Somalis Who Fled to Kenya Face New Violence : Africa: Authorities blame gunmen driven out by American and allied forces for murders and looting in camps.


There is food for the hungry here, if no rest for the weary.

Thousands of people who have fled Somalia are being restored to health by relief agencies at the Liboi refugee camp 9 miles from the border, but the violence from home is at their door once again.

Refugees and Kenyan officials blame a recent surge of murders and looting in the camp and surrounding countryside on gunmen driven from Somalia by American and allied soldiers.

“Every night the bandits come, the thieves,” said Rukia Abdulahi, 19, who lives at the camp with her parents. “They have lots of guns, and they bully us and beat people and take things.”


There is little protection.

The 45,000 refugees occupy thousands of small huts built of mud or sticks on an unfenced swath of land about a mile long and half a mile wide. Nearby Liboi, population 8,000, has only two police cars, so United Nations relief officials provide a third for patrols.

“We are afraid,” said Qalid Ibrahim, 15, a refugee living with his parents and two brothers.

Kenyans are afraid too. Their country is host to 400,000 refugees in 16 camps, most of them in the scrub land along its borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. The refugees include more than 300,000 Somalis, about 60,000 Ethiopians and 20,000 Sudanese.

U.N. officials say more than 18,000 Ethiopians have gone home voluntarily in the last few months because of improved conditions there.

Kenya wants all the refugees repatriated. The government says they are a security threat, and they overload the health care system and destroy the environment by using water and cutting trees for firewood and housing.

“Operation Restore Hope in Somalia has become Operation Create Chaos in Kenya,” said Kalonzo Musyoka, the foreign minister.


Camp residents and U.N. workers say most of the trouble is caused by bandits and renegade militiamen forced out of Somalia.

In the five months before Dec. 9, when the first U.S. Marines landed in Somalia, there were 55 attacks at the 14 refugee camps housing Somalis, said Panos Moumtzis, a U.N. spokesman. He said 37 people were killed, including refugees, policemen and bandits, and 69 wounded.

During the next six weeks, he said, 40 people were killed and 25 wounded in 25 attacks.

“There are attacks on individual huts in the camps, food markets in camps and relief agencies,” Moumtzis said.

As journalists boarded a plane after touring the Liboi camp, a refugee slipped a note into a reporter’s hand. It said the gunmen are loyal to Mohamed Siad Hirsi, a son-in-law of Mohammed Siad Barre, the deposed Somali dictator.

Since Siad Barre’s flight into exile last April, Siad Hirsi, known as Gen. Morgan, has continued the war in central and southern Somalia against those who overthrew his father-in-law.

When journalists toured the border to interview refugees earlier in January, Morgan arrived to talk to them, pulling up in a vehicle with a dozen heavily armed men.

At the impromptu news conference in a grassy strip of land between Kenya and Somalia, he denied that his men were responsible for the terror in the camps.

“They are not our forces,” said Morgan, who wore blue jeans tucked into calf-high black boots and a dress shirt over a camouflage T-shirt.

Whoever is responsible for the attacks, Kenyans and relief agencies agree that more security is needed.

Kenya’s government is sending extra police and army units to troubled areas but continues to insist that the refugees must leave because they attracted the problem.

“Home is good, but for the time being it is very difficult to go to Somalia because the problems between Somalis themselves are not really settled,” said Hassan Farah, 46, a former businessman and official who said he had been at Liboi for two years with about 100 members of his extended family.