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Thousands Flee Mogadishu Amid Renewed Violence, UN Reports
Nairobi, June 28, 2007 – Escalating violence in Mogadishu this month has forced more than 3,500 people to flee the Somali capital in recent weeks, the United Nations refugee agency has reported.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also reported that only 123,000 of the estimated 401,000 civilians who fled the heavy fighting that raged in Mogadishu between February and May have returned to the capital, citing to figures compiled by the agency and its partners.
Even as people continue leave Mogadishu, they are returning at nearly a tenfold rate. UNHCR said that while more than 3,500 people fled the city in June, an estimated 33,000 returned there in the same period.
In another major new displacement development, UNHCR’s local partners report that some 10,000 people have fled violence between rival clans in and around the southern coastal city of Kismayo.
Most of those unwilling to return to Mogadishu cite continuing insecurity at a time when daily acts of violence are rising despite claims by the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that it has defeated insurgent forces.
“These people say they will not come back until Mogadishu is completely safe,” a UNHCR staff member reported from the capital.
The latest fighting has left many civilians dead and injured from rocket attacks, roadside bombs and crossfire, the agency said.
The UNHCR staffer said that some of the civilians who recently returned to the capital are leaving it once more because of the insecurity. “Others leave their neighborhood to move to another part of the city because of persistent bomb explosions close to their homes, especially in the north of the city. They fear being caught in skirmishes,” he added.
Some 250,000 Somalis who have resided on state property such as ministerial buildings, police stations or even electric power plants face the same threat. Some families had been living at such sites since fleeing their homes in 1991, when warlords overthrew President Mohammed Siyad Barre before turning on each other.
The TFG has to date evicted 2,000 people in order to restore the buildings to public use. “These families are lost, they can no longer access the place where they used to live and sometimes their houses have been already destroyed by the authorities,” said a local aid worker whose organization works with UNHCR.
He said these vulnerable people needed water, food and shelter. Many of them also needed to find employment so that they could support their families. UNHCR has asked the TFG to halt the evictions and to help provide basic services and find alternative solutions for these displaced people.
In his latest progress report on the situation in Somalia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the TFG’s efforts to secure key public institutions in Mogadishu are continuing to face significant resistance from remnants of the deposed Union of Islamic Courts and from various sub-clans of the Hawiye clan, which is dominant in the city.
The rest of the country remains plagued by widespread banditry, lawlessness and intra-clan violence, he adds in the report, noting the situation is more volatile since tensions erupted again in the Puntland and Somaliland regions in April.
He stresses that the UN system would continue its efforts to meet the serious humanitarian needs across the impoverished country.
Mr. Ban met Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi yesterday, and his spokesperson said the Secretary-General was encouraged by Mr. Gedi’s assurance that plans are on track to start the National Reconciliation Congress next month.
Mr. Ban said it was important for the Somali transitional government to reach out to opposition groups to ensure that Congress is as inclusive as possible, adding he pledged to encourage troop contributions and other support to the existing African Union mission in the country, known as AMISOM.
Mr. Gedi also addressed the Security Council in a closed meeting this morning.
Source: UN News Service