The United Nations (UN) is deeply concerned about the continuous withdrawal of international troops from Somalia and the subsequent takeover of such ‘abandoned’ territories by al-shabaab insurgents.
According to the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the situation is worsening the humanitarian situation in Somalia battling insurgency.
Ethiopia has since July 2, 2016 withdrawn some of its troops from neighbouring Somalia. Territories that they leave are almost always taken over by al Shabaab. The last withdrawal (on October 26) was in the town of Tayeglow in the Bakool region.
‘‘Since July 2016, non-state armed actors have taken control of eight locations in Bakool, Galgaduug and Hiraan regions of Somalia following the departure of international troops.
‘‘The takeover by non-state armed groups has exposed civilians to significant protection risks and further reduced humanitarian access in areas that are already hard to reach,” an OCHA statement said.
The locations now in the hands of al shabaab include Rab Dhuure, Bur Dhuxelne, Garas Weyne and Tayeeglow in Bakool region; Budbud and Galcad in Galgaduud region; Moqokori, Ceel Cali and Halgan in Hiraan region.
According to the UN body, the takeover by non-state armed actors has triggered displacements of thousands of people, including some who were already displaced. Civilians remaining in these locations have reportedly been subjected to retribution attacks, including apprehension, torture, killings and forced recruitments.
Humanitarian impact and needs
The withdrawals also have the potential to scuttle the work of humanitarian organizations operating in the affected areas. The UN said the situation even endangered the lives of such workers especially when notice of withdrawal is short or absent.
‘‘When troop realignment and reconfiguration entail troop withdrawals with minimal or no advance warning, it leaves the local population and humanitarian organizations vulnerable as militias move in and occupy the vacated locations.
‘‘Disruption of humanitarian projects often leaves people in the affected locations with no alternative means to meet their needs,’‘ the statement noted.
In Tayeeglow in Bakool region which previously hosted 7,200 internally displaced people, humanitarian partners have temporarily suspended operations due to concerns over staff safety and assets.
Similar troop withdrawals in early 2013 resulted in some 5,000 to 10,000 civilians fleeing to Ceel Barde, some 90 kilometers north of Tayeeglow along the Somali-Ethiopian border.