Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Somalia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 1 July 2010
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Somalia, 1 July 2010, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
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.

In January 2009, following UN-sponsored peace talks, an agreement between Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament (TFG) and the Djibouti-based wing of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS-Djibouti) was signed. A Government of National Unity was formed and parliamentarians elected a new president, moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. The peace agreement also led to the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the country.

However, radical Islamist opposition groups such as Al Shabab and Hizb-al-Islamiya continued to fight. The African Union's peacekeeping force (AMISOM) was targeted and on 22 February a suicide attack against an AMISOM base killed 11 Burundian soldiers. On 20 February, President Ahmed offered to introduce Sharia law in exchange for a truce. However, in April and May, fresh fighting in and around Mogadishu led thousands to flee in a new wave of displacement. According to the Norwegian Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, up to 1.3 million Somalis remained displaced in early 2009.

Al Shabab captured most parts of the country including Mogadishu and the south and central regions. Civilians continued to be indiscriminate victims of the conflict. MRG field research in 2009 found minorities, including children, were recruited to fight by Al Shabab forces. Al Shabab imposed a harsh version of Islamic law in areas it captured. MRG research found that informal Sharia courts were imposing penalties of amputation and stoning. AI said that there were several public executions, including the stoning of a 13-year-old girl in Kismayu. Some reports said she was a member of the Tumal minority. In Brava, Al Shabab forces destroyed Barawani shrines, desecrated tombs and detained sheiks for several days.

Many killings targeting Christians occurred in 2009. According to Christian news agency Compass Direct, in September Omar Khalafe, 69, was shot dead by Al Shabab fighters at a checkpoint near Merca, after he was found with 25 Bibles in Somali in his possession. USCIRF reported that Christians keep a low profile, only worshipping in house churches. Converts to Christianity have also been attacked.

The impact of increasing Islamic fundamentalism on women in Somalia is clear. In April, CNN reported that Al Shabab ordered women in Baidoa to cover their bodies and heads from view or risk a jail term, and prescribed the specific colours for such clothing. It is not clear yet how this order has affected women from minority groups in the country, but it curtails women's right to privacy and bodily integrity. Speaking to the New York Times in September, President Ahmed indicated that most Somali women already wear such veils.


Regions that had begun to show signs of pursuing a path of sustainable change faltered in 2009. The Somaliland Republic in Hargeisa failed to conduct scheduled elections. Despite generally greater awareness and implementation of minority rights compared to the rest of the country, progress was limited in 2009 by government inaction and the persistence of negative social attitudes towards minorities among members of the majority clans. Access to justice remains difficult for minorities, who include Yibro clan peoples and the Gaboye occupational group. Political participation is also an issue. However, extreme anti-minority views are rarely heard in public; and where they are, they are criticized by the mainstream media.

Intermarriage between those from 'noble clans' and those from occupational groups has increased in recent years. However, women have reported being beaten by their families if they undertake such a commitment. Some have told MRG they are in fear for their lives. MRG has serious concerns about stability in Somaliland and the safety of minorities. Many remain in camps for internally displaced people.


Minorities in Puntland, who include Yibro and Gaboye, as well as Bantu, live in extreme conditions, and are subject to discrimination by police, the judiciary and members of majority clans. This is the case both for groups born in the region and Bantu, many of whom are IDPs from southern Somalia, and live in camps. Minorities also experience barriers to political participation from majority clans. MRG research has found that violations against minority women and children in Puntland are widespread. A persistent pattern of rape of minority IDP women in Bosasso exists. Perpetrators include men from majority communities and sometimes members of the Puntland police, army or security service. MRG research has found they have great difficulty in obtaining access to justice, with police often refusing to investigate minority complaints, including allegations of rape. Where customary law is applied, minority elders must negotiate compensation with their majority counterparts, and, following this, submit the decision to the courts, which close the case with no further investigation or judicial action. Minority members have reported ongoing discrimination in such cases. In February 2009, a 16-year-old from a minority was killed in a fight in Bosasso. He was held down by a group from the majority community, and killed with a piece of glass. The compensation given was 70 camels (where 100 are customary for the life of a member of the majority community) and cash of 200,000 shillings, where the normal rate is 300,000 shillings. The case was settled and closed by the court.

The ongoing situation of Somali peoples including its most vulnerable minorities was worsened at the end of 2009 by severe drought. More detailed information on Somalia's minorities, including first-hand testimony, can be found in MRG's forthcoming (2010) report on the country.

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