U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec Remarks for FilmAid 9th Annual Film Festival

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, mabibi na mabwana.

Hamjambo! Habari zenu?

Thank you for inviting me to be here with you to celebrate FilmAid’s 9th Annual Film Festival.  Thank you to FilmAid for hosting this incredible event and to UNHCR for their continued support.  But most of all, thank you to all of the amazing filmmakers here tonight.  You are true artists, and you have given us all a gift in sharing your talent.

There are many challenges facing the world today, but few are as great as the humanitarian consequences of war, terrorism, and persecution.  These crises destroy lives.  They uproot families and deny them the peace, security and even the food and shelter they should have.  And all too often, the plight of the 60 million refugees and displaced in the world today – the daily threat of hunger, violence, and disease – is forgotten.  Today we confront an unprecedented refugee crisis as increasing numbers of vulnerable men, women, and children seek safety for themselves and their families.  We see it here in Kenya – in Dadaab and Kakuma.  We see it elsewhere in Africa as well.  And we see it throughout Europe, Asia, and across the world.

Kenya hosts an official refugee population of almost 600,000, and this number grows each day.  This includes almost half of the nearly one million Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa.  Kenya continues to receive new refugees from South Sudan since violence erupted in 2013 and more than two-thirds of those fleeing are children.  The Dadaab camp complex is the largest in the world, with over 350,000 refugees, and the Kakuma camp hosts almost 200,000 refugees, the majority from Somalia and South Sudan, but also living there are Ethiopians, Burundians, Congolese, and many others.

FilmAid tells the stories of these nearly 600,000 people – struggles that are all too common.  It has brought a new level of innovation and technology to Kakuma and Dadaab, and we can see here tonight the difference the organization has made in the lives of many refugees.  FilmAid’s ability to communicate information on a number of critical, and often very sensitive, topics to large audiences has revolutionized communication strategies in Kakuma and Dadaab.  The organization also runs journalism and filmmaking classes in both camps that provide youth with valuable job skills and training.

I would like to thank the filmmakers today for telling their stores in very tough conditions and for putting a face on this global crisis.  Your dedication and courage, and the courage of the individuals portrayed in your films, encourages us all.  The resilience and strength portrayed in your films are truly moving and I hope will inspire more action in responding to this global challenge.

I would also like to recognize the Government of Kenya for its commendable history of hosting refugees and providing protection to people fleeing persecution, conflict, and other forms of insecurity.  As President Obama said during his visit in July, “Kenya continues to carve out a distinct place in the community of nations:  As a source of peacekeepers for places torn apart by conflict, a host for refugees driven from their homes.”  Kenya’s support has provided a lifeline in a time of need to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The United States is a strong partner of the Kenyan Government and the international community in responding to the South Sudan and Somali refugee crises.  So far, in 2015, we have provided $52 million – KSH 5.2 billion — for refugee assistance in Kenya, including $47.6 million to UNHCR for protection and assistance to refugee populations countrywide.  We have also provided over $4.1 million to NGOs like FilmAid.

However, we all need to do more.  We know that for some, voluntary return to their homes may not be possible.  Last year, nearly 70,000 refugees from 65 countries found a new home in the United States—a number we plan to increase to 100,000 a year in the next few years.  And we are working closely with the Government of Kenya and the international community to promote lasting peace and stability in the region.  We must all work together for peace – peace in South Sudan and Somalia, peace in Africa and across the world.  For only then will families be able to return to their homes with dignity and security.  Only then, will families be able to live in peace, able to earn a living, raise their children and have the life they deserve.  

I look forward to continuing our partnership with organizations like FilmAid, UNHCR, the Government of Kenya and the international community as we work to support refugees here in Kenya and lasting peace in the region.  Together, we can make a difference for the refuges in Kenya, in Africa, and across the world.  Together, we build a better world for them and for ourselves and our children.

Pamoja tusonge mbele.

Asanteni sana.