financial system as they are unable to open bank accounts or access mobile money services without the requisite identification documents.

“We hope that the upcoming festival will enhance awareness on these and other challenges that refugees encounter and also inspire Kenyans to shed the stereotypes that are often associated with refugee communities while fostering better cultural understanding among East Africans,” said Didier Habimana, Youth Coordinator at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to reports published by UNHCR, Kenya hosts more than 636,000 refugees from across East Africa with close to 100,000 domiciled in Nairobi. In recent years, there have been concerted efforts by the government and partner organisations to accelerate the formal integration of refugees into Kenyan society, noting their economic and cultural contributions.

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