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Cathy Jenkins
"The refugees left their country eight years ago."
 real 28k

Sunday, 2 January, 2000, 13:28 GMT
Somali refugees face bleak future

Somali refugees Somali refugees in a Dadaab camp in Kenya

Since the beginning of Somalia's civil war, thousands of refugees have poured into neighbouring Kenya. The BBC's Cathy Jenkins reports on the hopes and fears of these long-term refugees from the Dadaab camps in north-east Kenya.

The road to the compound where the aid workers from the Dadaab refugee camps live is lined with rolls of barbed wire.

A large gate, manned by security officers, marks the entrance.

It is a mini-fortress in the middle of a flat, scrubby, featureless landscape.

boy at water pump A Somali boy collects water in a refugee camp
This is bandit land. The relief organisations take their safety seriously.

No one drives outside the headquarters without an armed escort. Everyone returns before dark.

The Dadaab camps are in Kenya's north-east province which borders Somalia.

The area is awash with guns which have flowed easily over the porous frontier since Somalia's civil war began in 1991.


Somali women walking Somali women risk being attacked while gathering firewood
The bandits are ethnic Somalis who live in the area, and Somalis who cross backwards and forwards between the two countries.

The odd United Nations four-wheel drive has changed hands over the barrel of a gun.

One morning I followed some women who had been collecting firewood from the bush.

Nowadays they are having to walk further and further from the camp to find suitable trees.

Somali rape victims A Somali rape victims group
They do so in fear - many have been attacked and raped by bandits.

When I was with them, they enjoyed the luxury of my armed guard. The soldiers fanned out between the thorn bushes and kept watch.

Normally the women would have no such protection.

Life goes on

Somalis are known for being inveterate traders and the refugees are no exception.

Somali market in Dadaab camp Somalis are inveterate traders
Inside the camp there are markets where vegetables, rolls of cloth, goat and camel's milk are sold.

It makes for a colourful scene. The narrow corridor between the stalls bulges with excited people.

For many of the 120,000 people at Dadaab, the camps will be home for the forseeable future.

In a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office, I met a woman who was off to Australia.

She has been selected for resettlement. She cannot name any city in Australia, but nevertheless she is over the moon to be going there.

She will always be a Somali, she says, but in a few years time her children will be little Australians.

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See also:
28 Jun 99 |  Africa
Eyewitness: Rule by the gun in Mogadishu
23 Dec 99 |  Africa
Clash in Somalia's Sool region
22 Dec 99 |  Africa
Warlords agree on Mogadishu authority
17 Sep 99 |  Africa
Somalia aid workers in peril
05 Dec 98 |  Africa
Diplomats expelled from Somalia

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