‘Gatekeepers’ are siphoning off food aid intended for internally displaced people living in squalid camps in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Refugees International said in a report on Thursday, calling on aid agencies to stop operating via remote control from neighbouring Kenya. There are some 184,000 internally displaced people in Mogadishu, and some 1.36 million Somalis displaced within the country. The gatekeepers, linked to powerful militias, landowners and politicians, control the camps through intimidation and force, even denying the displaced access to their homes if their ‘rent’ is in arrears, said the report, Gatekeepers and Evictions: Somalia’s Displaced Population at Risk.
Insecurity has stopped many aid agencies from working in Somalia. Between 2008 and 2010, 47 humanitarian workers were killed in Somalia and 35 abducted. Most big agencies now operate from Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya. They pay local Somali charities to deliver aid on the ground. Ken Menkhaus, political science professor at Davidson College in the United States, recently called for the international community to make space for Somalis to manage the transition from bullet to ballot.
“We need to make sure that we don’t get in the way,” he said, speaking in Nairobi at a debate organised by the Rift Valley Institute think tank. “That’s very problematic when you have got armed peacekeeping forces and lots of resources being introduced into a country. In some ways doing harm, or the risk of doing harm, is unavoidable.”