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Tarsan: The Mayor of Ghost Camps
Biyokulule Online
July 17, 2012


 


Introduction


Southern Somalia: In 2011, months of drought led to severe famine that caused deaths and forced many to flee for their lives to the capital, Mogadishu, to get help. Tens of thousands of famine victims in the southern part of Somalia have reached Mogadishu, after days of epic perilous journey on foot.


Many of these famine-stricken internally displaced persons (IDPs) were sheltered in big camps at the outskirts of Mogadishu; but some of these IDPs were handled by racketeers who established small camps inside the city.


What followed was the disappearance of large quantities of emergency relief food and medicine dispatched to these famine-affected displaced persons. However, “with the mayor of Mogadishu [Mohamud Ahmed Nur]* and district commissioners recognized as legitimate authorities by the TFG and donors alike, aid agencies have little choice but to work with them to establish programmes and provide assistance in Mogadishu. But the central and municipal authorities have proven extremely weak in providing government leadership to tackle the humanitarian crisis”.


The UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) has recently compiled a report, dated June 27, 2012. Parts of the report were dedicated to highlight the tactics used by TFG officials in Mogadishu to conceal “whether aid was actually reaching the intended beneficiaries or if those beneficiaries even existed” (i.e. the existence of ghost camps in Mogadishu). Below are excerpts of the report followed by related news-articles.


Annex 6.2.: `Gatekeepers` and other forms of diversion of humanitarian assistance


1. The withdrawal of Al-Shabaab forces from Mogadishu on 2 August 2011 should, in principle, have improved access throughout the capital for aid agencies, and facilitated the direct provision of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Somalis. The reality, however, was quite different: UN agencies, INGOs and their national counterparts were confronted instead with pervasive and sophisticated networks of interference: individuals and organizations who positioned themselves to harness humanitarian assistance flows for their own personal or political advantage. These “gatekeepers” often exercised control over the location of IDP camps; the delivery, distribution and management of assistance; and even physical access to IDP camps and feeding centres, through their influence over the “security” forces deployed to such sites


2. Through late 2011 and early 2012, humanitarian conditions remained dire, as famine and conflict continued to hamper the ability of individuals to cope in their areas of origin, and pushed many to seek assistance in the capital city. As the IDP population of the capital expanded and makeshift camps burgeoned in the city, district officials often ushered IDPs to landowners who then obliged them to the tiny patches of soil upon which they established their shelters. [1] In many locations, IDPs continue to pay not only “rent”, but also fees for access to water and sanitation facilities.


3. Aid agencies have deplored the lack of control central authorities exercise over Mogadishu`s 16 district commissioners, and their sub-district commissioners. In August 2011, the mayor of Mogadishu was asked by the Prime Minister to consolidate many of the ad hoc IDP camps into a single large settlement, Badbaado, in Dharkeynley district. To do so, the Mayor convened a committee comprising the 16 district commissioners of Mogadishu, whose main purpose was to ensure that its members would continue to profit from the presence of IDPs in the city. [2] As one aid official told the SEMG: “nothing can be done without the agreement of the mayor and the district commissioners, including the choice of contractors we hire. We have to find ways of working that are acceptable to all, and this is impossible if the local authorities don`t, somehow, get a piece of the pie”.[3] As the situation continues to evolve and international agencies have a more important presence in Mogadishu, some camps are now much better run than others. Still, the role of gatekeepers remains, and so does the influence they exert over vulnerable populations.


Systematic diversion of assistance to IDPs


3. The result has been a form of organized racketeering that exploits the plight of IDPs for financial gain. With the mayor of Mogadishu and district commissioners recognized as legitimate authorities by the TFG and donors alike, aid agencies have little choice but to work with them to establish programmes and provide assistance in Mogadishu. But the central and municipal authorities have proven extremely weak in providing government leadership to tackle the humanitarian crisis. Multiple entities and individuals have been established and appointed by both the President`s and the Prime Minister`s offices, but it is unclear to all actors- including the TFG itself- what roles and decision-making abilities each one of them has. [4] The resulting confusion and lack of coordination is not only extremely challenging for humanitarian actors: it also contributes to an environment in which transparency and accountability are virtually non-existent.


4. The most salient “ghost camps”- or fake settlements containing unoccupied shelters- emerged throughout Mogadishu. These camps were often established with the complicity of district officials in an attempt to attract international assistance and extract a percentage of its value. [5] Similar practices existed elsewhere in Somalia, although the scope of the problem was harder to assess because of access constraints.


5. A joint UN/ TFG mission in the fall of 2011 revised the number of IDPs in the city downwards from 372,000 to 184,000, identifying approximately 50 `ghost camps` in the process. [6] This exercise, which combined methodological headcounts, door-to-door verification and satellite imagery, left some aid agencies unable to justify the high numbers of beneficiaries in their programmes. Moreover, after the revision of the IDP numbers, some of the Nairobi-based aid agency coordination “clusters” were obliged to conclude that over 120% of the actual number of vulnerable individuals identified by the census had received assistance, leaving them to question where the assistance was actually going. [7] In some cases, the detection of ghost camps led to threats and violence against aid workers. The most significant incident occurred on 23 December 2011 in Matabaan, in Hiiraan region, when two WFP national staff were killed for questioning the authenticity of a settlement. [8]


6. The presence of gatekeepers is endemic in Mogadishu, and enables the large scale misappropriation or diversion of lifesaving assistance. In January 2011, where the UN had declared famine levels to be improving in Al-Shabaab-controlled areas, the situation was still one of emergency in Mogadishu, where international assistance was also significantly more available. Senior humanitarian officials believe diversion by gatekeepers to be a key factor in impeding the delivery of aid to the most needy. [9]


7. IDPs are also routinely kept from seeking redress, or having any direct contact with donors and aid agencies. They are told “to stay away from journalists or government officials visiting the camp” [10], since only the committee established by the camp commander or manager is authorized address outsiders. As for monitoring by aid groups and the media, IDPs interviewed routinely provided false information, fearful that anyone who presents complaints to outsiders – especially when the cameras are rolling -- risks physical abuse and possibly even death. [11]


Footnote


[*] Mohamud Ahmed Nur alias Tarsan/Tarzan


[1] Interviews with UN and INGOs heads of agencies, Nairobi, December 2011- March 2012.


[2] Interview with UN head of agency, Nairobi, 8 December 2011.


[3] Interview with INGO head of agency, Nairobi, 23 March 2012.


[4] Interviews with UN heads of agencies, international donors and TFG officials, Nairobi and Mogadishu, December 2011- March 2012.


[5] Interviews with UN and INGOs heads of agencies, Nairobi, December 2011- March 2012.


[6] Interview with UN head of agency, Nairobi, 12 December 2011.


[7] Interviews with Heads of clusters, Nairobi, December 2011- February 2012.


[8] Interview with WFP Representative, Nairobi, 25 April 2012.


[9] Interview with UN senior humanitarian officere, Nairobi, 13 January 2012; Mogadishu, 13 March 2012.


[10] Interviews with IDPs, Badbaado camp, Mogadishu, August- September 2011


[11] Interviews with IDPs, several IDP camps, Mogadishu, August 2011- January 2012.


AP Exclusive: Food aid for starving Somalis stolen, UN agency investigating
By KATHARINE HOURELD
Associated Press
August 15, 2011


 
In this photo of Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 a truck delivers stolen food aid to a market at the former water agency in the Somali capital Mogadishu. An Associated Press investigation in Somalia has found that thousands of sacks food aid are being stolen and sold on the black market, undermining the international response to the country`s crippling famine. Sacks of food stamped with emblems from the World Food Program, the U.S. government aid arm USAID and the Japanese government are for sale in Mogadishu markets.



In this photo of Saturday, Aug.13, 2011 Somali women selling stolen food aid hide their faces from a photographer at a market in Mogadishu on Saturday. An Associated Press investigation in Somalia has found that thousands of sacks food aid are being stolen and sold on the black market, undermining the international response to the country`s crippling famine. Sacks of food stamped with emblems from the World Food Program, the U.S. government aid arm USAID and the Japanese government are for sale in Mogadishu markets.


MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Sacks of grain, peanut butter snacks and other food staples meant for starving Somalis are being stolen and sold in markets, an Associated Press investigation has found, raising concerns that thieving businessmen are undermining international famine relief efforts in this nearly lawless country.


The U.N.`s World Food Program acknowledged for the first time that it has been investigating food theft in Somalia for two months. The WFP strongly condemned any diversion of “even the smallest amount of food from starving and vulnerable Somalis.”


Underscoring the perilous security throughout the food distribution chain, donated food is not even safe once it has been given to the hungry in the makeshift camps popping up around the capital of Mogadishu. Families at the large, government-run Badbado camp, where several aid groups distribute food, said they were often forced to hand back aid after journalists had taken photos of them with it.


“They tell us they will keep it for us and force us to give them our food,” said refugee Halima Sheikh Abdi. “We can`t refuse to cooperate because if we do, they will force us out of the camp, and then you don`t know what to do and eat. It`s happened to many people already.”


The U.N. says more than 3.2 million Somalis -- nearly half the population -- need food aid after a severe drought that has been complicated by Somalia`s long-running war. More than 450,000 Somalis live in famine zones controlled by al-Qaida-linked militants, where aid is difficult to deliver. The U.S. says 29,000 Somali children under age 5 already have died.


International officials have long expected some of the food aid pouring into Somalia to disappear. But the sheer scale of the theft calls into question the aid groups` ability to reach the starving. It also raises concerns about the ability of aid agencies and the Somali government to fight corruption, and whether diverted aid is fueling Somalia`s 20-year civil war.


“While helping starving people, you are also feeding the power groups that make a business out of the disaster,” said Joakim Gundel, who heads Katuni Consult, a Nairobi-based company often asked to evaluate international aid efforts in Somalia. “You`re saving people`s lives today so they can die tomorrow.”


For the past two weeks, planeloads of aid from the U.N., Iran, Turkey, Kuwait and other countries have been roaring into Mogadishu almost daily. Boatloads more are on the way. There is no doubt that much of it is saving lives: the AP saw hungry families lining up for hot meals at feeding centers, and famished children eating free food while crouched among makeshift homes of ragged scraps of plastic.


WFP Somalia country director Stefano Porretti said the agency`s system of independent, third-party monitors uncovered allegations of possible food diversion. But he underscored how dangerous the work is: WFP has had 14 employees killed in Somalia since 2008.


“Monitoring food assistance in Somalia is a particularly dangerous process,” Porretti said.


In Mogadishu markets, vast piles of food are for sale with stamps on them from the WFP, the U.S. government aid arm USAID, the Japanese government and the Kuwaiti government. The AP found eight sites where thousands of sacks of food aid were being sold in bulk. Other food aid was also for sale in numerous smaller stores. Among the items being sold were Kuwaiti dates and biscuits, corn, grain, and Plumpy`nut -- a fortified peanut butter designed for starving children.


An official in Mogadishu with extensive knowledge of the food trade said he believes a massive amount of aid is being stolen -- perhaps up to half of recent aid deliveries. The percentage had been lower, he said, but in recent weeks the flood of aid into the capital with little or no controls has created a bonanza for businessmen.


The official, like the businessmen interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals.


The AP could not verify the official`s claims. WFP said that it rejected the scale of diversions alleged by the official.


At one of the sites for stolen food aid -- the former water agency building at a location called “Kilometer Five” -- about a dozen corrugated iron sheds are stacked with sacks of food aid. Outside, women sell food from open 110-pound (50-kilogram) sacks, and traders load the food onto carts or vehicles under the indifferent eyes of local officials.


Stolen food aid is the main reason the U.S. military become involved in the country`s 1992 famine, an intervention that ended shortly after the military battle known as Black Hawk Down. There are no indications the military plans to get involved in this year`s famine relief efforts.


The WFP emphasized that it has “strong controls ... in place” in Somalia, where it cited risks in delivering food in a “dangerous, lawless, and conflict-ridden environment.”


WFP said it was “confident the vast majority of humanitarian food is reaching starving people in Mogadishu,” adding that AP reports of “thousands” of bags of stolen food would equal less than 1 percent of one month`s distribution for Somalia.


Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said the government does not believe food aid is being stolen on a large scale, but if such reports come to light, the government “will do everything in our power” to bring action in a military court.


The AP investigation also found evidence that WFP is relying on a contractor blamed for diverting large amounts of food aid in a 2010 U.N. report.


Eight Somali businessmen said they bought food from the contractor, Abdulqadir Mohamed Nur, who is known as Enow. His wife heads Saacid, a powerful Somali aid agency that WFP uses to distribute hot food. The official with extensive knowledge of the food trade said at some Saacid sites, it appeared that less than half the amount of food supplied was being prepared.


Attempts to reach Enow or his wife for comment were not successful.


Businessmen said Enow had several warehouses around the city where he sold food from, including a site behind the Nasa Hablod hotel at a roundabout called “Kilometer Four.”


Three businessman described buying food directly from the port and one said he paid directly into Enow`s Dahabshiel account, a money transfer system widely used in Somalia. WFP has no foreign staff at the port to check on stock levels or which trucks are picking it up; it relies on Somali staff and an unidentified independent monitor to check on sites.


The men said they would buy in bulk for $20 per sack and sell at between $23 and $25 -- a week`s salary for a Somali policeman or soldier.


Until last week, there were daily battles in the capital between Islamic insurgents and government forces supported by African Union peacekeepers. Suicide bombers and snipers prowled the city.


WFP does not serve and prepare the food itself. After the deaths of 14 employees, WFP rarely allows its staff outside the AU`s heavily fortified main base at the airport. It relies on a network of Somali aid agencies to distribute its food.


Gundel, the consultant, said aid agencies hadn`t learned many lessons from the 1992 famine, when hundreds of thousands died and aid shipments were systematically looted, leading to the U.S. military intervention.


“People need to know the history here,” he said. “They have to make sure the right infrastructure is in place before they start giving out aid. If you are bringing food into Somalia it will always be a bone of contention.”


In the short term, he said, aid agencies should diversify their distribution networks, conduct frequent random spot checks on partners, and organize in communities where they work -- but before an emergency occurs. “It`s going to be very, very hard to do now,” he added.


At the Badbado camp, Ali Said Nur said he was also a victim of food thefts. He said he twice received two sacks of maize, but each time was forced to give one to the camp leader.


“You don`t have a choice. You have to simply give without an argument to be able to stay here,” he said.


© 2011. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


Somali forces attack official for accusing Mogadishu mayor of corruption
Anonymous BBC Monitoring Africa
July 03, 2011


 


Somali forces loyal to the governor of Banaadir Regionl Administration [and Mogadishu mayor] have reportedly attacked one of the senior officials of the administration who recently spoke of corruption within the regional administration.


Dahir Dhilow Gabow, the director of transportation of Banaadir Regional Administration, contacted Shabeelle Radio in Mogadishu and said that special forces loyal to the governor had attacked his house. He said that he survived the attack. He attributed the attack to statements he gave to the media about financial corruption in the administration. He accused the governor of threatening him ever since he made the statements.


Credit: Shabeelle Media Network website, Mogadishu, in Somali 3 Jul 11


 
In this photo of Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 a Somali woman at the main camp for displaced families in the capital Mogadishu, hides her face after taking food aid. An Associated Press investigation in Somalia has found that thousands of sacks food aid are being stolen and sold on the black market, undermining the international response to the country`s crippling famine. Sacks of food stamped with emblems from the World Food Program, the U.S. government aid arm USAID and the Japanese government are for sale in Mogadishu markets.



 Somalis loot U.N. barracks near the Mogadishu port, 1990s


 


 


 


 



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Sawirro Somaliya

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Muqdisho of Yesteryears and Today’s Muuq-disho

 

 


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