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Returning diaspora triggers wave of land disputes in Mogadishu

Friday, January 18, 2013
By Adnan Hussein

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Mogadishu is witnessing a wave of disputes over land ownership with the return of thousands of Somalis from the diaspora.

Banadir region District Court Judge Hashi Elmi Nur said his court has recently been registering land dispute cases on an unprecedented level. He said the courts were trying to resolve the cases as soon as possible because the disputes can sometimes lead to fights.

"Our work is interrupted by numerous conflicts among heirs who refuse reconciliation or come forward to the [Municipality of Mogadishu] to settle property ownership disputes because they have inherited land from their families based on customary contracts," Nur told Sabahi.

He said land ownership disputes are growing daily because they were dealt with illegally over the past two decades.

Nur also said some people in Mogadishu's Abdalla Shideye market are profiting from counterfeit land ownership documents, adding that police will detain individuals involved in the practice and bring them to court.

Influential individuals have bought or seized thousands of square metres of land at nominal prices, which has resulted in serious tribal and family clashes, he said. "We are now trying to reclaim homes and farms that have been illegally sold or seized," he said.

Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Ahmed Nur warned against the illegal construction of buildings and tourist resorts in areas close to the beach that are all owned by the Somali government.

"Everyone should bear in mind that all the land along the coast from the north to the south of the country is owned by the federal government and we can see with our own eyes how people are trying to take advantage of the fragile administrative situation," he said. "They are making huge amounts of money from selling off [former] army headquarters, military barracks, military airports, hospitals and embassies. We would like to announce that this is an illegal act perpetrated by unpatriotic individuals."

In addition, the mayor urged Mogadishu residents to evacuate privately owned residential dwellings that are illegally occupied and other land that belong to families who fled from the civil war decades ago. He also called on internally displaced persons to evacuate the ministries, agencies, hospitals and other government-owned areas in the capital.

Nur said his administration will send a message to the head of police force to authorise the arrest of violators who try to claim land owned by the Ministry of Public Works and turn it into personal or investment properties.

Lawyer Filsan Yusuf Siad said the absence of law and order has led to a culture of seizing and taking over public and private lands.

She told Sabahi that security forces would have to confront corrupt individuals and influential tribesmen who acquired and sold land illegally.

"I think that resolving the issue will be problematic unless the police stand by the judiciary. If not, then we will have a bloody revolution among the disputants," she said.

Lawmaker Mohamed Mohamud Heyd said government land should not be turned into luxury hotels or used for other commercial purposes.

"I will raise the issue during a parliamentary session in order to reach a decision that will put an end to this illegal activity," Heyd told Sabahi. "We should be unsympathetic when it comes to such an illegal issue that opens the door wide for swindlers."

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