Monday April 24, 2023
By Harun Maruf, Ridwan Haji Abdiwali, Hassan Kafi Qoyste
The first group of Somali nationals who fled the conflict in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum have arrived in Ethiopia, Somali officials said.
Twenty-seven Somalis, including four women have arrived in Ethiopia after crossing at the border town of Metema on Friday, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told VOA Somali.
One of them was former BBC Somali service journalist Abdisalam Hereri, who went to Khartoum on April 5 to attend a memorial for the late legendary Somali singer Mohamed Suleiman Tubeec.
On Sunday, Hereri, who now covers Somalia diaspora stories, posted on his Facebook page that he had arrived in Hargeisa, Somaliland. A day before he was supposed to leave Khartoum, the fighting broke out.
In an interview with VOA Somali, Hereri said he was among thousands of people, including locals and visitors, who took advantage of the 24-hour cease-fire reached by the warring Sudanese sides on April 19.
He traveled on a bus with about 20 other Somalis to the southeastern Sudanese city of Al Qadarif, where they stayed for a night, before proceeding to the border town of Gallabat.
Gallabat is a town used by migrants and traffickers who travel through Sudan. Hereri said Gallabat is where they encountered a “major problem.”
He said due to the breakdown of law and order, some Sudanese border officials attempted to charge them a huge amount of money to let them exit the country.
They asked each person for $500 to obtain an “exit stamp” on their documents, Hereri said. “After strong negotiations we were charged $50 each.”
The Sudanese Embassy in Washington did not reply to a request for comment made by VOA Somali.
He said when they arrived at the Ethiopia town of Metema, the situation was different.
“The atmosphere was very different from the one in Sudan, there was order and respect,” he said.
“The soldiers at the checkpoint expressed sympathy to us when we told them we fled. … We were welcomed very much, we have not had any problems, no one asked us [for] money,” he said
Without government help
The Somali Embassy in Khartoum has confirmed that more Somalis are heading toward the Sudan border with Ethiopia in an attempt to return to Somalia.
More than 200 Somalis arrived on Saturday in Al Qadarif, Somali Ambassador to Sudan Mohamed Sheikh Isak told VOA Somali on Sunday. He said Somali officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are communicating with their Ethiopian counterparts to facilitate the entry of Somalis into Ethiopia.
Somalis are arranging their own travel to flee Khartoum, without the embassy or Somali government help, Isak said. “We have not provided them transport.”
“They are leaving voluntarily but we are giving them guidance,” he added.
He said Somalis have been traveling in groups to Al Qadarif, which he said is the “safest passage.” He advised women not to travel alone to Al Qadarif.
He said the embassy in Khartoum remains open and is working to prepare travel documents for those wanting to leave.
“We have issued 120 ‘go-home documents,’” which will allow travel from Khartoum to Al Qadarif, he said.
Somali students who arrived in Al Qadarif said they are struggling financially.
Abdalle Muse Ibrahim, a student at Khartoum’s International University of Africa, said essentials are expensive. He also said he could not find a remittance office in the town to have money transferred from their parents in Somalia.
“Housing and living expenses are very expensive,” he said. “Students who came here with pocket money will run out of money in a week’s time.”
Asha Idris Hassan, another student who fled from Khartoum, said she encountered the same difficulties she had experienced in Khartoum.
“Lack of water, lack of accommodation, no money exchange bureaus and no hawala (remittance) services,” she said.
Asha Ali Abdi, a mother with child who fled from Khartoum said she wanted to rent a one-bed room with no running water, no electricity and no kitchen but was asked to pay $30 a day.