Report on Mission to

Djibouti and Boraama (N/W Somalia)

10-17 January 1995

Frederic Vigneau

Field Officer

UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

General

In various meetings held late in 1994 to consider the implications of recent fighting in and around Hargeysa, the United Nation's Disaster Management Team in Ethiopia collectively agreed that the UN Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia should maintain a "watching brief" with regard to the situation in North West Somalia and UN relief operations there as part of a strategy to coordinate and, if possible, balance assistance to needy groups on both sides of the international border.

Pursuant to this mandate, and following an invitation from UNHCR, the Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia assigned one field officer as an observer to attend the meeting of the Emergency Task Force for "Somaliland" scheduled to take place in Boraama on Wednesday, 11 January 1995.

Itinerary

10/01/95> Addis Ababa

> Djibouti

11/01> Djibouti

> Boraama

12/01> Boraama

> Djibouti

13-16/01> Djibouti

17/01> Djibouti

> Addis Ababa

Summary of the Inter Agency Task Force Meeting

27 people were present from the 15 UN agencies and International NGOs listed below:

UNICEFCARE Int'l

FAOGTZ

WFPSCF (UK)

UNHCRMSF (H)

ODA (Somaliland/Addis Ababa)OXFAM (UK)

UN-EUEICRC

COOPI (Italian Cooperation)

Health Unlimited

Handicap International

The purpose of this meeting was to get an update on the emergency situation and the activities covering assistance to Internal Displaced People (IDPs) in North West Somalia. It was the first time since the Emergency Task Force became operational in Boraama/Gabiley that members of International agencies operating in Burao and hence covering IDPs of the opposition of the government of "Somaliland" were able to attend the Task Force meeting.

International NGOs and UN agencies have visited most of the displacement centres and have already provided some assistance. However, in order to cover the emergency needs of the majority of the IDPs and in their location, priority needs were still identified as:

. Shelter (Plastic sheeting, blankets etc.)

. Water (until the end of the dry season: March/April)

. Food

In response to the assistance requested by the central administration to the IDPs, the Emergency Task Force has set up a "Negotiation Committee" to meet the administration in Hargeysa. According to the priority needs, the committee is composed of:

. UNHCR: Shelter

. UNICEF: Water/Sanitation

. SCF(UK) : " " "

. WFP: Food

. UNDP/OPS: Security/Movement of people

Also, the meeting noted that whereas distribution of non-food items has not caused serious problems, distribution of food is a problem on the opposition side. A GTZ official is under arrest by the government for involment in distributing food around Odweine "Opposition held areas". According to the GTZ representative, all necessary authorizations from the central administration had been given prior to undertaking distribution.

In the coming days, the "Negotiation Committee" will discuss with the Government, among other issues, this specific problem in order to have a common policy and understanding regarding food and non food distributions.

In addition, ICRC is planning to carry out a nutritional assessment mission among the IDPs in the coming days.

Following the Medecins du Monde (MDM) security incident in Gabiley (a bomb exploded in the office/residence of MDM, fortunately no one was injured), the UNDP/OPS, as the security coordinator, was asked to investigate the case.

It was noted that if the security situation in Hargeysa were improving, increasing number of IDPs might return to some parts of Hargeysa and that there would be a need to assist the town. Of course, the return of the International agencies will be subject to security regulation as well as advice from the Central Administration. The administration of Hargeysa has already asked the International Community to return and assist the needy people.

At present, except for Hargeysa, the regular programmes of various Agencies were on-going and expanding to the other N.W Regions of Somalia.

Furthermore, there are reports that some IDPs from Gabiley, "Government"- held areas, are returning to Hargeysa. The percentage of these "returnees" is not known yet.

UN Modalities

All the UN agencies in "Somaliland" have different ways of reporting to their head offices:

UNHCR : reports directly to Geneva (Bureau d'Afrique N.3)

WFP : reports to Muqdisho

UNICEF : reports to Nairobi

UNDP : reports to Muqdisho/Nairobi

Coordination mechanism for the emergency needs

As mentioned above, due to the different reporting procedures, the information and communication systems are quite complex among the UN agencies. Also, if balanced assistance to needy groups on both sides of the Ethiopian and "Somaliland" borders is to be envisaged, a full exchange of information across the "front" and across the border will be required. Consequently, the "approach" was defined as follows:

. sharing reports

. direct communications

. integrated, co-ordinated logistics

. common approach to donors

To fulfill at least three of the above four points, it was decided that apart from their regular programmes the UNHCR Djibouti office, which also provides the main logistical support to UNHCR operation in North West Somalia, will be used as a "mail box" to exchange information between the Emergency Task Force in "Somaliland" and Ethiopia, with an additional copy for their own use.

With the same aim in mind, it was clearly acknowledged that the UNHCR in N.W Somalia is best-placed to be the lead-agency as it maintains a presence in the area and has also opened offices both in opposition areas and on the government side. At present, UNHCR Boraama maintains a "monitoring and co-ordination role" among the UN and NGOs through the organisation, on a regular basis, of Emergency Task Force meetings.

UNHCR North West Somalia agreed it would assist the IDPs with non-food items provided that a NGO or an institution like ICRC would implement the distribution. Though this is not normally within the mandate of ICRC, even if they operate through the Red Cresent, a preliminary agreement is taking place in Geneva between the respective headquarters.

It was also agreed that for any urgent radio communication, UNHCR Boraama and the Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia could established direct contact.

Political update from North West Somalia

According to various contacts:

After the heavy fighting in Hargeysa on Wednesday 11 January, during which the governmental troops pushed away the opposition as far as twenty kilometers south from the town and "freed" the Hargeysa airport, there were some rumors that the Hargeysa government called the different clans for peace talks. So far, it seems that no one has responded to this appeal. Also during the fighting, the governmental troops had apparently captured vehicles and artillery and taken prisoners.

In addition, from around 15 January, hostility increased between the Habar Je'elo and the Haber Yonis clans in the town of Burao, mainly because the Habar Je'elo had declared their support to the Government. This town is more or less evenly shared by the two clans.

At the same time, from the Iidegale clan opposition in the main town of Salahley, south of Hargeysa, there are rumors that private planes coming from Muqdisho are landing "daily" to provide weapons and munitions. As the result of the conflict, the opposition is requesting medical assistance although they recently received medical supplies from international medical aid sources.

Also of note is a report that the Hargeysa administration is insisting that any export of livestock must be passed through the Hargeysa commercial bank for approval. At present it is the high season for animal exports, due to the upcoming religious Muslim celebration of Ramadan. If this plan is implemented, the Habar Yonis may face a kind "economic blockade". This could have repercussions, as the Habar Yonis are a minority in the port of Berbera, facing the Habar Awal from the Government side.

In the town of Boraama which "belongs" to the Gadabursi clan negotiations are ongoing for the handing over of the security and management of the airport from the militia to the local authorities.

A UN/NGO meeting called by the administration in Hargeysa should have taken place around the 20/21 January 1995.

Meetings with several officials in Djibouti

French Embassy

When flooding destroyed part of Djibouti town in November 1994, the French Government responded to the crisis with provision of supplies such as water pumps, plastic sheeting and blankets for the disaster affected population, not all of which was used. On the other hand, "Somaliland" is facing an emergency situation, it may require additional assistance i.e. the use and loan of this equipment. The issue was discussed with the French Embassy officials, who have promised to explore the possibility of utilising stocks which were provide to Djibouti.

Another purpose of these discussions was to inform the French Embassy of the upcoming visit of the UNDP representative for Somalia as well as the unofficial request to the French Government to respond to any emergency evacuation of expatriate personnel in the territory of "Somaliland" after the official departure of UNOSOM.

UNHCR Djibouti

The repatriation operation from Djibouti to Ethiopia which started last year (7,500 to 8,000 people) will continue until the beginning of the next rainy season, March/April 1995. The number of people to be transported from the camps in Djibouti and from the town of Djibouti is still under consideration. The relocation areas of these returnees are mainly in Region 5: up to 95% of the people will go to Jijiga, Fik, Gursum etc.

Also the Government of Ethiopia (ARRA) informed UNHCR Djibouti that the assistance given to the newcomers from "Somaliland" so far includes provision of shelter material and food distribution for an initial period of three months.

UNHCR Djibouti continues its logistical support to N.W Somalia and as of Sunday 15 January, they have sent 9 planes with non-food items to Boraama and Nabadiid.

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    Editor: Ali B. Dinar, (aadinar@sas.upenn.edu)