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Kenya urged to reopen border with Somalia
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09:50, July 06, 2007

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Kenyan Muslim leaders on Thursday called on the Kenyan government to reconsider its decision to maintain an indefinite closure of the border with Somalia.

National Muslim Leaders Forum Chairman Abdullahi Abdi told journalists in Nairobi that stabilization in the war-torn country remained elusive and thousands of Somalis were in dire need of asylum.

"Somalis are trying to cross the Red Sea using boats and they are dying as they try to get to the Gulf of Eden. If Kenya open up its borders tomorrow Somalis would throng Nairobi," said Abdi during the launch of a human rights report on Somalia.

Abdi said the closure of the border continued to cause considerable suffering to Somali civilians who could not be reached by humanitarian groups seeking to deliver relief food since the Somali shoreline has been occupied by pirates.

Abdi urged charitable organizations in Kenya to develop more interest in events within the besieged Horn of Africa country, adding that rights concerns surpassed national borders and should therefore be the concern of human rights organizations in Kenya.

"The human rights network in Kenya is one that is the light for Africa. We are the loudest voice that's heard within the East African region. We should be setting the standards for other African countries in terms of human rights activism," said Abdi.

He said the closure has prevented thousands of individuals who were fleeing the conflict from crossing into Kenya, leaving them highly vulnerable to human rights abuses by parties to the Somali conflict.

The latest plea came as eleven Somalis were fined 20,000 shillings (about 300 U.S. dollars) each or serve three months in prison in default for being in Kenya illegally.

The suspects had been arrested in Kenya's coastal town of Kwale as they attempted to cross into Tanzania.

The East African nation which closed the frontier in January this year has ruled out the reopening of the border in the near future saying the closure ensured that security was maintained in Kenya.

The border was closed to prevent spillover from members of the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) of Somalia who were routed from Mogadishu by Ethiopian-backed transitional government forces.

Source: Xinhua



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