East African leaders attending the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Kenya this week are expected to talk about Somali refugees and regional security. However, there are doubts that IGAD has what it takes to ease the crisis in the region.
The Kenya State House spokesperson, Manoah Esipisu, said the repatriation of Somali refugees will be the main agenda item at the summit.
“It will focus largely on the questions of Somali refugees and creating a conducive environment in their own country so that they can feel safe to go back and to contribute to their country’s development as well as their country’s growth,” he said.
Kenya plans to shut the Dadaab refugee camp by the end of May. Dadaab is home to more than 300,000 refugees, most of them Somalis. Tens of thousands have already returned to Somalia.
Humanitarian agencies are currently struggling to save lives in Somalia, where more than 6 million people need assistance because of drought and insurgent attacks. The aid agencies warn if nothing is done, the crisis in Somalia may become worse than the 2011 famine.
The United Nations estimates more than 17 million people need humanitarian assistance in East Africa.
The region also faces security challenges. South Sudan is struggling with civil conflict and famine and Burundi has been stuck in a political crisis for two years.
Esipisu said the leaders at the summit will discuss the situation in those countries and the political uncertainty in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Regional security is a matter that world leaders have expressed concern in and want Kenya to remain in the pivotal role in terms of tackling these matters,” he said.
IGAD has been criticized for being unable to end the South Sudan conflict. The leaders in East Africa also have failed to bring Burundi’s political rivals to the negotiating table.
George Musamali, director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa, said the meeting will achieve little.
“These meetings have been going on for quite some time,” he said, “and nothing has come much of them because at the end of the day they will talk, and the solutions will always be looking for funding from donor countries. IGAD does not have the capacity to deal with these internal conflicts within the region.”
As the region copes with drought, food insecurity and political instability, many eastern Africans will be watching to see if their leaders have solutions to end their suffering.