Little Mogadishu has been under siege for more than four weeks. Half of the Somali population here is either in Kasarani camp (a makeshift camp set-up at a football stadium 10 kilometers outside of Eastleigh), has been deported back to Mogadishu, or sent to the Dadaab or Kakuma refugee camps. The remaining half, including my brother and I, are forced to stay indoors for our own safety. We can’t go out for food, water, and medicine.
My colleague Michael Boyce and I are currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we will be traveling to both North Kivu Province in the northeast and Katanga Province in the southeast. With more than 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs), DRC has one of the largest displaced populations in the world.
Like most buildings on the seafront in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, the Nady el Togoreen or “Accountants Club” has seen better days. The concrete is crumbling, the paint is flaking, and the club’s two outdoor swimming pools have long since been emptied of water. Now they are filled with broken deck chairs and sunloungers.
Today, I spent the afternoon with a group of Syrian refugee women living here in Cairo. Some of them were considered vulnerable by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and were able to get small amounts of aid for food and rent. Many had children who dropped out of school in Egypt in order to provide for their families. Most had husbands in Syria whom they worried about constantly. All were hoping to go somewhere besides Egypt, but were losing faith that it could really happen.
Hungry and scared, I got up the courage to come out of our building in the morning to eat at a small restaurant on 8th Street in Eastleigh. What happened was so embarrassing. A Kenyan who was eating there immediately ran to the door and closed it before I came in. A few seconds later, the owner opened the door and told me, “Toka hapa” – “Leave here.” I walked back to my house starving.
This was the closest restaurant to our house. The Somali restaurants I sometimes visit were not open. Most of their owners and workers were spending their days in Pangani police station.
Late last week, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for another year. The responsibilities of the mission remain largely unchanged and include protecting civilians and neutralizing armed groups. But the Council did do something new in the lengthy resolution: they made it clear that they were looking for the exit.
In December 2013, in Juba, South Sudan, fighting broke out between soldiers of the Nuer and Dinka ethnicity within the presidential guard. This fighting quickly spread throughout the country, as the Dinka aligned themselves with the country’s president, Salva Kiir, and the Nuer aligned themselves with the former vice-president, Riek Machar. Despite attempts to negotiate an end to the fighting, battles between the national army and the opposition forces continue, and the country remains incredibly insecure.
While a great deal of international attention has been given to the massive number of Syrian refugees who have crossed into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, it is often forgotten that many Syrians – up to 300,000 according to some estimates – have made the somewhat longer journey to the nearby state of Egypt.