“Home” Near Home: Somali migrants to Kenya, 1991-2013
The purpose of this study is to examine the issues associated with the increased Somali migrations to Nairobi. Since the 1990s, following the fall of Siyad Barre, Somalia has never known peace. Consequently, the country became a source of refugees to many countries of the world. Kenya became a home to many of the fleeing Somalis. Many Somali refugees in Europe and America and elsewhere in the world go to Kenya even after they have become residents or naturalized citizens of the host countries. While one would expect them to stay in abroad where life is seemingly easier, they are often pulled to what they refer to “home” near home - Kenya. The study is set to investigate the factors that attract many Somalis to Kenya as well as their impact on the Kenyan society. To unearth the factors that pulled the Somali migrants to Kenya and Nairobi in particular, the study utilized both primary and secondary sources. In addition, the study was based on pull and push theoretical frame work to underscore the push and pull factors that contributed to the Somalis to come to Kenya even after they had established themselves in other more developed countries in the world. In order to understand why the Somalis chose Kenya as their residence of choice this study also used the integration theory to explain the social connections that helped in the bringing together the Somalis in Kenya and those flocking the country from abroad. The study established that the protracted Somali civil war, the rise of Islamic extremism, terrorism and socio-economic hardship in Somalia are among the key push factors that forced the Somalis out of their h to find refuge in the neighboring countries as well as abroad. While in diaspora, Somalis have been pulled to Kenya, which they refer as “home” near home by several factors. Among them is the kinship connection, religious connection, availability of good institutions such as schools, mosques and hospitals, welfare facilities, considerable security and safety and geographical closeness to Somalia. Somalis’ influx into Kenya, despite causing strain on Kenyan resources and amenities, and obviously causing security concerns to Kenya, has also contributed to the socialeconomic development of the country. The resource transfers through remittances from immigrants and refugees have changed the map of Nairobi in significant ways. Trade and other economic activities in Nairobi have greatly been influenced by the Somali presence. Kenya has provided environments to cultural exchange, and the Somalis have no doubt contributed to the multicultural diversity of Kenya. Due to social, economic and political considerations, Kenya has become a “Home” near Home for many Somalis living out of Somalia.