Relief SCENE:Refugees
Refugees Protest Lack Of Assistance In Mandera
Kenyans Complains About Sealed Border, Inability To Trade Goods
By YAHYA MOHAMED 03/10/2011
Refugees from Somalia who were displaced by the fighting in the Gedo region held a demonstration in Mandera town of Kenya.

The refugees who are mostly from Belet Hawo district of the Gedo region settled in Mandera’s Mio Stadium and complained that the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has ignored them.

“We were displaced by conflict from our homes. We have no food, no shelter and the UNHCR is ignoring us,” Halima Hussein, complained to Somalia Report.

Salad Isak says the UN refugee agency has done little to help them. “All they did is to send officials here who come with empty promises. We are tired.” Isak told Somalia Report.

They asked the UNHCR to settle them in on of the recognized refugee camps in Kenya where basic needs are available. However, all the refugee camps in Northern Kenya are already over populated.

The demonstrators also asked other international aid groups to help them with food and other relief supplies.

Although some of the refugees in Mandera’s Mio Stadium are willing to return to their homes in Belet Hawo, the border still remains closed by Kenyan security forces.

Mandera Residents Also Complaining

The recent fighting between Al-shabab militants and forces allied to the Somali Transitional Federal government in Belet Hawo, not only affected the Somali nationals fleeing the conflict, but it is also a frustration to Kenyan-Somalis. Residents of Mandera district rely on imports from Somalia, but the sealed border has made business difficult.

Mandera and Belet Hawo rely on each other for a variety of goods. Business between the two districts was doing well some before the clashes broke out. But as Abdisalan Mohamed who is a resident of Mandera explained, the conflict has seriously damaged the once booming business at the border.

“I am a businessman. The closed border means no income and no business for me. I am just staying at home,” Abdisalan told Somalia Report.

The prices of domestic goods have also increased. Goods that are exported to Belet Hawo from Mandera such as the widely used “Khat” among the Somali community is on high demand in Belet Hawo but can not be transported through the border.

Khat traders are mostly women who are single mothers or supporting families such as Halima Said. “My two children came for their half term holidays from school two weeks ago. They are asking for school fees which I promised the school that I will pay at this time. I begged the principal and I again have to carry forward the debt,” complained Said Halim.

Many of the Somali businessmen who used to operate in Belet Hawo fled the fighting. Their business properties have been destroyed as a result and they can’t imagine their business returning to normal.

Hussein Nur, a former trader in Belet Hawo said, “The last time I was leaving my shop, I only left with the money I had in cash. Goods worth $3400 were in my shop. I know my shop is one of the many business premises that were vandalized.” Hussein expressed his concern by saying, “It will take us time for business between Mandera and belet Hawo to return to normal.”