Relief SCENE:Food
Dhobley Residents and IDPs Face Looting, Rape
Locals Complain of Looting, Harassment by Government and Ras Kamboni Troops
By ABDIKAFAR HOSH 08/22/2011

Residents and local leaders in Dhobley district of Lower Juba region of southern Somalia complained that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers and Ras Kamboni militia fighters who are jointly controlling the district have been looting aid, robbing businesses, and harassing and raping civilians and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the district.

Mohamed Guulleed Warfaa, a businessman living and working in Dhobley, told Somalia Report that the government soldiers and Ras Kamboni fighters are targeting the residents' houses and businesses in the district.

“If you close your business in the evening, you can be sure that during the night they will break the lock of your grocer, shop, store, or pharmacy and take all your valuable property,” he said.

He added that nowhere is safe as the soldiers fight amongst themselves for the goods.

“Although they are both supposed to be protecting us as government troops, sometimes they fight amongst themselves since they have different backgrounds - one side is the government and the other Islamic rebels who broke away from the al-Shabaab militants,” he said.

Ahmed Nuur Ibraahim, one of the community elders in Dhobley district, told local media that the government soldiers and Ras Kamboni militias fire their guns constantly.

“I cannot imagine why they routinely fire their guns and weapons near the houses in the villages all day and night. There is no reason for it,” he said.

The elder said the Dhobley residents are fed up with the government and militia.

"We have unacceptable problems from troops both the government side and the Ras Kamboni side in the district. The heavily armed militias are deployed to the center of the district were most of the residents come together to bake and buy our daily bread,” complained the elder.

Dhobley is the only district in the Lower Juba region controlled by the government while the rest is controlled by the hardline al-Shabaab Islamic fighters.

Nowhere Safe for IDPs

Because Dhobley is near the southern border, a large number of IDPs pass through the district to reach Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, however, others simply cannot afford to go further and are stuck in Dhobley.

“We started out as a family of 12, but there is only four of us left now. Seven children and my husband died of hunger during our 28 day journey. The four of us survived by drinking each other's urine," said Jiijo Abuu, an IDP in SODA camp in Dhobley district.

Non Governmental Organizations, Somalia Diaspora charity associations, and international humanitarian agencies have tried to distribute humanitarian food to the needy people in the district, but the government is hampering delivery.

"The government soldiers and the Ras Kamboni fighters are managing and controlling the food distribution. They often loot humanitarian food as you can see in the markets of the district. There is no an independent administration or civilian administration to help. The commanders of the fighters are everywhere in the district,” one of the residents complained to Somalia Report.

IDPs further complained, on the condition of anonymity, that as they travel from Dhobley to Dadaab, some government soldiers and Ras Kamboni fighters follow them at night to rape, harass and rob the IDPs. Many, like the ones with whom our correspondent spoke, were forced to return to Dhobley.

Mobile Phones in Demand

Mobile phones are the latest items being targeting by government forces in the district according to Zamzam Guuleed Odawaa, a young woman living in Dhobley.

She confirmed to Somalia Report that government soldiers took her Nokia mobile phone.

She complained although the district is under control of the TFG, it is far from safe. There are no policemen to maintain stability and the very people who are tasked with protecting them from the al-Shabaab militants are the ones responsible for looting, theft, rape and harassment.

"What can we do? Nowhere is safe. Nobody is protecting us," she complained.

Although the government has arrested TFG soldiers for looting in Mogadishu, the same police enforcement has yet to reach Dhobley.

Kenyan Lawmaker Mediates in Dhobley

Kenyan National Assembly Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim Mohamed visited Dhobley on Sunday to mediate between the TFG soldiers and Ras Kamboni fighters, according to Ahmed Madar Liibaan, a TFG soldiers in the district.

“The deputy speaker came here yesterday and mediated between the leaders of the government troops and Ras Kamboni militiamen to resolve their differences, and maintain the fighting against the terrorist group of al-Shabaab,” he told Somalia Report.

During his visit, the deputy speaker also visited the local hospital where government and Ras Kamboni fighters who were injured fighting against al-Shabaab militants are being treated.