Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Somalia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Somalia, 16 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a66d9a64b.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The situation in Somalia deteriorated further during 2008. The conflict between Somalia's weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and a fragmented insurgency continued, killing more than 6,000 civilians. It is estimated that more than 870,000 civilians have fled the capital, Mogadishu, since the beginning of 2007. A political process to stabilize the country continued; the TFG and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) reached the Djibouti Agreement on 9 June and began to implement its terms. On 30 January 2009, Somalia's parliament, in Dijbouti, met to elect a new president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. In an interview with IRIN, President Ahmed said that 'rebuilding the unity of our people and nation will be one of our biggest challenges'. He maintained that he was open to 'dialogue and negotiations'. However, according to the US State Department, minority groups (who make up 22 per cent of the country's population) were generally excluded from 'effective participation in governing institutions and were subject to discrimination in employment, judicial proceedings, and access to public services'. Data on minority groups is sorely lacking, given that they make up nearly a quarter of Somalia's population.

Intermarriage between minority groups (including the Bantu – the largest minority group – the Benadiri, Brawanese, Faqayaqub, Hawrarsame, Madhiban, Muse Dheryo, Rer Hamar, Swahili, Tumal, Yaxar and Yibir) and the majority clans remained restricted. And minorities, who did not have their own militias, suffered disproportionately from the violence, including the looting of their land and property by militias and majority clan members.

Minorities in Somalia suffered in other ways too. The Somali press reported on the Eyle community, a marginalized hunter-gatherer group, living in the drought-stricken Middle Shabelle Region. An estimated population of around 10,000 were lacking food and water due to droughts and high food prices. Those representing minorities come under attack. In an interview with Amnesty International in 2009 Zam Zam Abdullahi, a human rights activist working for the Coalition for Grassroots Women Organizations, described how she received threats and her office was targeted.

Women in Somalia continued to experience widespread discrimination – the laws prohibiting rape in the country remain largely unenforced and, according to the US State Department: 'NGOs documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of women displaced from their homes due to civil conflict or who were members of minority clans.' Women remain 'systematically subordinated'. Female genital mutilation (FGM) remains a major problem in Somalia. According to UNICEF, it has a prevalence of about 95 per cent in the country, primarily being performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 11.

Education is a major problem in Somalia – statistics are unreliable because of the conflict, but the latest data (from 2003-4) suggests that there is a 19.9 per cent enrolment ratio, one of the lowest in the world. UNICEF says that 'education and formal classroom learning opportunities are limited and unavailable for a majority of children in Somalia', and only a third of those who are educated are girls. There is also a lack of female teachers – only about 13 per cent of teachers in Somalia are women. Most existing schools are in urban areas, while more remote areas lack any facilities.

In November 2008 IRIN reported on the issue of children from minority groups in Somalia, and particularly Somaliland, missing out on school. The Ubah Social Welfare Organization said that the low economic status and 'social exclusion' of minority groups such as the Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir, were the main obstacles stopping children going to school. In collaboration with UNICEF, the organization has built an education centre for minority children in Daami and enrolled almost 300 pupils. Parents from minority groups said that discrimination prevented them from sending their children to public schools. Minority groups used to have a representative in the lower house of Somaliland's parliament but the seat was lost in the last election. However, two officials from minority communities – the Deputy Minister of Health and Labour, Mahdi Osman Buri, and Jirde Sa'id Mohamoud, a member of the standing committee of the upper house of parliament – remain in government.

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