NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Some 80,000 displaced people living in overcrowded militia-controlled camps in the Somali capital Mogadishu where rape and extortion are rife will move to a new site in mid-July, said a senior U.N. official.
An estimated 200,000 to 360,000 people, mostly women and children who have fled famine and war, live in some 500 camps scattered across the city. The militias who run the ramshackle settlements often rape women and girls in their tents and extort aid from them, relief workers say.
Somalia is emerging from two decades of war. Its new federal government, which was elected in August, has promised to relocate the city’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Daynile District in the northwest of Mogadishu.
“Their true priority is to remove settlements that are close to areas of national security interest. The airport and the parliament have been the two key ones,” Justin Brady, head of office for the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia said in a recent interview.
The remaining IDPs will be moved over the course of the next few months.
The new site will be planned to give IDPs larger living areas, as well as schools, clinics and markets.
“We don’t want to create the slum of Mogadishu,” Brady said.
But it is unclear whether security will really improve in the new government-controlled site. Rights groups accuse state security forces of committing rapes and other abuses against civilians.
“In some places the police might be a militia, just re-uniformed,” said Brady. “To date, it has been sort of a conglomeration of clan militias in many cases.”
Donor countries are working with Somalia's new government to reform the judiciary, the police and the army. Britain will host an international conference in London on May 7 on ways to bolster security and the rule of law after two decades of anarchy.
The government is keen for the IDPs to return home, or else find new homes and jobs in Mogadishu. It hopes that some of the displaced will choose to move back to Lower Shabelle, Bay and Bakool regions in July, which is a good time to prepare their fields for planting.
“The government has been very clear. They would like to see this [camp remain] for two to three years while other solutions are found,” said Brady.
Those who do not want to leave Mogadishu will be helped to integrate locally.