by Chrispinus Omar
According to latest Humanitarian Bulletin published by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the spike in the number of refugees returning to Somalia from Kenya in early January followed reports of increased violence around Dadaab refugee camps and the Kenyan government’s announcement on Dec. 18, 2012 that Somali refugees and asylum seekers report to the camps.
“In January, it recorded 6,300 cross-border movements between Somalia and its neighbors, the vast majority from Kenya. This was a jump from the average of roughly 1,200 movements per month recorded in the previous three months,” OCHA said citing statistics from the UNHCR.
“However, the numbers do not indicate intentions and many refugees cross back and forth, sometimes to check on property or find seasonal work,” it said.
According to the UN humanitarian agency, there has been a gradual increase in the number of international aid workers operating in southern Somalia, following the withdrawal of Al- Shabaab from key towns.
It said the capture of Jawhar in early December 2012 is expected to improve the security of the civilian population in Hiiran and the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions.
OCHA said commercial activities across the country have improved as evidenced by the launching of commercial flights between Mogadishu and Beledweyne, the regional capital of Hiiran and between Mogadishu and the southern port city of Kismayo in December 2012.
According to the latest bulletin, small numbers of Somali refugees however entered Kenya during January, adding that half of the 1 million Somali refugees registered by UNHCR are in Kenya.
“Reports in the first two weeks of January showed a flow of hundreds of refugees passing through Somali border towns from Nairobi and other urban centers in Kenya, as well as from Dadaab,” the report said.
The Horn of Africa nation has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country’s Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on Aug. 20.
The capital, Mogadishu was until recent past for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides