In Summary
  • A group of Somali refugee businessmen in Nairobi brought this year’s case, Samow Mumim Mohamed & 9 Others v Cabinet Secretary. Justice Majanja said they “did not demonstrate” with “precision” how the directive violated their fundamental rights and freedoms as individuals.
  • During the 2013 ruling, Justice Majanja held that the inherent dignity of all people was “a core value” of the Constitution, and ruled that “the right to dignity of refugees is violated” by the directive.

The judge who told the Kenya Government a year ago that it couldn’t force urban refugees into remote and over-crowded refugee camps now says it’s fine to do just that. How could that be?

In July 2013, the High Court ruled unconstitutional a government directive ordering all refugees in Nairobi and other cities to move into the Dadaab and Kakuma camps near the country’s northern borders with Somalia and Sudan.

High Court judge David S. Majanja described the government’s order as a violation of the refugees’ freedom of movement and right to dignity.

But in March, the government dusted off and basically re-issued the same directive. And on June 30, Justice Majanja approved the new directive, expressing no concern that it could violate these same fundamental rights and freedoms.

It is difficult to see how the pertinent facts or the questions of law were any different the second time round.

In both cases, the judge was asked whether the government’s directive forcing refugees to move from cities to camps violated their rights as refugees and as human beings.

One difference, however, is who brought the case. The July 2013 case, Kituo Cha Sheria v Attorney-General, was brought by a non-governmental partner of the UN High Commisioner for Refugees, which also submitted an amicus brief in support of the refugees.

A group of Somali refugee businessmen in Nairobi brought this year’s case, Samow Mumim Mohamed & 9 Others v Cabinet Secretary. Justice Majanja said they “did not demonstrate” with “precision” how the directive violated their fundamental rights and freedoms as individuals.

In the July 2013 case, Justice Majanja carefully considered whether implementation of the encampment directive might lead to a situation that would force refugees back to the countries from which they fled – refoulement.

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