Continued from page 1

In August, he said, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying refugees from Somalia. No one was hurt, but the attackers fired at police when Kenyan security forces went to the area.

“They were just criminals who are after money and wanted to rob new refugees,” he said.

Kenyans also complain that aid agencies hire refugees as cheap labor and give more assistance to refugees than to needy locals, something aid groups deny.

Locals also say they fear the fragile environment is being threatened.

Bashir Ahmed Bihi, who came to Kenya as a refugee in 1991, said refugees cut down trees to earn money for clothing and food that is not included in their rations.

“When we came here, it was full of trees, grass and animals,” he said. “But now the area has become a desert, something that shows the degradation it went through over the years.”

He said locals have also benefited from free services set up by aid groups, such as schools, water and health services.

“It cuts both ways,” he said. “We benefited from them, and we are grateful for that. They benefited from us, too.”

The United Nations‘ refugee agency says it has tried to address locals’ concerns by spending $2.7 million on regional projects from 2009 to 2010. Those include environmental projects and health facilities, said Fafa Olivier Attidzah, the head of the agency’s suboffice at Dadaab.

“We have done a lot. It is not commensurate with the damage, but, you know, there is a progress, especially for the last two years,” he said.

The Kenyan government has long stressed the need to pacify Somalia - where lawlessness is threatening Kenya’s security - and urged U.N. agencies to set up camps for Somali refugees inside Somalia.

But Mr. Attidzah said the bigger problem lies across the border and that Somalia needs a political solution.

Locals like Mr. Bathe, the Kenyan elected official, say they have more immediate problems.

“We used to have an abundance of milk after our animals ate their fill,” Mr. Bathe said. “Now animals and people are hungry.”