Accountability for IDPs in informal camps in Somalia

The Context

Decades of civil war and unrest in Somalia have altered the space for political competition over resource management and exercise of public authority. The absence of a coherent capable state left a vacuum to be filled by various non- state actors competing over, claiming and exercising de facto public authority. This led to a situation where services, which had long been considered core functions of the state, such as security and justice, were being provided by non- state actors.

The poor security situation and targeting of Westerners and humanitarian actors by militia groups such as Al-Shabaab during the civil war, led to the withdrawal of many humanitarian agencies during the ‘90s and the implementation of remote management. This created a vacuum, which allowed the gatekeeper system to emerge.

The gatekeeper system has been in place since the beginning of the ‘90s and in the absence of a functioning state apparatus, the ISMs provide much-needed protection, shelter and other services to the IDPs. However, they generally do so in a non-transparent way and with lack of accountability both upwards, in relation to government structures, and downwards towards the IDPs.

Facts on the IDPs in Somalia
• There are approx. 1.1 million IDPs in Somalia of which 470,000 live in Mogadishu.
• The first IDPs arrived in 1991, the latest arrived yesterday.
• Around 85% of these people are internally displaced and the settlements in which they reside do not have any official status.
• There are close to 500 informal settlements where the IDPs reside in 17 districts of Mogadishu.
• These are all run by what is often labelled Gatekeepers, or what we call Informal Settlement Managers (ISMs). They are the de facto leaders of the settlements.
• ISMs provide land, security and services and charge IDPs a fee in return.
• No NGO or government support can be provided without the involvement and approval of the ISMs.

Despite the fact that the system has developed into a more consolidated and resilient structure through the years, the local government has paid little attention to them until now. Moreover, while the humanitarian community are forced to work with the ISMs, few considerations have been placed on how to deal with them in a systematic and constructive way.

Tana is trying to change this with inputs from the Implementation and Analysis in Action of Accountability (IAAAP) funded by DFID.