Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - Somalia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 28 June 2012
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - Somalia, 28 June 2012, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
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.

On 20 July 2011, the UN Country Team in Somalia announced that parts of southern Somalia between the Juba and Shebelle rivers, where most minorities live, were experiencing famine. The situation was exacerbated by the impact of continued fighting and restrictions imposed on aid agencies by Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab, which controls the region. By the end of July, there were about 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), 6,900 seeking asylum and 1,965 refugees in Somalia.

During 2011, Somalis, regardless of ethnicity, religion or clan, experienced serious human rights violations in the country's ongoing conflict, mainly located in south and central Somalia, where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), supported by African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM), are fighting al-Shabaab. The TFG forces and affiliated military forces gained territory from insurgents in the capital, Mogadishu, and along the border with Kenya and Ethiopia, while al-Shabaab still controls more territory in south and central Somalia. Indiscriminate attacks, killing and injuring civilians, were carried out by all parties to the conflict during a string of military offensives in 2011. The World Health Organization (WHO) treated 8,430 casualties for weapon-related injuries between January and September in Mogadishu, with a significant proportion of civilian casualties being women and children.

Although it is difficult to find statistics on how different ethnic groups have been affected by the conflict, Somalia has repeatedly topped MRG's 'Peoples Under Threat' ranking, which rates countries according to where civilian populations are most at risk. Minority groups are estimated to constitute one-third of the total Somalian population of approximately 3 million people, according to MRG's research. They include Bantu, who are the largest minority, occupational groups (comprising the Gaboye, Madhiban and Musse Deriyo), Benadiri and religious minorities. All these minority groups are diminishing in size, as thousands move to IDP camps in Somaliland and Puntland and refugee camps in Kenya, where they face renewed discrimination.

MRG research has shown that minority communities in Somalia fall outside the traditional clan structure of the majority and also therefore the protection afforded by such systems. Because of social segregation, economic deprivation and political manipulation, minorities are more vulnerable to rape, attack, abduction, property seizure and the consequences of drought.

Al-Shabaab continues to administer a strict form of Sharia law in areas that it controls, mostly in central and southern Somalia, including torture, beatings and beheadings. Harsh restrictions are placed upon women, including their dress code, movement, economic activities and proscriptions on their associations with non-kin men of any kind, which places widows and single women at a severe disadvantage. Minority groups including the Bantu, Benadiri and Christian communities are attacked for practising their religious beliefs. There are reports that al-Shabaab has continued to forcibly recruit minorities to fight.

HRW has documented human rights abuses in TFG-controlled areas against IDPs, including looting food aid in IDP camps, arbitrary arrests and detentions and rapes. These violations are particularly severe for both women and members of minority groups.

Amid ongoing fighting in June 2011, Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of the TFG resigned, following a UN-backed deal that extended the mandates of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the speaker and the deputies until August 2012, when elections will be organized. Mohamed had only replaced Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in September 2010; the latter resigned due to internal squabbles. Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991. The future stability of the country now depends on how the TFG, the international community and the African Union handle the election, and whether the new Constitution is drafted in a way that encourages participation and inclusion and promotes reconciliation, peace and stability. The final draft of the Somali Constitution is anticipated in April 2012, to allow for elections in August.

In October, Kenya was drawn into Somalia's conflict after a spate of al-Shabaab bombings in Nairobi and the kidnappings of several Western tourists from Kenya's coast. Since then, Kenyan troops have pushed towards Kismayo, with help from TFG-affiliated militias from Ras Komboni and the newly-formed Azania state. There has been a significant rise in anti-Somali sentiment since the kidnappings in Kenya and Kenya's military intervention. This will likely affect attitudes towards Somalis in Kenya, whether they are Kenyan or Somali nationals.

Puntland and Somaliland

In May 2011, the self-declared Republic of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous state of Puntland celebrated their twentieth anniversary of self-rule. Although these regions remain largely peaceful compared to the south, there are continued tensions between majority clans and minority groups. For instance, the long border dispute between Somaliland and Puntland partly stems from political exclusion of Dhulbahante from the Harti federation by the more populous Isaaq clan in Somaliland. In western Somaliland, the Gadabuursi people declared an autonomous Awdal state in protest against their treatment by the Isaaq clan. This has reinforced perceptions that every clan in north Somalia has the right to determine its own destiny.

Puntland and Somaliland continued to host refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in 2011. The UN refugee agency UNHCR stated that there were frequent reports of xenophobia, hostility, exploitation and arbitrary detention. A minority woman interviewed by MRG researchers in Ajuran IDP camp, Puntland, told of gender-based violence where armed gunmen raid camps and forcibly drive women and girls out of shelter and rape them.

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