12 000 Somalis in Kenya prepare to resettle in US

Nearly 12 000 Somali refugees will be transferred this week to a camp in northwestern Kenya to await resettlement in the United States, UN officials said on Sunday.

Some 11 860 Bantu Somalis will be transported by road beginning on Monday from Dadaab, Hagadera and Dagahaley in the east of the country, where most Somali refugees in Kenya live, to Kakuma, where most asylum seekers are Sudanese.

In Kakuma, each of the refugees will undergo further screening to determine whether they qualify for immigration to the United States, according to a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have been jointly seeking resettlement for the Somali Bantus, who have complained of discrimination in Somalia.

The plight of Somali Bantus, who inhabit the Juba River valley region of southern Somalia, came to light after the 1991 collapse of the regime of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

By not supporting any of the armed factions and warlords who emerged after Barre was toppled, most Bantus were dispossessed of their land and property by members of other majority armed groups, and many fled to Kenya.

Many of the Bantu Somalis trace their ancestry to either southern Tanzania or Mozambique.

Most of them are Muslim and speak a dialect of the Somali language, but they have physical features different from indigenous Somalis, who are of Cushitic ethnicity. - AFP

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