News / Africa

Newly-Arrived Somali Refugees Crowd Dollo Ado Center

Women and Children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.
Women and Children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.

The flow of Somali refugees into Ethiopia appears to be picking up again as Kenyan troops advance into southern Somalia, raising security fears. As dusk falls at the Dollo Ado transit station on the Ethiopia/Somalia border, 5,000 new refugees settle in for another night of uncertainty.

They are the latest wave in the mass exodus from southern Somalia, where a combination of war and drought has left them no choice but to give up everything and flee their homeland. It is a desperate attempt to rescue themselves from starvation, and insecurity.

For now, their lives are on hold.

Fleeing en masse

As darkness descends over the sprawling tent city, long lines form outside the camp kitchen; men and women in separate queues clutching pink tickets that entitle them to a bowl of warm gruel that will tide them over till morning.

In the open-air corrugated metal offices nearby, UN refugee agency workers prepare for the inevitable next wave of refugees that will arrive in the morning.

Two hundred people showed up this day, and the flight from the famine zone has been picking up again since word came that Kenyan soldiers had crossed the border to drive out al-Qaeda inspired Islamist extremists known as al-Shabab, who have held them virtual captives, preventing them from getting outside help even as drought destroyed their crops and killed their livestock.

Contempt for al-Shabab


Those who make it to Dollo Ado say al-Shabab fighters are trying to stop them from leaving, even as famine grips the land. Young men of fighting age are especially susceptible to being detained at al-Shabab check posts. The rebels need fighters.

Al-Shabab means “the youth” in the Somali language, but these young men have rejected the rebels' extremist ideology. They speak of the fighters with contempt, spitting out the word al-Shabab as they tell how they used all sorts of ruses, and traveled circuitous routes along back roads under cover of darkness to avoid the gunmen.

As evening settles in, the sound of children is interspersed with the crackle of short wave radios. This night, the foreign voices are telling of fighting in southern Somalia as the Kenyan soldiers advance, northward toward the strategic port of Kismayo, and of the arrests of suspected al-Shabab militants in Nairobi, where a cache of explosives was found.

A walk through the camp attracts hordes of children, giving a visitor a Pied Piper-ish feeling. These kids have nothing else to do. I have brought a VOA soccer ball, and a bunch of young men who had been playing with a ragged rubber ball eagerly gather round and ask to have their picture taken.

Seeking survival, life

This is one of the few happy moments at the transit center. In a tent nearby, there are few smiles as one family observes the birth of a new son. His nine-month pregnant mother arrived here riding on a donkey, only days before delivering a child who begins life as a refugee.

These 5,000 transit center residents will be relocated within a few weeks, as soon as a new camp is built. The four existing camps are filled to capacity with 125,000 people who have arrived at Dollo Ado since the mass exodus from Somalia began earlier this year.

And word in the camps is that more people are on the way. Those already here say relatives who had stayed behind are now giving up on remaining there, and deciding to attempt the hazardous journey. Life is becoming unbearable as al-Shabab fighters try to burrow in with the local population to hide in the face of the Kenyan army's advance.

By comparison, existing in a tent in a barren desert refugee camp in a foreign land seems pretty good.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid