By Andrew Wasike
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – Kenya’s High Court temporarily halted a move by the government on Thursday to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps housing nearly 500,000 people, mostly Somali refugees.
The court issued a stay order following a petition filed to the high court that challenged a decision by the Interior Ministry calling on the UN refugee agency to formulate a plan to close the camps as soon as possible.
“Former presidential aspirant Peter Gichira moved to the court, challenging the government decision to close the two camps arguing that the move is unconstitutional,” according to Kenya’s Citizen Television.
The case will be initially heard on April 13.
Kenya gave the UN Refugee Agency a 14-day ultimatum on March 24 to formulate a plan to close the camps, Kenya’s Interior Ministry tweeted, saying there is no room for further negotiations.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) promptly responded and warned of a catastrophe if refugees are ejected from the Dadaab and Kakuma camps which have a population of 218,873 and 196,666, respectively.
The East African country revealed plans to shut the Dadaab camp in November 2016, citing a security threat to Kenyans.
Kenya alleged that al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked Garissa University, killing more than 140 students in 2015, had been facilitated by sympathizers from the camp, citing it as the main reason for the closure.