Causes and consequences of forced migration
The history of forced migration in Somalia is directly related to the armed conflict that began with the Ogaden war in 1977. From being a major refugee-receiving country in the 1970s, the stream of refugees out of Somalia gained pace from 1988 onwards and escalated throughout the 1990s. Drought, flooding, and famine have combined with warfare to cause the mass flight of refugees and the large-scale displacement of Somalis inside the country.
From the Ogaden war to civil war (1977-88)
The period of armed opposition to Barre dates from the formation of the Majerteen Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in 1978, although the Majerteen and the SSDF were rapidly neutralised by Barre. The Ogaden war in 1977 with Ethiopia over the disputed Ogaden region ( Lewis 1993 ) concluded with the defeat of Somali troops in 1978. The war had an immediate effect in terms of refugee flows into Somalia. This was to prove decisive for the regime's relations to the Isaq clans based in the north-west of the country. At the outset of the war there was a massive influx of ethnic Somalis and Oromos into the northern border regions of Somalia. By 1979 there were officially 1.3 million refugees in the country. The arrival of refugees placed additional strains upon resources, which in some cases caused tensions between local Somalis and the refugees. Many refugees were forced by Barre into government militias which were then used to repress the Isaq population in the north west ( Africa Watch 1990 ).
At that time, the Isaq were being systematically weeded out from the civil service and armed forces, even before the formation of the Somali National Movement (SNM) in the Gulf states and Britain in the early 1980s ( Lewis 1994 ). Government persecution of the Isaq escalated in 1981 after the SNM located its headquarters in neighbouring Ethiopia ( Africa Watch 1990 ). This resulted in the imposition of a state of emergency in northern regions, the operation of curfew, confiscation of property, withdrawal of export licences, and the relocation of villages. Barre was faced with opposition from the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) and the SNM, both of which led their operations from inside Ethiopia. It was this joint assault which led Barre to negotiate peace with Mengistu of Ethiopia, thereby dropping all previous territorial claims to the formation of a Greater Somalia in return for Mengistu's cessation of support for the SNM and SSDF. By 1988, therefore, Barre was free to concentrate on domestic issues. The scene was set for an all-out war on the north-west.
In May 1988 the SNM launched co-ordinated attacks on the northern cities of Hargeisa and Burao and succeeded in temporarily routing Barre's forces. By July of the same year Barre had regained both cities, having subjected them to heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. As a result of the war in the north-west, 365,000 Somalis sought refuge in Ethiopia while another 50,000 had been killed by government troops in Hargeisa alone. In total, an estimated 100,000 civilians lost their lives in the bombing of the northern towns by Barre. An additional 60,000 people became internally displaced ( Africa Watch 1990 ). Barre's forces' systematic destruction of livestock and the resources vital for the pastoral economy added to the pressure to migrate. Persecution of the Isaq also spread to the south of the country.
While the SNM was recovering from this assault, the Hawiye (the largest and most powerful clan in the south) had founded the United Somali Congress (USC). This quickly split into two factions ( see Section 5.1.2 ). Ogadeni refugees in Hargeisa, who had been used by Barre against the SNM, formed their own Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) which also opposed the regime. Although peaceful avenues of change were attempted, for example through the Manifesto Group, attempts at liberalisation by the regime arrived too late.
State collapse and renewed civil war (1991-2)
Having reached an accord in August 1990, the three liberation movements (the SPM, USC, and SNM) led a co-ordinated attack against Barre that resulted in his overthrow and flight from Mogadishu in January 1991. Barre was to continue destabilising the south of the country through his army, reformed as the Darod affiliated Somali National Front (SNF), with devastating effects for the inhabitants. In the majority of cases these were from minority clan groups with no direct involvement in the conflict.
The coalition of forces which overthrew Barre soon dissolved into factional disputes: the Manifesto Group hurriedly appointed Ali Mahdi Mohamed, belonging to the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye, as interim president of a new Somali Republic. General Aideed, belonging to the rival Habr Gedir sub-clan of the Hawiye, had led the United Somali Congress (USC) rout of Mogadishu and opposed Ali Mahdi on political, ideological, and personal grounds ( Abdullahi 1995 ). A final rupture occurred between the two factions of the USC in September 1991, resulting in Ali Mahdi occupying the north of Mogadishu and Aideed the south. By this time Aideed's faction (along with the SPM) had transmuted into the Somali National Alliance (SNA). Between December 1991 and March 1992, when the UN intervened to arrange a ceasefire, there was continuous conflict between the different factions of the USC. The USC and the SPM were also involved in a sustained war with Barre's forces under the SNF.
The coastal regions of Brava and Merca, the Benadiri population in general, and the central agricultural regions were systematically looted and razed to the ground as the contending factions battled for resources and power ( Lulling 1997 ; Besteman and Cassanelli 1996 ). The outcome of the civil war in Somalia's central regions was the destruction of the agricultural belt occupied by the Rahanweyn, Digil, Gosha, and other minority clans and communities ( Lyons and Samatar 1994 ). With the destruction of livestock, hundreds of farmers were forced to flee to the regional capital of Baidoa. The capital city became known as the 'city of the walking dead' ( Mukhtar 1996 ) as its inhabitants became trapped between the different military factions in the region.
At the worst points of the conflict, an estimated 800,000 Somalis were refugees in neighbouring countries. Some 400,000 went to Ethiopia, and over 200,000 went to Kenya. Approximately 2 million were internally displaced (USCR 2002). The war in the south resulted in a huge displacement of people, an estimated third of the entire southern population ( Amhed and Green 1999 ). Up to a quarter of a million people from rural areas flooded into the relief camps in Mogadishu. With intensified conflict in Mogadishu, renewed population displacement took place as residents and IDPs were forced to flee the city.
- United States Committee for Refugees http://www.uscr.org/world/countryrpt/africa/2002/somalia.cfm
UN interventions (1992-5)
Although human rights organisations had clearly signalled the impending disaster in Somalia, the international response was slow in coming. UN peacekeeping forces had arrived in Somali in April 1992, as part of the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). Their role was limited to overseeing a ceasefire between the different clan factions. Only a handful of aid agencies had remained in the country after Barre's departure from Mogadishu in 1991. As a result, extensive knowledge of local conditions was lacking in the humanitarian agencies when emergency food flowed into the regions, resulting in the destabilisation of food markets. Delivering humanitarian aid to the affected regions was particularly difficult for the agencies involved, many of which were forced to pay armed militia to distribute relief. This in turn encouraged a war economy, which quickly became dependent upon overseas cash flows and personnel. The concentration of aid in and around Mogadishu drew increasing numbers of displaced people from rural areas to the relief camps in the city.
The deteriorating situation inside Somalia led US President George Bush to intervene in December 1992. Operation Restore Hope committed 28,000 US troops to the US-led United Nations Task Force (UNITAF). This was formed under UN Security Council Resolution 794, which justified intervention on the grounds that the condition of statelessness in Somalia posed a threat to 'international security and peace'. The decision to intervene was due to a number of factors. Firstly, these were the last days of the Bush administration and the kudos of leading a humanitarian operation in Somalia may have seemed opportune to the departing president. Secondly, Somalia continued to be of strategic interest to the USA, with the stationing of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) in Berbera allowing easy access to the Middle East. Finally, in the period of the 'New World Order' it had become incumbent on the USA to demonstrate a lead role in the absence of a rival superpower.
What may have begun as a humanitarian operation to ensure that food supplies reached the victims of famine quickly degenerated into an exercise in 'nation-building' under UNOSOM II in May 1993. This succeeded in alienating Somalia's powerful warlords, notably Aideed's Somali National Alliance (SNA). The spectacle of a dead US soldier's body being hauled through the streets of Mogadishu rapidly led to the decision to withdraw US troops from Somalia. A deadline for US withdrawal from Somalia by March 1994 was finalised by March 1995.
UNOSOM had become a party to the conflict in Somalia and a contributor to the deaths of hundreds of Somali civilians. By contrast, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme provided emergency relief, which alleviated starvation for tens of thousands of individuals. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also began a series of cross-border operations from Kenya in September 1992 ( UNHCR 2000 ). 'Preventive zones' were established in southern Somalia to assist people in areas affected by famine who might otherwise flee across the border to Kenya. Food and relief were supplied within Somalia with the aim of encouraging voluntary repatriation to 'safe areas'. Criticism of UNHCR has been made for failing to monitor human rights abuses in the camps in Kenya and for returning refugees to areas where a lack of infrastructure and continuing conflict impeded successful reintegration ( Waldron and Hasci 1995 ).
- United States Committee for Refugees http://www.uscr.org/world/countryrpt/africa/2002/somalia.cfm
- Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/reports/world/somalia-pubs.php
- Human Rights Watch, 'Somalia: No Mercy in Mogadishu', 26 March 1992 http://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/somalia/
Conflict and reconstruction (1995-2002)
Conflict continued in different regions of the country in the latter half of the decade, causing local population displacement. Factional fighting continued in Mogadishu throughout 1996, despite the death of Somali National Alliance (SNA) leader Mohamed Farah Aideed. A spate of peace conferences made little progress towards stabilising Mogadishu and the central and southern regions of the country. During 1998, conflict in the southern coastal areas forced an estimated 25,000 people to flee. Up to 10,000 Somalis fled by boat to Yemen during that year, many hundreds of them drowning at sea. Violence during 1999 forced at least 50,000 people to flee their homes, either to neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia or internally to Mogadishu. Mogadishu housed an estimated 230,000 individuals in 200 camps during 1999. Thousands of residents from southern Somalia also fled to the north of the country.
By 2000 the security conditions in Somalia varied enormously from region to region. While Somaliland and Puntland in the north were generally stable, violence and insecurity were commonplace in the south, east, and west of the country. Mogadishu and Merka continued to experience high levels of criminal and political violence. Approximately 4,000 Somalis fled to Kenya and other neighbouring countries during 2000. Somalis affected by drought in the Bay and Bakool regions migrated towards urban areas. Some 11,000 Somalis migrated in and out of the Gedo region during 2000.
A decade of civil war, the massive population displacement of about 700,000 Somalis, and the combined effects of drought, famine, and flooding had conspired to keep Somalia amongst the poorest of the world's nations. About 75 per cent of Somalis remained undernourished in 2000. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated Somalia to be the 'world's hungriest nation'. The UN World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization (WHO) provided food and medical assistance to several million Somalis in 2000 (USCR 2000).
Parallel to the continuing conflict has been a process of halting reconstruction in particular regions of the former Somalia. Somaliland, for example, is regarded as safe by many returnees but it still suffers from weak infrastructure and poor economic resources. Unreliable water infrastructures are an important obstacle to the safe return of refugees (USCR 2001). From February 1997 to October 2001 the UNHCR had facilitated the return of an estimated 170,000 refugees back to Somaliland. During the same period as many as 350,000 Somalis had returned home unaided. By 2001 an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 refugees remained in camps in Ethiopia. The UNHCR forecasts an end to the return programme by 2004. Returnees are concentrated in urban areas where the construction industry and telecommunications are prospering. Pressure on employment in urban areas is rising as a result. In Puntland reconstruction has been based upon 'bottom-up' initiatives and has been assisted in part by the Life and Peace Institute (Uppsala) and the UN War-torn Societies Project (Geneva). These projects assisted community representatives to identify policy priorities for reconstruction and rehabilitation prior to the establishment of Puntland in 1998.
The establishment of the TNG in 2000 has led to some of the worst fighting in recent years. Combined with drought in 2001 (in the Gedo, Bay, and Bakool regions) this resulted in the displacement of 25,000 Somalis during the year. Continuing violence between the TNG and the factions opposed to it, largely in central and southern Somalia, pushed refugees into neighbouring Kenya, other neighbouring states, Western Europe, and the United States. During the course of 2002, the number of Somalis returning from Ethiopia reached 50,216. Approximately 305,000 Somalis were living as refugees in neighbouring countries, including an estimated 139,000 in Kenya.
- Human Rights Watch, Somalia http://www.hrw.org/reports/world/somalia-pubs.php
- Commission on Human Rights http://www.hri.ca/fortherecord2002/vol2/somaliachr.htm
- War-torn Societies Project http://network.idrc.ca/ev.php?URL_ID=5215&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&reload=1057916979
- Immigration and Refugee Services of America, 'Welcome Home to Nothing: Refugees Repatriate to a Forgotten Somaliland', December 2001 http://www.refugees.org/pub/somaliland.cfm?item_id=137
- Somaliland Centre for Peace and Development, 'A Self-Portrait of Somaliland: Rebuilding from the Ruins', December 1999 http://wsp.dataweb.ch/wspfiles/somalia/SelfPortrait24.doc
- International Crisis Group http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/project.cfm?subtypeid=31
- Relief Web http://wwww.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf/SR?OpenForm&Somalia&SortOrder=3&MaxResultsNum=50
- Brookings Institute http://www.brookings.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb116.htm
- United States Committee for Refugees http://www.uscr.org/world/countryrpt/africa/2001/somalia.htm
At the height of fighting in 1992, up to 2 million Somalis were internally displaced. By the end of 2002, rough estimates indicated that more than 350,000 Somalis were internally displaced, most of them women and children. This is approximately 5 per cent of the Somali population. About 150,000 of this number lived in Mogadishu, with approximately 15,000 in the port of Kismayo. The remainder were scattered throughout the country. An upsurge of inter-factional fighting during 2001-3 and a third consecutive year of drought in 2002 have pushed Somalia into a further cycle of population displacement.
The main causes of internal displacement have been the looting and destruction of food stocks, grazing lands, and trading roads. The destruction of the livelihoods of opposing clan factions has been a major instrument of the conflicts. The areas most affected have been in the south: Gedo, Bay, Bakool, the Lower and Middle Juba, and the ports of Mogadishu and Kismayo. Many IDPs come from the Bantu, Bajuni, and minority clans including the Rahanweyn. IDPs typically concentrate in urban areas such as Hargeisa (Somaliland), Bossaso (Puntland), and Mogadishu, where they mix with other indigent groups and refugees. They are typically located on the fringes of urban areas and are forced to make livelihoods through begging and casual work. As IDPs are dispersed amongst other groups, their living conditions are difficult to estimate. What evidence there is suggests high levels of undernourishment, disease, and vulnerability to human rights abuse. Most IDPs lack the protection of clans and effective social support. In reality, the de facto authorities throughout Somalia fail to protect the displaced and often divert humanitarian assistance intended for IDPs.
- Global IDP Database of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Somalia, June 2003 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/idpSurvey.nsf/wCountries/Somalia
- Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Internal Displacement Unit http://www.reliefweb.int/idp/partners/global.htm
- Global IDP Database, 'Internally displaced women and girls lack protection', 2003 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpprojectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/SearchResults/D00777446A9FCC69C12569910053C25A?OpenDocument
- Global IDP Database, 'Displaced people from minority groups seriously lack protection', 2002 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpprojectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/SearchResults/B12EF9EAD9406E94C12569910054BC43?OpenDocument
- Global IDP Database, 'Displaced children lack protection', 2003 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpprojectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/SearchResults/05A658225C529027C1256D44005A7B8A?OpenDocument
- Global IDP Database: Resources http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpprojectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/SearchResults?SearchView&Query=somalia&SearchMax=50&SearchWV=TRUE&SearchOrder=1&SearchThesaurus=FALSE&Seq=1
- Global IDP Database, 'Most IDPs have no access to drinking water and sanitation facilities', 2002 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpprojectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/SearchResults/91865BAE73940A68C12569910058C442?OpenDocument
In the 1990s Somalia became particularly susceptible to climatic change and the effects of drought and flooding. Conventional means of risk-saving had been eroded by the disruption of traditional kin relations and the partial proletarianisation of labour. Ecological degradation left pastoralists vulnerable to climatic change. The 1974-5 Dabadheer drought showed the results of long-term environmental degradation. Traditional risk-management devices were no match for the effects of the overexploitation of grazing land. The 1974-5 drought permanently destroyed pastoralism for many nomads. Twenty thousand died in the famine that followed the drought. Destitute pastoralists fled to relatives in the cities, further aggravating food shortages there ( Simons 1995 ).
Another major drought hit the inter-riverine area at the height of the civil war in 1991-2. As many as 300,000-500,000 Somalis lost their lives as a result of the ensuing famine, while 3 million were affected by it. The large number affected was the result of the spread of infectious diseases as large numbers gathered in relief camps. Drought further affected families in central and southern Somalia during 2000 (USCR 2002).
- US Committee for Refugees http://www.refugees.org/world/countryrpt/africa/somalia.htm
The inter-riverine areas are particularly vulnerable to periodic flooding. In 1997 flooding brought on by heavy rains forced 122,000 mostly Somali refugees to flee their camps in north-eastern Kenya. Some 2,000 individuals were believed to have drowned in the floods (USCR 1998). More than 200,000 were made homeless. The floods harmed individuals who were already displaced by the country's warfare, wiping out many of the makeshift encampments in Mogadishu. A further 6,000 persons were displaced by flooding of the Shabelle River in 2000.
- Somalia Country Center, Famine Early Warning Systems Network http://fews.net/Somalia/
- Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) http://www.cred.be/emdat/profiles/natural/somalia.htm
- United States Committee for Refugees http://www.uscr.org/world/countryrpt/africa/1998/somalia.htm
Barre's socialist experiments in the 1970s included the wholesale nationalisation of the economy and the marginalisation of pastoral producers. The attempt to control pastoral production resulted in disruptions to the traditional means of risk management. It was this factor which turned the 1974-5 drought into a major famine in the north and resulted in over 20,000 deaths. At the time, 10-15 per cent of the pastoral population were forced to register in relief camps. Widespread crop failures contributed to the effects of the drought. In line with the aim of domesticating pastoral producers, the Barre government transferred over 100,000 nomads from relief camps in the north to three sites in the arable areas of southern Somalia ( Ahmed and Green 1999 ).