Washington, DC — International aid to displaced Somalis in Mogadishu is being systematically diverted by so-called ‘gatekeepers,’ who subject displaced families to abuse and intimidation, according to a new report from Refugees International (RI). The report, Gatekeepers and Evictions: Somalia’s Displaced Population at Risk, calls on humanitarian agencies and donors to increase oversight on the ground, and it presses Somalia’s new president to end impunity for individuals diverting aid.
After years of intense conflict, Somalia’s capital seems poised for a new period of relative stability and growth. The expulsion of Al Shabab militants a year ago has provided a modicum of security, economic investment has increased, and the recent election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has boosted optimism among reformers. However, Mogadishu still houses roughly 184,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), who live in cramped and filthy camps throughout the city.
These camps are controlled by gatekeepers, who are linked to powerful militias, landowners and politicians. They routinely siphon off food aid and other assistance for vulnerable Somalis, and also stand accused of intimidating and controlling the movements of camp residents.
“What is happening in these camps has been described as a system of quasi-slavery,” said RI Advocate Mark Yarnell, who traveled to Somalia last month. “Camp residents are even afraid to speak to outsiders about their plight, since IDPs who complain can face severe physical abuse.”
RI’s report states that agencies assisting Mogadishu’s IDPs must no longer tolerate the gatekeepers’ abuses, but nor should they abandon Somalis in dire need of aid. Instead, the report calls on UN agencies and NGOs to increase their presence on the ground and perform better oversight and coordination. At the same time, President Hassan Sheikh must acknowledge the diversion of aid and work with the city’s powerbrokers and foreign donors to forge a solution.
“The lack of effective governance in Mogadishu, along with the ‘remote control’ approach that aid groups have taken in Somalia, have sustained this abusive system for years,” Mr. Yarnell said. “Now, both Somalia’s government and humanitarian agencies must work to change it once and for all.”
Refugees International is a non-profit organization that advocates for life-saving protection for displaced and stateless people worldwide and accepts no government or UN funding. For more information, visit www.refugeesinternational.org.