Over 56,000 people displaced in Gedo as FGS troops seize Beled Hawo
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A humanitarian crisis is brewing up in conflict-hit Gedo region, the United Nations has said, with thousands of residents fleeing from the border town of Beled-Hawo.
A fierce gunfight between Somali National Army [SNA] troops and Jubaland forces erupted for the better part of Monday, with the battle leaving at least three people dead and scores injured.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has been at loggerheads with Jubaland leader Ahmed Madobe, with the latter accusing FGS of conspiracy to establish a rival parallel regional administration in Gedo.
A preliminary report indicates that at least 56,000 people have been displaced in Gedo, following the standoff which started building in February when FGS deployed over 700 SNA troops, UN noted.
“All efforts must be made to minimize harm to civilians and damage to schools, health centers, and homes,” Adam Abdelmoula, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia said.
“I urge parties to take all the necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian assets amid the escalation in violence.”
Businesses were closed down on Monday, with gunshots renting air in the town, in a battle that lasted for several hours. FGS claimed that the assault targeted "Al-Shabaab militants" in a conflict that also spread to Bula-Amin.
Most IDPs moved towards Doolow town, which had also been seized by FGS troops, others took refuge in Luuq with some hiding in bushes outside Bula-Hawo, the official said.
“It is imperative for all parties to safeguard the movement of civilians out of conflict areas in safety and dignity so that they may have unobstructed access to humanitarian protection and assistance,” he said.
Normalcy had been restored on Tuesday within the town, whose commination links had been cut beside the unprecedented closure of schools and hospitals, officials said.
SNA troops are said to be pursuing Abdirashid Janan, a Jubaland minister who is accused of "serious crimes" and is believed to be operating from Kenya's border town of Mandera.
But the Jubaland authorities blame Farmajo for fueling the conflict with an aim of "toppling Madobe and subsequently installing his loyalists" ahead of December polls.
Fighting subsided as the SNA troops announced "victory" as Jubaland forces retreated. KDF is currently in control of the border, even as Kenya dismissed claims of interfering with Somalia's domestic affairs as "fabrications".
An estimated 2.6 million people are currently displaced within Somalia as a result of ongoing conflict and recurring climatic shocks, the UN noted in a report.
In 2019 alone, approximately 190,000 people were displaced as a result of the conflict. In January 2020, some 35,000 people were reported as newly displaced in Somalia, including 28,000 people fleeing insecurity.
Somalia is preparing to deposit the instrument of ratification for the Kampala Convention on the Protection and Assistance of IDPs at the African Union, which was signed by the President of Somalia on 26 November 2019.