One week after international donors
pledged more than $200 million, primarily toward security needs of a new
government in Somalia, UN officials are expected to address the humanitarian
response to Somalia’s refugee crisis. In London Friday, they will discuss what is
needed inside the country and in surrounding areas to promote stability and
improve conditions for more than 260-thousand residents who have fled to overcrowded
camps in northeastern Kenya. Colin Thomas-Jensen,
the Africa advocacy and research manager for the Washington-based Enough Project, points out that much of the international
donor support pledged last week at the donor conference in Brussels, Belgium will
go toward strengthening African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Somalia, but that
the rest of the donated funds should be disbursed very carefully.
$150 million is going to support AMISOM (African Union peacekeepers in
Somalia), particularly the immense cost of maintaining a peacekeeping mission
in perhaps the most difficult operating environment in the world, but also
ramping up efforts by the African Union to train the Somali government security
forces. And I think that’s a good
thing. There’s also about $30 million
that’s going straight to the TFG (Transitional Federal Government), and I think
this is the money that we have to be very careful about. In particular, this money should not be used
to pay salaries of security forces. The
TFG is earning money now at the port.
And the last thing we need, which was the case the last time, is
international funding supporting a security force that more likely than not is
going to commit terrible atrocities,” he advised.
says he believes that after 17 years of failed leadership, the non-security-designated
donor funds for Somalia should be conditioned on helping the Mogadishu government
of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed become a credible and inclusive body
that can achieve legitimacy with its Islamist rivals and among the general
issue of simply providing money to the greatest strongman in Somalia in the
hopes that he will exert control militarily over the country has failed
miserably time and time again. And so
direct support to this government ought to be conditioned very heavily on the
behavior of security forces and the political moves that Sheikh Sharif makes to
make his government a more inclusive body,” he notes.
election of President Sheikh Sharif in January has failed to slow the exodus of
Somalis seeking refuge in neighboring Kenya.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that so far in
2009, more than 23,000 new asylum seekers have crossed the border into
northeastern Kenya’s Dadaab refigee camp, making it the world’s largest. Thomas-Jensen does not see many refugees
ready to return to Somalia under current conditions. He says it will take time for Sheikh Sharif’s
government to upgrade its handling of
the security situation, particularly against attacks by immoderate, extremist
Islamist factions to convince the departees to return to their homes.
this point, I doubt we’re going to see any sort of mass movement of refugees
and IDP’s (internally displaced persons) from camps both in Kenya and inside
Somalia back to their areas of origin until there’s a proven track record by
the TFG and Sheikh Sharif that he can provide some basic security in Mogadishu
and its surrounds. That is the core
issue in Somalia right now: how to build the political coalition under the
umbrella of the TFG, and how to establish a professional, credible security
force that is responsible to the political actors in the TFG that can provide
security for civilians,” he said.
recent return to Mogadishu of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who headed Somalia’s
Islamic Courts Union regime three years ago, poses an additional challenge to
the current government. Thomas-Jensen
says the radical cleric, who controlled the Somali capital between June and
December, 2006, will most likely try to regain influence in Somalia by using
the presence of AMISOM and the international funding it receives to portray his
rival Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as a puppet and tool of western and
think Sheikh Aweys’ presence in the Somali capital is an indication, one, that
he wants to be a player. He sees an
opportunity here to try to carve out some political space for himself to make a
run at a greater role. And whether it’s in
the TFG or of the armed opposition. But
I think it’s really too early to tell at this point exactly how his presence in
Mogadishu is going to play out and whether or not he stays there for an
extended period of time or if he returns to Eritrea,” notes Thomas-Jensen.
As humanitarian agencies work to help the
current government build a capacity to deliver health services, clean water,
education, and food assistance to make refugees feel safe and confident enough to
return home, UN authorities and aid agencies also are being forced to tackle
other humanitarian challenges in Somalia.
Friday’s meeting in London is expected to address factors such as danger
on the high seas from piracy, Somalis who put themselves in peril attempting to
cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen in unsafe vessels, and unfortunate asylum
seekers who are forcibly rejected by Kenyan border authorities and returned to
destitute circumstances on the Somali side of the border.
On the issue of forcible return, the
Enough Project’s Colin Thomas-Jensen suggests that international authorities
need to send a clear message to the Nairobi government “from the highest level,
both from the United Nations and from countries that have influence,”
particularly the United States, that it is unacceptable to be relocating
refugees by forcible return and in fact, is a violation of international law.