Source: US Committee for Refugees
Date: 28 Aug 2000

Mid-year 2000: Somalia: Chaos Continues
Somalia's chaotic civil war and sense of pervasive lawlessness moved into its twelfth year in early 2000.

During the first half of the year, thousands of newly displaced Somalis descended on the capital, Mogadishu; gunfights in Mogadishu and at other locations left hundreds dead; a local aid worker was killed and two international relief workers were kidnapped; and floods damaged two displacement camps and killed thousands of livestock.

More than a decade of violence has left at least 400,000 Somalis living as refugees, and more than 300,000 living as internally displaced persons. The country still had no central government.

In January and February, Somali militia threatened to attack adversaries in Kenya, creating new tensions along that remote border. In March, clan-based militia clashes in southern Somalia killed 30 people and pushed frightened populations to Mogadishu and the nearby town of Merca in search of safety. Factional fighting elsewhere in southern Somalia killed 60 people. In June, clan-related hostilities in Mogadishu killed 30. In July, a gunfight in the capital killed seven.

As in previous years, the relatively small number of humanitarian aid organizations attempting to operate amid Somalia's chaos came under fire. A local CARE employee was killed in January several miles north of Mogadishu. In February, a 15-truck aid convoy encountered an ambush and landmines that killed 20 local aid workers, guards, and attackers. In May and June, two international aid groups suspended operations in northeast Somalia's Puntland area, in response to death threats and an attempted grenade attack against one of the agencies.

In June, humanitarian organizations suspended relief flights to the town of Merca, 50 miles south of the capital, after a relief plane was hit by bullets. In July, assailants kidnapped two expatriate aid workers. Negotiations for their release continued at the end of July.

Refugee repatriation continued into relatively calm northern Somalia, known as Somaliland. Approximately 2,000 refugees returned there from Ethiopia and Kenya during the first half of the year. UNHCR supplied the returnees with nine months of food, plastic sheeting for shelter, and blankets.

A polio vaccination campaign sponsored by the World Health Organization inoculated 200,000 Mogadishu children in June. Southern Somalia, however, encountered floods and "very alarming" food shortages, according to an assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization. An estimated 600,000 persons in the south needed partial food aid, relief workers said.

Despite continued bloodshed and dangerous impediments to relief work, some observers saw progress in Somalia in early 2000.

"In the last three or four years...the power of...armed leaders has declined dramatically," said David Stephen, special representative of the UN secretary general in Somalia, in a May interview published by the UN. "One could say the civil war has largely run its course. Most of the Somalis do not have a stomach for civil war as such," he added.

"We do have ongoing problems - like land taken by one clan from another," Stephen acknowledged. "We do have a lot of arms in the society, and a lot of banditry," he said.

A major Somali peace conference - the thirteenth peace effort since 1991 - got underway in neighboring Djibouti, attended by some 900 official Somali conferees and more than 1,000 other Somali observers. The gathering, known as the "Somalia Peace and Reconciliation Conference," was still underway at the end of July.)

SOURCE: Refugee Reports, Vol. 21, No. 7 (2000)

Copyright 2000, USCR

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