Somali crisis: Amnesty criticises evictions in Mogadishu

Camp for homeless in Mogadishu 8 Aug 2013 Amnesty says it has seen evidence of camps being destroyed

Amnesty International has denounced the forcible eviction of tens of thousands of homeless people from makeshift camps in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The human rights group says the process has led to "large-scale human rights abuses" including the killing of two people during protests.

Some 370,000 people have been living in the camps, having fled drought, famine and fighting.

But their presence is hampering the government's drive to rebuild the city.

In the past year the authorities have gained greater control of Mogadishu from the Islamist group al-Shabab.

Start Quote

The government has the right to reclaim land and buildings belonging to its former institutions, so that it can offer the public service that is needed,”

End Quote Mohammed Yusuf Mogadishu city official

The government announced in January a plan to relocate hundreds of thousands of displaced people to camps on the outskirts of the city.

The Amnesty report says the "relocation plan could have been a positive development" if it had respected "the security, fundamental rights and basic needs" of displaced people.

However, Amnesty added, the government plan proved to be "inherently flawed" and "seems to have resulted in large-scale human rights abuses and forced evictions".

Officials defended the evictions saying such reports had a tendency to be "far from the truth" and the removals were "good for security as well as the image of the city".

"The government has the right to reclaim land and buildings belonging to its former institutions, so that it can offer the public service that is needed," Mogadishu local government spokesman Mohammed Yusuf told the BBC's Newsday programme.

"For that purpose, we move out people living on such lands or in those buildings... We tell them to put the national interest before the individual interest."

Shelters flattened

Precarious future

A young boy looking out a makeshift house in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia

The report says an eight-year old child and a mother of nine children were killed and several other residents were injured on 14 August when security forces opened fire on residents protesting against the eviction of a large settlement.

Some residents told Amnesty bulldozers had flattened their shelters, destroying their possessions and leaving them with nowhere to go.

When Amnesty delegates visited the area on 21 August they said they had seen evidence of a large number of shelters having been recently destroyed.

In March, Human Right Watch said displaced women in Mogadishu were reporting being gang-raped in the camps.

The group said managers of the camps - often allied to militias - were siphoning off food and other aid.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office a year ago in a UN-backed bid to end two decades of violence, with clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbours all battling for control of the country.

Al-Shabab, or "The Youth", is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia - and despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it still remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside and launches attacks in Mogadishu.

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