Somali Review’s Week in Focus: Oct. 14, 2016

 Week ending October 14, 2016 

Kenya’s Somali refugee repatriation program criticized 

Human rights groups and international aid agencies have criticized the Kenya government’s ongoing repatriation program for Somali refugees.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières – MSF) have all criticized the Kenyan government’s refugee policy.

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s Jan Egeland told the media: “The pressure to push more than 280,000 registered refugees from the Dadaab camp has led to chaotic and disorganised returns. From what we have seen on the ground, it is no longer voluntary, dignified nor safe.”

Human Rights Watch’s September report criticized the Kenyan government’s repatriation program, saying that it was “fueled by fear and misinformation” and that “it does not meet international standards for voluntary refugee return”.

This week, MSF published a report surveying 838 persons at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps. “86 percent stated that neither they nor anyone in their household intended to move to Somalia”, citing high risk of recruitment by extremist, criminal groups (97.5%), and high risk of sexual violence (97%), and concerns about lack of health facilities (84.8%).

UNHCR reported that 30,731 Somali refugees from Dadaab camps voluntarily returned to Somalia since December 2014. The majority of that total, some 24,630, returned in 2016 “because of pressure to accelerate the repatriation process”, according to France 24.

The Kenyan government is adamant about shutting down the refugee camps, citing security concerns and cross-border attacks by Somalia-based militants. Aid agencies are deeply concerned for Somali returnees, as the troubled country has one million internally displaced persons and five million in need of food aid.

35-40% of weapons imported to Somalia ‘resold’ on market

An exclusive report by the Reuters news wire quoted senior Western diplomats saying that the terms of weapons imports to Somalia approved by the UN Security Council in 2013 have been violated.

The UN arms embargo, imposed on Somalia in 1992, was partially lifted in 2013 to equip the Somali National Army under the auspices of the UN-backed Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).

A spokesman for Somalia’s outgoing president, Awes Hagi Yusuf, confirmed that “some cases of diversion happen” but denied that it was “permanent or systematic”.

Between 15,000 to 20,500 light arms were legally imported to Somalia since 2013, but an estimated 6,000 weapons were correctly marked. Somalia is supposed to notify the UN Security Council on all weapons shipments, banned reselling of weapons, and expected the government to track all weapons.

Somalia’s weak federal institutions have previously been accused of financial mismanagement and corruption. The weapons allegations add more pressure on Somali government institutions to tackle corruption.

Fighting in Galkayo ‘displaces 50,000 people’

The city of Galkayo, located in central Somalia straddling the boundaries of Puntland and Galmudug administrations, has been under military pressure since Oct. 7th.

Armed forces loyal to the rival administrations engaged in armed confrontations in the outskirts of town for the past week, with at least seven deaths and ten wounded persons. The UN says that the latest flare up of violence Galkayo displaced 50,000 people.

Galkayo elders have struggled to negotiate a ceasefire deal between rival clan militias, using clan networks. Both Puntland and Galmudug administrations have refused to negotiate with each other regarding the dispute over Puntland’s plans to build a livestock quarantine center in Galkayo.

Somalia’s outgoing Prime Minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake, traveled to the Galmudug interim capital Adado on Oct. 14th to meet with Galmudug elders and seek a peace deal. He was expected to travel to the Puntland capital Garowe and seek a similar reassurance from Puntland authorities to stop the fighting in Galkayo.

US govt in talks with Galmudug, Puntland regarding air strike

The U.S. government issued a new press statement regarding a disputed Sept. 28th air strike, which the U.S. military claims targeted Al Shabaab militants but Galmudug regional authorities say were Galmudug soldiers.

“The United States is aware of reports of casualties in Galkayo and takes such allegations very seriously. The Department of Defense has initiated an assessment of all credible evidence,” said the statement.

U.S. Ambassador to Somalia met with Somali officials from Galmudug, Puntland and the Federal Government to emphasize “improved communication and collaboration” between the parties. The statement “strongly encouraged Galmudug and Puntland authorities to undertake serious negotiations to resolve outstanding differences and establish conditions for peace and wider reconciliation”.

The U.S. military has said that it carried out a “self-defense air strike against Al Shabaab militants that threatened Somali forces and accompanying U.S. military advisers.

Ethiopian troops withdraw from base in central Somalia

This week, Ethiopian forces withdrew from a military base in central Somalia, moving forces towards Beledweyne, the provincial capital of Hiran region.

The BBC reported that the Ethiopian troops withdrew from the base, which was seized by Al Shabaab insurgents. The BBC reports: “Some Ethiopian soldiers are in Somalia as part of a 22,000-strong African Union (AU) force while others are there as a result of a bilateral deal with the weak Somali government. The Ethiopian soldiers in the AU mission are responsible for securing Bay, Bakool, and Gedo regions but are also present in Hiran, which borders Ethiopia.”

Somalia’s weak federal government is protected by AMISOM peacekeeping force in the southern regions, including the major cities of Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa and Beledweyne.

Source: Somali Review