Civil conflict has been of grave concern since the overthrow of the 21 year reign of the Siad Barre government in 1991. In the breakdown of the state, Somalia has suffered economic collapse and the volatile conditions continue to put the people at risk for human rights violations and mass atrocities. At this time, there is no effective form of government or justice system.
One component to the instability in the region is the fighting between the pro-government forces and armed Islamist groups. There are more than two million displaced persons, many of whom have been forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Armed groups have restricted and even denied help from agencies trying to offer aid to the civilian and displaced populations. Additionally, there is danger of abduction and killings to journalists, human rights activists as well as humanitarian workers from armed groups that control the southern and central regions of Somalia.
Human Rights Violations by Armed Groups
Armed groups use heavy weapons and mortars against both combatants and civilians.As a result, women and children are the primary victims of such attacks. In the capital of Mogadishu, schools have closed out of the fear of these types of attacks. There have been public executions and torture (including stoning to death, amputations and floggings) carried out by the pseudo-judicial bodies with ties to the armed groups. There is no sense of valid legal representation for the victims and no possibility for appeal.
Armed groups seem to target anyone who does not conform to the group’s interpretation of Islamic law. There are strict restrictive dress codes imposed on women, with public flogging as the most used form of punishment. The use of children as soldiers by the armed groups has become a common occurrence. Boys as young as nine years old are forced to fight alongside men. Young girls are forced to perform domestic services for the al-Shabab military, even forced to marry group members.
The survival of people in the central and southern regions of Somalia is dependent upon humanitarian aid – aid that is being diverted by armed groups, particularly al-Shabab. Organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF have been prevented from providing aid to the Somali people, especially women and children. Armed groups claim that the national and international humanitarian groups are “spying” and refuse allow the aid to pass. UN studies show that there are more than two million Somalis in urgent need of aid and malnourishment affects at least one in six children.
Over one and a half million people have been internally displaced (IDP).Refugee camps are over-burdened and over-populated, most of which do not have adequate supplies including medical aid; food, water, shelter or programs to help the displaced. Reportedly, more than one hundred thousand have fled to other countries only to be returned to the southern and central regions of Somalia.
Since the collapse of the state in 1991, armed piracy off the coast of Somalia is the result of years of armed conflict and economic deficiency. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia report that easy access to weapons with money used from kidnappings and ransoms, keep the pirates well armed. Armed pirates not only threaten the life and safety of maritime crews, but they also prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Somalia and in the process are also responsible for arms embargo violations. By definition, Somalia is categorized as an ongoing genocide state.
Featured Image: Bakaraweyne IDP settlement in Baidoa, Somalia. Courtesy of Danish Refugee Council/Axel Fassio, December 2014.