Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 10:23 GMT

Kenya-Somalia: "I never regret being in Dadaab"

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 23 March 2012
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Kenya-Somalia: "I never regret being in Dadaab", 23 March 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f742cdf2.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Dadaab, which is home to an estimated 463,000 Somali refugees, has since November 2011 recorded a series of  abductions and road-side bombs, which the Kenyan police attribute to people linked to Somalia's insurgent Al-Shabab group.

[Hujale] It is another year in Dadaab, one that finds me still struggling for a better life, a better future and of course freedom; freedom to live independently and to decide the path that will shape my ambitions. 

I never regret being in Dadaab though. I believe if I had been in Somalia for the past two decades I would have either been caught up in the crossfire or my future would have been ruined. But the past four months have been quite tough and very scary with unprecedented grenade explosions, killings and rigorous police operations; Dadaab has never been the same again. 

Fear 

I remember one morning in late December 2011 when the police entered the residential blocks and started beating people; I heard people screaming and policemen shouting. I saw many people running behind our fence as they called out for me to follow. My mother was frightened, she was scared for me. From the look on her face I could tell how helpless she was feeling as she grabbed her falling headscarf. I did not run at first, until I saw the police beating an old man. 

I wandered through the residential blocks with other colleagues the whole day, returning home in the evening.

I took my notebook and camera to document the aftermath of the incident. What I saw was horrifying: women complaining of attempted rape, a mother whose youngest child was beaten in front of her, injured men sleeping on mats in their houses with no medical care, shops that had been broken into and businessmen who had lost their savings. 

I feel that Dadaab does not offer full protection for refugees; it has become a place where anyone can be targeted. Refugees fear an unknown enemy and the sad thing is that even when the police offend you, you cannot talk about it. Fear has engulfed the whole camp; I feel unsafe.

However, these days it is getting calmer. Aid operations are resuming and there has been no terror incident for quite some time now; I pray that the situation remains the same.

Stalled dreams 

Despite all this, 2012 is showing promise and I am very optimistic that I will achieve my dreams even though the so-called scholarship that I got from the Somali government last year did not work out.  I was extremely excited having been sponsored by my own Somali government; I thought I had regained my identity at last but what followed was disappointing. The programme was cancelled for reasons that were not clarified.   

Since 2011 over 1,000 students have been taken from Mogadishu by the Somali Transitional Federal government to Turkey, Sudan and Malaysia. But none of the learned Dadaab youths have been given the opportunity. Many people say that some of the students who were sponsored by Mogadishu were not qualified, others were even repatriated from Turkey after failing to adapt to university life; many of them got the opportunity through nepotism and corruption. 

Rebuilding Somalia 

Anyway, I am glad that at least there is some development in my country despite the complications in its administration and that will never kill my spirit to dedicate my skills to rebuilding my home country.

In the recent past, there has been a shift in focus among the Dadaab youth which I also strongly feel. We need to go back to Somalia to bring about the change the Somali people are yearning for. Some years ago, most of the youth wanted to resettle either in America or Europe to escape the harsh conditions of the camps; the encampment policy and the limited opportunities. 

However, these days almost all the educated youths are willing to go back to Somalia to take part in the reconstruction of their war-torn country as resettlement chances become slimmer. 

The main evening talk at the tea shops among my friends is about Somalia these days. The 23 February London conference was also a hot agenda; there is a glimmer of hope. Our attention is now focused on the hope of stability in Somalia and I find comfort in that. 

Empowering refugees 

After living this long in a refugee camp, since 1997, how am I preparing to be a future leader of my country? Is there a long-term vision for refugees to be trained as leaders rather than just calling for donations to feed them? As the international community gathers to stabilize Somalia, what plans does the UN Refugee Agency have for Dadaab refugees who are supposed to go back and rebuild their home country? How much capacity do we have to run our own development programmes as managers to steer the fallen nation towards success? I think we had better learn how to fish instead of waiting for free fish.

I am asking these questions because I hear them every day echoing in my mind and from my friends too. 

The Somali Diaspora youth are in a better position than us. I have been following one of these Somali Diaspora-based youth organizations known as, Worldwide Somali Students and Professionals, who are mobilizing learned Somali youths from around the world. I am hoping to follow them into Somalia in June 2012 as they bring over 1,000 Diaspora youths to train fellow Somalis in literacy, health, agriculture and general education for two to three months. 

This is a voluntary service and I hope to have enough money then so that I will be able to proudly participate for the betterment of my people.

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