Kenya: hunger strike called off

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 2,000 Tanzanian refugees from the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar who fled to Kenya in late January following a crackdown on opposition protests have called off a hunger strike after an intervention from Kenya's Muslim clerics. The refugees went on a hunger strike on Monday after the Kenyan authorities said they wanted to split the bulk of the refugee population from their leaders. But they decided to call off the strike on Wednesday, after the intervention of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya. The imams visited the refugees, who are also Muslims, on Wednesday and convinced their leaders to abandon the hunger strike and join Islamic people in their annual Eid Al-Adha religious festival.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is sending a mission to Pemba and Zanzibar next week to look at prospects for a possible return of the 2,284 refugees presently squeezed into a fisheries compound in the Kenyan coastal town of Shimoni. The refugees have nominated 12 representatives to accompany the UNHCR mission to the islands. UNHCR is seeking guarantees from Tanzanian authorities for their safety. The refugees say they want some specific concerns addressed by the Tanzanian authorities before agreeing to return home.