Court saves world's largest refugee camp
Kenya's High Court yesterday blocked the government's decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp -- the world's largest -- and to send Somali refugees home.
Judge John Mativo ruled that the plan to shut down the camp was unconstitutional and amounted to persecution of refugees.
Dadaab is home to some 256,000 people, the vast majority of them Somalis who fled across the border following the outbreak of civil war in 1991.
The government has taken a hardline stance on the sprawling camp, saying it acts as a terrorist training ground for Shabaab Islamists, and repeatedly stating its intention to deport all Somali refugees.
But Mativo ruled that "the government decision specifically targetting Somali refugees is an act of group persecution, illegal, discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional".
The shutdown was ordered without proper consultation of people affected by the decision, in violation of the constitutional right to fair legal proceedings, he said in his ruling.
"Hence the said decision is null and void," he said, adding that sending refugees home would be in breach of Kenya's obligations under international law.
The ruling also blocks the government's decision to disband the Department for Refugee Affairs.
The government can appeal the court ruling, which comes after the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and rights group Kituo Cha Sheria filed a case challenging the legality of the shutdown.
Amnesty International's East Africa chief Muthoni Wanyeki hailed the ruling as "historic".
The government has presented Dadaab as a security risk, saying Somali Islamists inside the camp planned the Shabaab attacks at Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall in 2013 and the Garissa university attack in 2015, though it has not provided evidence.