Kenyan official to U.N.: Relocate world’s largest refugee camp, or we’ll do it

Somali boys fetch water from a puddle in the sprawling Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya.

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Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto on Saturday gave the United Nations’ refugee agency three months to relocate refugees from the Dadaab camp — the world’s largest — to Somalia, or “we shall relocate them ourselves.”

“The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa,” Ruto said in Nyeri, according to a statement from his office.

Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed Garissa University College in eastern Kenya this month, killing 147 people. Kenya’s government says that attack was masterminded by senior Al-Shabaab leader Mohamed Mohamud, whose “extensive terrorist network within Kenya” extends into the sprawling Dadaab complex, according to a Kenyan government document given to CNN.

Students wake to Islamist militants’ terror

Ruto, who is the second highest-ranking person in Kenya’s government behind President Uhuru Kenyatta, said his government has had discussions with United Nations officials about what to do with the camp.

On Saturday, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees officer said the agency had not received any formal request from Kenya’s government about moving Dadaab.

Any mass move would be a monumental task, disrupting the already difficult lives of more than 600,000 Somalis who call the camp their home. As tough as conditions there are, they are seen as a better alternative to life back in Somalia, where Al-Shabaab is based and has carried out violent attacks for years.

Yet the Islamist extremist group hasn’t confined its terror to its homeland, as illustrated by the Garissa attack and the 2013 siege of Nairobi’s upscale Westgate Mall, which ended with at least 67 dead.

In addition to moving the Dadaab refugee camp, Ruto announced that the building of a 435-mile (700-kilometer) wall on the Somali border from Mandera to Kiunga has begun to prevent Al-Shabaab elements from getting into Kenya. The deputy president also vowed that any businesses collaborating with the militant group will be shut down.

These measures are in addition to Kenyan airstrikes on Al-Shabaab camps in Somalia in the days after the Garissa massacre.

“We must secure this country at whatever cost, even if we lose business with Somalia,” Ruto said Saturday. “No politics, no games, no half-measures should apply, as the death of the 147 students must touch all Kenyans.”

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