Country Scores

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free
Population: 9,100,000
Capital: Mogadishu

2008 Key Developments: The Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) continued to battle insurgent groups in 2008, and increased attacks on aid workers curtailed their activities in the country. In August, the TFG reached an agreement with a coalition of opposition groups, the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS), that called for a ceasefire, the eventual withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, and power sharing. The TFG and ARS agreed in November to double the size of the transitional parliament, and the unpopular TFG president, Abdullahi Yusuf, resigned in late December. Nevertheless, hard-line rebel factions boycotted the August agreement and continued fighting for the rest of the year. The Ethiopian government announced in November that it would withdraw its 3,000-strong force from Somalia, but the pullout had not been completed by year's end.

Political Rights: Somalia is not an electoral democracy. The Somali state has in many respects ceased to exist. Technically, the country is governed by the internationally recognized TFG, but its actual control is minimal. There are no effective political parties, and the political process is driven largely by clan loyalty. Because of mounting civil unrest and the breakdown of the state, corruption in Somalia is rampant. Since May 1991, the northwestern region of Somaliland has functioned with considerable stability as a de facto independent state, though it has not received international recognition. The region of Puntland, in the northeastern corner of the country, has been relatively autonomous since 1998; unlike Somaliland, it has not sought full independence, declaring only a temporary secession until Somalia is stabilized.

Civil Liberties: Although Somalia's Transitional Federal Charter calls for freedoms of speech and the press, these rights are quite limited in practice. Journalists continued to face dangerous conditions in 2008, with three deaths in addition to several arrests and abductions. Owing to poverty and low literacy levels, radio remains the primary news medium, although there is no national broadcaster. A number of independent outlets ceased operations in 2007, and many of those that remain serve largely as mouthpieces for the factions they support in the fighting. Islam is recognized as the official religion and nearly all Somalis are Sunni Muslims, but there is a very small Christian community. Freedom of assembly is not respected amid the ongoing violence, and the largely informal economy is inhospitable to organized labor. The conflict has forced nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies operating in Somalia to either reduce or suspend their activities. There is no judicial system functioning effectively at the national level. In many regions, local authorities administer a mix of Sharia (Islamic law) and traditional Somali forms of justice and reconciliation. The human rights situation in Somalia remained grim in 2008, and several international monitoring groups reported abuses by the Ethiopian military, the TFG, and insurgent factions.Women in Somalia face considerable discrimination. Female genital mutilation is still practiced in some form on nearly all Somali girls. Sexual violence is rampant due to lawlessness and impunity for perpetrators, and rape victims are often stigmatized.

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