Camp Urbanisation

The exhibition featured satellite images to show the growth of the four cities over the last 15 years and the development of particular areas where displaced people have settled. All four cities have grown rapidly. For example, the images above show changes in settlement in the north-western outskirts of Mogadishu (between 2012 and 2018). The images below show the development of the State House area in Hargeisa, which has evolved from a camp for returnee refugees in the early 2000s to the built-up ‘slum’ visible today. In general, newcomers to cities often settle in camps established at the city’s outskirts or put up shelters in empty plots or ruined buildings in the city. Inner-city squats attract other in-migrants but also other urban poor who increasingly struggle to manage rising rents. Cities are growing rapidly with respect to both density and size.

Establishing camps at the outskirts of the city, displaced people contribute to spatial expansion and sprawling sub-urbanisation. By clearing bushes and making land habitable, and by contributing to the expansion of urban services and infrastructures (however rudimentary) displaced people add value to the land they settle on. Some camps have developed vibrant local economies. Rising land and real-estate prices, however, make the new settlers vulnerable to evictions by land owners, and the state, who attempt to further develop these plots.

Evictions are particularly prevalent in Mogadishu, where economic growth and reconstruction has led to spiking land and real estate prices. This is also apparent in Baidoa, and even in Bosaaso despite resettlement initiatives. In Hargeisa, although some resettlement schemes have moved people to new villages on the outskirts of the city, some of the largest settlements of the previously displaced and new urban poor (like State House) are still located close to downtown. Interviewees there hope to benefit from further resettlement plans, but details of anticipated schemes have not yet been published by the government.

The regulation of property is central for the ways in which cities are growing. Property regimes determine practices of inclusion and exclusion, and claims to property are often articulated violently, especially so in Mogadishu. Many displaced who try to settle in cities face cycles of evictions or other forms of displacement. Enforced mobility, therefore, remains the often only option of a rising number of poor to manage their survival.