Somali Benadir Refugees [Archives:2001/24/Focus]

June 11 2001

Dr. Abdulkadir Mao Omar
Member of Benadir Community in Yemen

As a member of the Benadir community living in Yemen as a refugee ,I wish ,first of all to express particular appreciation to the Yemeni authorities and the people of Yemen for their hospitality by way of admission of thousands of Somali refugees into their country, particularly the Somali Benadir refugees after the tragic event of the civil war in 1991. The same note of appreciation is also expressed to the Yemen Times for their sympathy in publishing our feelings.
The Yemen Times published two articles concerning the Somali Benadir refugees and Somali refugees in general. The two articles have different meanings, for which I need to explain my response to the article on Benadir refugees’ complaint published in March 2001 and the rejoinder issued by the local UNHCR, the NGO in charge of the management of the health center. Their main aim was to discredit the genuine case of the Somali Benadir refugees upon the assumption that they will get a reward for their efforts. The reaction of the local UNHCR was contained in the other article published on April 2, 2001 under the title “UNHCR Representative Replies to Somali Refugees.” The article carried the feelings of all Somali refugees living in Yemen by viewing the tragedy of the Benadir community as a common human problem that all Somali refugees are facing. I want to explain, first of all, as a member of the community the intent of the civil war in Somalia of December 1990 in which we became the main target to be annihilated; including our people of Benadir community and our neighboring community.
We had experienced killing, torture, rape, looting and other forms of persecution before we left for Yemen in 1992. In this war barbaric atrocities were committed by the well-armed militiamen against this community who were unarmed. Consequently they suffered severe persecution and ethnic discrimination. In fact they became one of the worst affected and homeless people victimized by powerful and heavily armed clans whose aims were to intimidate and exterminate the legitimate community of the Benadir region, mainly inhabited by the unarmed “RER HAMR” sub clans and lower Shebelli region predominantly inhabited by unarmed ” Digil” sub clans. Obviously the main objectives behind those barbaric atrocities and systematic ethnic cleansings were to illegally snatch properties, lands, farms, houses, equipment from the legitimate owners and resettle the intruders. These precarious conditions forced the Benadir community to flee from their homeland and seek refuge in neighboring countries.
As a result ,we are now virtually empty- handed. We lost everything in the meaningless war which intended to seize the lands of unarmed and pacifist people of Benadir and lower Shebelli regions. We were expelled from our homeland Mogadishu, Jasira Gendershe, Merka, Brava. No wonder we were politically oppressed during the entire period of 30 years when the Somali nation was an independent state. Nevertheless, the response of the UNHCR representative made us realize that it was rather intended to ignore completely the plight of Benadir refugees. In this regard I want to say that the greatest errors in registering the Somalis arriving in Yemen have arisen out of the failure to distinguish between those who are genuine refugees and others who are not. Many Somalis such as those who arrived from Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti had not shared any suffering with their brothers in Somalia. However, they were classified as Somali refugees. No wonder, the UNHCR failed to recognize the difference between the Banadir refugees case and the other cases belonging to other Somali communities. What is more surprising in the context is that the local UNHCR seems to escape its responsibility to apprise the cause of our tragedy to the hosting country which is one of the signatory nations of the refugee convention.
The resettlement of Benadir refugees is the responsibility of the local UNHCR (vide letter Ken, NRB ,RP, 95 ,28 068 dated 14 November 1995 issued from the office of the UNHCR representative Mr.Albert Alain Peters to Ms. Linda Thomas Greenfield, first secretary refugee affairs.) By virtue of that letter our fellow citizens in Kenya were considered to be eligible for U.S refugee program and were taken to U.S.
The Benadir community in Yemen is well-organized and has a community board like other countries. The board has all records of ethnic Benadir communities living in Yemen.
Our great expectation is that the international community will sympathize with our plight as it did in many parts of the world to protect oppressed minority ethnic groups.