Somalia + 2 more

Dadaab Returnee Conflict Assessment (August 2017)


Executive Summary

General Findings

  • The anticipated return of up to 250,000 Somali refugees from Kenya into southern Somalia in 2017 or later is not expected to trigger or exacerbate large-scale communal or political conflict in the short term. But in the longer term the return will intensify pressure on some very dangerous and unresolved faultlines in Somalia, related to land, identity, rights, and demography.

  • The February 2017 ruling by a Kenyan court blocking closure of Dadaab refugee camp has slowed but not stopped the process of repatriation. But the Kenyan government has a variety of means at its disposal to create “push” factors to incentivise return, even if the camps are not formally closed.
    Reduced rations and basic services are leading Somali families to continue to repatriate in 2017.

  • The March 25 IGAD “Nairobi Declaration on Somali Refugees” could constitute a major policy shift if fully implemented, and offers Somali refugees options in Kenya beyond camp life.

  • The impact of the returnees will be felt almost entirely in a few urban centres of southern Somalia, especially Kismayo. Their return will accelerate an already dramatic rate of urbanisation in contemporary Somalia, and highlight sensitive conflict issues related to exclusivist clan claims on Somalia’s cities.

  • The return is occurring in a challenging and non-permissive environment in southern Somalia. Al Shabaab continues to hold the rural areas where most of the refugees originate. Much of the region remains chronically insecure. Urban unemployment is exceptionally high. And a severe drought has impacted the main areas of return.

  • The prospect of an AMISOM withdrawal in 2018-20 will create new uncertainties over security in areas of return.

  • Many of the returning refugees are members of the Digil-Mirifle clan and/or are Somali Bantu from Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba, of Bay regions. They are socially and politically weak groups. They pose little immediate threat to existing power relations in cities such as Kismayo and Mogadishu, which are dominated by more powerful clan-families (the Darood clan-family in Kismayo, the Hawiye clan family in Mogadishu). But the returnees will be more vulnerable to predation.

  • The returnees will accelerate a major demographic shift in Mogadishu and Kismayo, increasing the percentage of Digil-Mirifle and Somali Bantu residents. Chauvinistic elements in the dominant clans could press for forced evictions of Digil-Mirifle and Somali Bantu to their “home territories.” • This demographic challenge exposes the fact that Somalia’s current political order has never resolved fundamental debates over identity and territory in the country. Right by blood – membership in a clan – dominates discourse over who may live and claim access to protection and resources in Somalia’s major cities. In Kismayo and Mogadishu, this means that the returnees of Digil-Mirifle and Bantu identity will be exchanging refugee status in Kenya for status as “guests” with limited rights in their own country.

  • The returnees are also helping to expose the fact that the designation “IDP” carries a very different meaning in Somalia then it does in international humanitarian parlance. In Somalia, IDP is code for a Somali from a low status group who is living in a city dominated by a more powerful clan and who is poor and squatting or renting in a slum.

  • The vulnerability of the returnees is magnified by the fact that many of the returnee households are female-headed.

  • Humanitarian aid has long been a major target of diversion and corruption, especially when that aid is directed at socially weak groups. Assistance aimed at returnees will be no exception.

  • Where aid programmes for the returnees gives them a significant if temporary advantage over host communities and IDPs, communal tensions could spike.

  • Local government officials in all of the main areas of return are likely to try to leverage the returnees in order to demand more aid programmes from the international community.

  • Employment will be a source of competition between returnees, IDPs, and host communities.

  • Returnees may seek to use their financial packages to purchase land in areas of return, but this will vary by location. High land prices in Mogadishu will make it difficult to afford there; land prices in Kismayo are high but possibly within reach; land in Baidoa is affordable and already returnees are purchasing plots