Relief SCENE:Food
Somali Refugees on Looting Rampage
Misunderstanding Causes Massive Looting, Injuries at Ifo Camp in Kenya
By ADOW JUBAT 06/22/2011
Refugees at Ifo Camp (File Photo)
©Somalia Report
Refugees at Ifo Camp (File Photo)

Score of Somali refugees were injured following a rampage for food at Ifo distribution center, a sprawling and densely crowded refugee camp in Dadaab district of North-Eastern Kenya.

Huge quantities of cereal, mainly grinded maize, and cartoons of cooking oil were stolen in the melee that lasted for several hours before the police armed with anti-riot gear, including tear gas, secured the food distribution center by beating away the refugees estimated to be thousands.

Five Kenya security officers who attempted to stop the refugees from looting were also seriously injured.

The Dadaab Deputy Officer Commanding the Dadaab Police Division, Mr. Nelson Talitis, told Somalia Report that some of the refugees sustained slight injuries after they engaged the security officers in a bid to steal food rations.

He said three police officers and two private security guards manning the center at the time of food distributions were also injured after the rowdy refuges pelted them with crude weapons after thwarting their forcibly bid to enter the food center.

The police chief said the injured officers who sustained head and other bodily scathing were been treated at the Dadaab health center, while the refugees received treatment at private clinics to avoid been identified if they sought treatment at government or refugees health facilities.

He said the trouble sparked off at around 9am and lasted until noon local time after 20-year old Somali refugee, Abdikhadir Sahal, turned up with a stolen ration card and was detected by the relief officers.

However, eyewitness Rukia Ahmed Swaleh refuted the claims and said the man were mercilessly beaten by the private guards manning the center after he went to collect his potion of his ration, which he forgot to collect when he was leaving the center.

The police boss said Abdikhadir sprinted away after been detected by CARE officials for fear of being arrested by the officers guarding the food and consequently fell onto a wheelbarrow injuring himself.

“When the boy went out of the food distribution center profusely bleeding the other refugees thought that the man was beaten by the security guards and consequently descended on the gate of the center,” explained Mr. Talitis.

“They uprooted the gate and pelted our officers and others who were in the compound with crude ‘missiles’ before they forced themselves into center and looted some of the food outside for distribution,” the Deputy OCPD said.

"We had to halt the food distribution and call for reinforcements from the all other neighboring police stations in Dadaab division and use tear gas after the number of refugees, some with the an ill motive of looting the food, surged into the gateless center,” he added.

Mr. Talitis said the quantity of the food stolen and the cost of the damage to the center cannot be immediately quantified as the assessments to establish all facts may take until tomorrow when the situation normalizes.

The distribution of food is usually done twice a month, with first phase between the 1st and the 8th, while the second distribution is done from 15th to the 22nd.

By the time of filling the story huge crowd of angry refugees were reported to have been milling around the food distribution center as a large number of security personnel kept vigil.

Repeated attempts to talk to some UN refugees agencies on the exact number of refugees injured and food stolen were not available for comment as their phones went unavailable.