Relief SCENE:Security
Somali Refugees Killed in Chaos at Kenyan Camp
Youths Storm Police Station to Protest Demolition of Refugee Businesses
By ADOW JUBAT, M ARTE 06/30/2011
UPDATE: All UN and NGO staff were put on high alert and ordered not leave their respective camps until the situation is fully under control. Refugees were stopped from transporting the corpses for burial from MSF Dagahley Hospital.

At least two Somali refugees were killed in a bitter confrontation with police over the demolition of make-shift businesses in Dagahley refugee camp in the Dadaab district of Garissa County in Kenya.

A demolition squad, using bulldozers and acting on orders by a local refugee agency, descended on business premises that were said to have encroached on to the main road, causing tension as the refugees tried to stop the demolition exercise.

More than twelve others were also seriously injured in the chaos that lasted for more than six hours after police used live ammunition and tear gas to thwart the refugees, estimated at over 5,000, from over running a police station in the sprawling refugees camp.

Eye-witness Mohamed Deek said the deceased were among a group of protesting youths who were angered by the demolition of make-shift businesses.

“The Directorate of Refugees Affairs used bulldozers to flatten the premises at midnight on Wednesday after notices to close went unanswered. The demolition action enraged the owners who mobilized the youth to confront the security personnel," he explained to Somalia Report.

Police were called in to intervene. “They initially started to fire in the air in an effort to disperse people who were trying to stop the demolition,” said Faisal Abubakar, one of the refugees at the camp.

But the situation got worse, and the refugees began throwing stones at the police and some of them used Pangas and sticks.

“The youth, armed with all kinds of crude weapons, attacked three security officers and overwhelmed them. The youth chased the police to their station, provoking the officers to use live ammunition against the refugees,” said Mohamed.

“Police began firing at the demonstrators,” added Abubakar, who visited some of the injured at the hospital.

Dadaab Police Division Commander Nekson Talitis, under whose jurisdiction the camp falls, told the Somalia Report that the police were forced to use live ammunition after the rowdy youth were attempting to over run the police station.

"My officers had to secure the police station in any available means. We feared that the youth who were over 5,000 had an ulterior motive to snatch fire arms from the station," said Mr Talitis.

The refugees were treated at an MSF facility at the camp, while the injured officers were rushed to Dadaab health center for treatment.

He said more 35 male youths were apprehended and several crude weapons including machetes, Somali swords, and blunt objects were recovered from the rioters.

Mr. Talitis said the trouble started at 2pm after rowdy youth barricaded the main roads in the refugees camp with twisted and crumbed remains of the flattened illegal premises. The Kenya Directorate of Refugees Affairs, a national body entrusted with refugees issues, had given the owners of 30 makeshift businesses seven days notice to remove the structures but they refused the order, forcing today’s bulldozing and ensuing chaos.

Camp community leader, Bashir Sheikh Mohammud, who spoke to Somalia Report, blamed the refugee agencies saying they did not involve camp leaders on the planned demolition exercise.

“We were not informed of the demolition,” he said, adding that the situation would have been a lot better had the agencies involved community leaders.

“We regret about the loss of life,” said Mr Mohammud who accused the police of using excessive force when dealing with situation.

“We are not happy about how the way situation was handled and we are asking the police not to use live bullets against innocent refugees,” he said.

Two weeks ago more than seven people were seriously injured, including police officers, after a similar confrontations occurred after the police battled out the Somali refugees attempted to loot food from CARE food distributions center.

The camps in Dadaad district make up one of the world's largest concentrations of refugees, hosting more than 300,000 refugees majority from war-torn Somalia.

Over the years, some of the refugees began running small business, mostly using money they receive from their relative in abroad, as a measure to cope with the harsh life at the camp. The small business structures mushroomed, blocking roads and access routes within the camps.