Sexual Violence in Mogadishu: ‘Ending Impunity is Far from Reality on the Ground’

Ifrah Ahmed, Minister of Women and Human Rights, Somali Federal Government, global education magazine,Ifrah Ahmed

Communication Advisor, Minister of Women and Human Rights, Somali Federal Government. Human rights defender working to fight Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) the practice, worked before in Ireland and currently in Somalia. Ifrah, also works as a social workers with various NGOs and hopes to make a difference for women and girls of Somalia. / Twitter: @Ifrahahmedfgm


Mugo Mugo, Conflict Researcher and Co-Founder of African Media Initiative on Development (AMID-Africa), Global Education MagazinePatrick Mugo Mugo

Director and Conflict Researcher, Trans-Link Advisory. Specialties: Peace and Conflict Studies, Correlation between Conflict Transformation and the Changing Structures of Rural Economy; Media and Conflict; Religious Extremism and Deradicalisation

Email: / Twitter: @PMugoMugo


Ahmed Ismail, Director and Human Rights Researcher at TransLink Advisory, global education magazineAhmed Ismail

Director and Human Rights Researcher at Trans-Link Advisory, expert on human rights, rule of law, refugees and IDPs rights, conflict analysis and human trafficking

E-mail:  / Web:@ahmedsas20



AbstractMore than twenty years of statelessness and related insecurity, including the proliferation of armed groups, the fragmentation of politics along clan-based lines, economic disruption and large scale population displacement, have had dire consequences on the rights and protection of women and young girls in Somalia; resulting in an increase in gendered patterns of violence as disillusioned and armed young men have been turning against women and girls with impunity.Implicated are Africa Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM)peacekeepers, government soldiers and some men within Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu, with allegations that tantamount to protector turning to perpetrator and exploiter. Despite all this, perpetrators and exploiters are rarely ‘formally’ prosecuted due to judicial and police force institutional incapacity and in other cases, the lack of recognition of the crimes themselves. Beyond stigma and shame that confine survivors to a ‘culture of silence’ there is also the fear of reprisal in cases where the perpetrator(s) is known to the survivor(s) making it difficult to find survivors and witnesses willing to come forward to testify talk less of seeking prosecution. In other cases, survivors are not able to differentiate who is who among the perpetrators in uniform, either from the military, police, or armed militias. Sexual abuse in armed conflict has a long history and has always been considered faultily, as normal wartime behaviour particularly in Somalia; with perpetrators acting with unreserved impunity. This behaviour is now becoming a growing concern. Critical to peace, stability and reconciliation is the question of protection of human rights of the most vulnerable and where such has been violated, then justice, protection and prevention must be administered by those shouldering responsibility.

KeywordsSexual Violence, Abuse, SEA, Rape, Survivors, Somalia, Mogadishu, AMISOM, Human Rights, SGBV, IDPs



In the recent past the Somali government with support from the African Union and the United Nations has made positive strides towards resolving its two decades protracted conflict by containing the high level of violence and its complex humanitarian crisis. Despite that, widespread violence is exposing its most vulnerable population to Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Women and girls “in Mogadishu and surrounding areas” have been victims to acts of ‘sexual violence’1 with victims being “subject to repeated and systematic sexual violence” and among those implicated “are members of organised armed groups and Somali security forces” (UN, 2013, p.14). The women and girls who participated in the focus group discussion hailing from various IDPs2 camps in Mogadishu said they live under fear due to abuses by armed groups members especially when going to the bush to collect firewood with some of them being raped or assaulted to extent that some have opted to sending their male children or relatives to the bush to collect firewood.

Human Rights Watch report3 notes that while its research hasn’t found “a pattern of abuse that could be considered systematic” the rights body “findings raises serious concerns about abuses by AMISOM4 soldiers against Somali women and girls” with survivors of sexual exploitation expressing feelings of “powerless” to fearing “retaliation or retribution, as well as the stigma and shame that the abuse could bring” and others, despite being engaged in exploitive relationships feared loosing “their only source of income” (HRW, 2014, September, p.25). In Mogadishu “between January and November 2012, over 1,700 rape cases” were registered by various service providers and notably, “almost one third of the recorded incidents” being perpetrated against children “some of them boys.” The reports made notes of the correlation between the “spike in the numbers of incidents recorded between April and July” in 2012 and the “intensification of military operations against Al-Shabaab” (UN, 2013, p.14) within Afgoye and Bala’d corridors near Mogadishu.

Fig 1. Al Cadaala camp IDP, Mogadishu, Photo by Ifrah Ahmed, global education magazine,

Fig 1.Al Cadaala camp IDP, Mogadishu, Photo by Ifrah Ahmed, October 15th 2014

This complex of factors does complicate survivors quest for justice and protection. Claire Brown, a legal officer from Legal Action World Wide says’ “the very first problem actually is that at the moment no body even wants to go to the court. So even if you need urgent medical attention first you have to go to the police station – where the police may harass you, they may not accept the claim– there is so much likelihood that she will be harassed at the different stages – and there is so much likelihood that the case would be dropped at any one of these stages” and in the end women are very reluctant to pursue any prosecution due to the trauma that the process might exposes.

Brown, further notes that survivors’ pursuit for justice is compounded by fact that there “is only one hospital in Mogadishu that provide medical certificate and it is military hospital. So if the attack is by someone from the military or the security forces the doctor would probably not provide the certificate” yet the woman or the girl after going all the hurdles has to go back to the police for them to determine if there is case to be investigated. In context, the “unequal status of women and girls” within Somali society “sharply increases their vulnerability” to many forms of violations key among them “gender-based violence during humanitarian crisis” as with any individual or family displacement more so due to conflict and drought, existing “community support structures” are disrupted exposing them to “unsafe physical surrounding” (Ibid) thereby increasing their vulnerability to exploitation. In the view of Human Rights Watch the “extreme vulnerable” of Somalia women and girls and the “differential power relations” (HRW, 2014, September, p.28) between those who are supposed to protect them has created an environment for ‘sexual exploitation5’.


The research applied qualitative method and in this case desktop literature review and interviews were employed during collection that was later analysed between October and November 2014. The literature review was done through analysis of reports, books, journals, conference proceedings and presentations in effort to gather information on trends of sexual violence, exploitation and abuse in Mogadishu. Data collection was done through interviews6 and focus group discussion based on non-probability sampling with survivors of sexual violence, relatives, community members, government officials, UN, AU and human rights activist.

Methodological Considerations

The insecurity within Mogadishu was a key factor and curtailed the freedom of the researcher but also critically the freedom of respondents. Key consideration of the research was the need to exercise sensitivity and precaution when conducting the interviews with survivors whose privacy and condition warranted the need to conceal their identity and location. A challenge to the research was failure by AMISOM to respond to questionnaire despite being implicated by rights agencies on sexual exploitation and abuse, a key thematic area of this study. In effort to compensate for that, the research had to review AMISOM and member countries statements and action. The prevailing violence and stigma associated with the rape survivors was a key restricting factor and all efforts were put in place so as not to risk the life of those who had agreed to participate in the research.


Since 1991, Somalia has had no credible functioning centralised governing authority and in its absence, the protracted conflict has evolved into “violations of the laws of wars, including unlawful killings, rape and torture” that have been orchestrated by “all parties to the conflict” thereby “causing massive civilian suffering” (Ibid). In context, the “unequal status of women and girls” within Somali society “sharply increases their vulnerability” to many forms of violations among them “gender-based violence during humanitarian crisis” due to disruptions of “community support structures” exposing them to “unsafe physical surroundings” thereby increasing their vulnerability to exploitation (Ibid). According to Human Rights Watch the “extreme vulnerable” of Somalia women and girls and the “differential power relations” (HRW, 2014, September, p.28) between those who are supposed to protect them has created an environment of ‘sexual exploitation7’ that has all the hallmarks as defined by the United Nations 2003. Despite this, United Nations and partners have “established referral systems for basic psychological support and health services” and even with such, the “Task Force on Sexual Violence” set up by Transitional Federal Government in December 2011 (UN, 2013, p.14) hasn’t achieved much.

Fig 2. Al Cadaala camp IDP, Mogadishu, photo by Ifrah Ahmed, global education magazine

Fig 2.Al Cadaala camp IDP, Mogadishu, photo by Ifrah Ahmed, October 13th 2014

Plight and Vulnerability of IDPs in Mogadishu

Internally Displaced Persons IIDPs) in Mogadishu face risks to their lives, safety, security and dignity and are at disproportionate risk of gross human rights abuses especially women and unaccompanied children. The displaced Somalis who fled to Mogadishu have been subjected to a range of serious human rights abuses, including rape, beatings, ethnic discrimination, and restrictions on access to food and shelter and freedom of movement. The United Nations observes that the spike in cases of sexual violence in August (2012) was “linked to the presence of armed elements” within the IDPs settlements and “surrounding areas in the run-up to the selection of the post-transition leadership” (UN, 2013, p.14). While it is difficult to assess the extent of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) against displaced women and girls, it is believed to be widespread although largely underreported throughout south-central Somalia. Fifty-five years old ‘Mumina Maadeey’ says she was gang-raped in broad day light on June 5, 2014 while collecting firewood in Afgooye, Lower Shabelle-

{…} three men approached me and I never thought the men would rape me. They ordered me to put the wood I had collected down and despite pleading with the men and shouting ‘I am your mother, I am your mother please’. They attacked me and then raped me. At my age, I could even be their grandmother. We need the government to protect us. I am an old woman and I shouldn’t be talking about this. I feel sick and I hate myself. This has to stop. We left our homes and came to the (IDP) camp because of war and now we have another enemy, the men who are raping us.

On the other hand, those who have witnessed rape incidents talk of fear of reprisals attacks by the perpetrators. Asha a resident of Al Cadaalo IDP camp during the FGD narrated how she witnessed a woman being ambushed-

{…} a woman who was collecting firewood got ambushed by two men, who then beat her for trying to resist. One of the guys kept watch while the other raped her before they changed turns. The woman hasn’t reported to the police nor told other people due to social stigma and shame.

Fig 3. Focus Group Discussion at Al Cadaala camp IDP, Mogadishu by Ifrah Ahmed, global education magazine

Fig 3. Focus Group Discussion at Al Cadaala camp IDP, Mogadishu by Ifrah Ahmed, October 13th 2014

In another FGD forum 17-years old Mohamed corroborates Asha when she narrated how an 18-year old woman was raped and no one could run to her rescue “despite her screams, we couldn’t help her, fearing that the attackers might be armed”. Ali, a resident of Al Cadaala camp says being uprooted from home and forced to live within camps has taken away IDPs ability to protect themselves;-

{…}if you are displaced then you have no power, we are powerless and that is the reason why our sisters and mothers are getting raped and sometimes we feel like we are helpless and also tired and sad to see women getting raped.

Somalia’s clan based social system doesexpose women and girls from socially and economically marginalised clans “to violence due to their social isolation, poor living conditions and work opportunities” (Ibid).

{…} Nine-year old ‘Shamso Hussein’ had been sent to go and fetch water by her mother within Ex-Control camp on September 10th 2014 only for the mother to see her daughter being brought back by a resident. When she was placed on the floor, her mother says “she looked like she had passed away and was bleeding badly and I started crying. I never thought this was going to happen to my daughter. We had just arrived at the camp (IDP) from Galween in Lower Shabbele. She couldn’t move. I waited for her father to come back and I told him what had happened. All he could say was that Allah should give our daughter justice and went out to look for help.” The mother adds “I didn’t have money to take her to hospital. I used traditional ways to treat her and tried to put her legs together. She was unwell for 30-days.” The mother says the family has yet to receive any help from anyone.

The IDP population in camps across Mogadishu have repeatedly fallen victim to a culture of sexual violence that those working to tackle Sexual Gender Based Violence GBV points out as being too pervasive warranting national and international attention.


In the context of Somalia as regards sexual exploitation and abuse, those significantly implicated as being perpetrators are Somalia government security officers and AMISOM peacekeepers8; the same institutions entrusted with the protection of vulnerable populations. A Human Rights Watch report documents “twenty-one incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by Africa Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM)9 soldiers” that according to the report occurred “primarily on two controlled bases in Mogadishu” one by “The Uganda People’s Defence Forces10 (UPDF)” and another by “The Burundi National Defence Force11 (BNDF) contingent” of camps located within the “compound Somalia national university.” The same reports notes that in most of the documented “involved a Somali intermediary” who’s due to AMISOM soldiers language barrier acted as “an interpreter” and that the same person sometimes sources “women and girls directly from IDP camps” and helps them to access the AMISOM bases (HRW, 2014, September, pp. 25-29).

In the past, the hype masculine culture deriving from a predominantly male environment has produced a tolerance for extreme behaviours where women and girls are a target from “members of state security forces, operating with complete impunity, sexually assault, rape, beat, shoot, and stab women and girls” (HRW, 2014, March, p.1). In 1992 allegations that the UN peacekeepers were involved in cases of sexual abuse against local women were met by the infamous statement “Boys will be Boys” (Martin, 2005) by Yasushi Akashi, the then head of the UN’s Transnational Authority in Cambodia. This type of thinking has been equated with the equally infamous view of Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, that “Men should be trained as warriors and women as recreation for warriors and anything else is foolishness” (Kesic, 2001). This view has for long exemplified prevailing official perceptions regarding cases of sexual abuse by international troops (Ballesteros, 2007, p.125).

The Consequences of SEA to AU Peacekeeping in Somalia

The violation of codes of conduct may damage the impartiality of missions in the eyes of the local population, which, in turn, may impede the implementation of its mandate. AU peacekeeping operation cannot legitimately advise the Somali government on adherence to international human rights standards and legal and judicial reform if its own peacekeeping personnel are engaging in acts of SEA. Sexual misconduct also increases the incidence of medical problems including the risk of contracting or transmitting sexually transmitted diseases and survivors having to deal with possible psychological trauma as a result of their experiences. Babies born from liaisons between victims and peacekeepers may face stigmatisation by their families and communities, which may deprive them of economic, social and emotional support, which in turn may result in victim’s being driven into further exploitative relationships with peacekeepers in order to survive (UN, 2005, p.8).

The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Somalia Fatiha Serour on the need to tackle the prevailing perceptions that victimize the victim, observes that during preparations for the London Summit on Somalia, a religious leader noted that “if a girl who was raped becomes pregnant, there is a need to remove the child from the girl as the baby represents something evil.” Deputy Special Representative argues that such statements only reveals that the girl in this context is seen as the one who is wrong yet in reality the girl’s rights and dignity has been violated.


Taking action against alleged perpetrators of sexual violence in Somalia is however, beset with difficulties. A major underlying problem is that the AU has no disciplinary authority over AMISOM peacekeepers as they belong to member states seconding soldiers to the AU. In an interview with the late Somali Police Commissioner, he eluded that the Somali police hands are tied due to the absence of a protocol with countries providing soldiers to AMISOM operations; even when it comes to the prosecuting or returning of “the accused soldiers to Somali to face justice.” Further noted “while AMISOM is helping to protect civilians, something Somali’s respect we shouldn’t accept civilians to be abused.” In reality, AU personnel in Somalia enjoy immunity from local jurisdictions.

On the other hand the Africa Union Commission has not shown with action its desire to follow to the letter its Code of Conduct that specifies that peacekeepers should not “indulge inactsof sexual, physicalorpsychologicalabuseorexploitationof thelocalpopulation”andthat“anyexchangeof money, employment,goodsorservices”forsexmustbepunished. Somali’s Police Commissioner Hassan Sheikh says there is a need for the “Somali government and AMISOM to establish a police committee to deal with sexual violence and exploitation” and that the “Somali government should have a “policy that would guide and stipulate how to tackle crimes and violations committed by AMISOM peacekeepers.” This could help tackle the perception among peacekeepers that they are immune to prosecution for crimes they may commit while being deployed. The lack of host nations jurisdiction gives these troops de facto immunity from prosecution in Somalia.


To this day, Somalia knowsthreedifferentmajor lawsystems12. Most ofthe time,thesesystems coexist in the sameareaandthey are often contradictory.As a result,the Somali peoplehave the right to choose whichlawthey applyinany given case,a decision made on the basis ofself-interest,while bearinginmind that when it comes to the securityandpeace the decision will provide forthe inter-clan relations.Most of the survivors of sexual exploitation don’t file complaints with respective “authorities because they fear stigma, reprisals from family members, the police, and the Islamist insurgent group” while others “do not belief authorities would be able or willing to take any effective action” (HRW, 2014, September, p.35) a predicament that confines the survivors to silence and anguish. Maryan Daqal Xussen of Somali’s Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) says they receive about 5 to 8 cases of rape every month committed by men aged between 18-30-years old and their challenge is the stigma factor. In some cases all they can is to “inquire from them if they want to report the case, but most women feel ashamed and shy” making it difficult for them to pursue prosecutions.

Claire Brown further says that “in practice the Attorney General’s office has very little capacity” and that the lawyers they work with have informed them that “the CID and the Attorney General office decide not to investigate in up to 85 per cent of cases” adding there also handles that beset the 15 per cent of cases that see the light of the day as the probability of perpetrator being convicted is incredibly low. “Last year there were 1,600 rapes reported and we can only find evidence of two that were successfully convicted.” Maryan Daqal Xussen says all is not lost as there are cases they “have taken to court and won but still, our judiciary need training as sometimes it is not easy to get justice.” The gender activist says through the collaboration of the family they were able to prosecute a relative who had raped a baby girl while the mother was away shopping and by working with “the Criminal Investigation Department, the rapist was jailed for 15-years.” Consequently,there is awidespread Somali distrust regarding thesevarious systems,since it cannotbe guaranteedthatall peoplewill betreatedequallybefore the law,aviolation of basic human rights that all are entitled13

Prevailing Legal Frameworks

The centrality of traditional practices in Somali society is such that most of the legal interventions even when it comes to sexual violence tends to be undertaken by clan or community authorities through the customary laws structures. Resolutions through this means are often sought out by survivors because of their accessibility, speed of action, affordability and because survivors wish to adhere to tradition in order to maintain their social credibility and honour. By comparison, the state legal system has a very poor geographical coverage, and is beyond access for large sections of the population. Gerstle and others argue that “restricted access to schools, roads, books, and other means of development, many, if not a majority of Somalis live their lives without encountering the state justice system” Gerstle, Warsame, Ismail, & Nuh, 2007, p.82). On its part the UN notes that within customary law there are inherent gender inequalities.

Maryan Daqal Xussen opines that there are negative cultural practices where families “seek to have the rapist marry the survivor.” In this regard, the rights of the survivor are seen through the context of the need to maintain the male-oriented clans interest. In IDP camps, there are cases where the perpetrator is allowed to remain in the community through a community settlement out of fear that the perpetrator would be given a lengthy service in the formal justice system, putting survivors at risk of reprisals and further sexual violence. Within Somalia, the sort of justice that victims of rape attain through the customary justice contrasts with the actual outcomes of customary justice elsewhere. In Mogadishu IDPs camps, rape cases involving known perpetrator are addressed by clan leaders who negotiate compensation between the survivor and perpetrators’ families without due consideration of the rights and needs of the survivors.

The relative disadvantages and advantages of customary laws have been best summed up by the UN report that states “ although it has contributed to fostering degrees of peace between clans” it is uncertain “if customary law works for girls and women (Ibid). The report’s findings concluded that customary laws are extremely prejudicial for girls and women. Access to informal justice, especially for IDPs, is not guaranteed and seems to depend on clan affiliations and status. This is one of the many drawbacks of customary law, as it is built upon the links amongst clan and sub-clan groups. As Gundel notes, “the xeer [customary law] is efficient for the regulation of inter-clan affairs” but a drawback among individuals as such people “may not have the same rights and protection, because xeer is linked to clans and their area” (Ibid). Furthermore, access to informal justice is also hampered by low level of education, as many women lack the relevant knowledge about customary law processes.

Sharia law has co-existed with Somali customary law throughout Somalia’s history and in comparison to customary law, it is protective when it comes to women’s rights. In theory, Sharia law does not permit violence against women. As with customary law, Qadis (Sharia legal judges) are male and the same concerns exist regarding the rights of women in such a context;

[…] it cannot be taken for granted that all of the Qadis in the Somali Republic are cognisant of, or observe, all international human rights, particularly when the Somali Republic is not a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women (Academy for Peace and Development, 2002)

In reality, women perceive Sharia law positively (similar to customary law) in terms of trust and for its ability to respond quickly. However, in some cases pertaining to sexual violence, the testimony of a woman can be excluded from consideration. This is a major limitation of Sharia law in addressing sexual violence as UN reports argues that women often lack the relevant knowledge regarding how Sharia law processes can protect and support their rights and cases (UNDP, UNPOS & UN Women, 2012, p.87).

International Legal Frameworks

At the national level, the equality of rights for Somali citizens has been recognised by the recent constitution14 of the post-transitional Federal Republic of Somalia. Equality of rights is also safeguarded in the 2008 Constitution of the Puntland State of Somalia and the 2001 Constitution of the Republic of Somaliland. Somalia government with UN agencies and other partners are in the process of drafting a gender policy that will promote gender equality and hopefully mainstream preventive and responsive measures against sexual and gender based violence in all governments’ plans (Draft Gender Policy of Somalia, 2014).

The Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development is in the final stages of finalizing a Sexual Offences Bill that will play a critical role in prevention and protection of vulnerable persons including women and children in Somalia. The ministry is also working with other ministries towards the establishment of an Independent Human Rights Commission at the federal level. Such a commission could address the absence of an oversight body within Somalia that could monitor, assess and evaluate the existing legal frame works and above all their applicability and implementation. The UN’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia challenges the ministry to work with other ministries on the issue of human rights terming it a “cross cutting issue.”

The Somali Penal Code, applied throughout Somalia includes punishments for rape, assault, incest, and ‘hurt’ (UNDP, UNPOS & UN Women, 2012, p.80). The formal system can in theory hold perpetrators of violence to account, yet in practice sexual violence cases are rare due the preference of women for more accessible and culturally relevant customary law. Of the three forms of legal resolution in Somalia, ‘formal’ justice is accessed the least by women. UNDP found that less than five per cent of female youth reported crimes such as sexual violence, rape, abduction, and forced detention to the authorities.

The same report found that 54 per cent of those it interviewed reported having very easy access to community elders for seeking justice, whereas almost 50 per cent reported that access to legal courts and police was difficult (UNDP, Somalia Human Development Report, 2012). Whilst the lack of geographical coverage offered by formal law courts is a major factor behind the preference of customary law, so too is the lack of trust in formal justice. Formal justice is often turned to when other community-based options have been exhausted (Ibid). Other reasons given by women for not pursuing formal justice include fear of shame due to having rape incidents being made public and thus damage to their social standing, as well as inadequate protection and difficulties encountered during prosecution due to evidence tampering and witness withdrawal. UN attributes this to “perceived weaknesses in the formal justice system” (Ibid).

Maryan Daqal Xussen says while as an NGOs they have taken cases to court, notes that judiciary staff, “need training as sometimes it’s not easy to get justice” and this could be coupled with an increased number of female judicial officers. The Police Commissioner Hassan Sheikh notes also that there is also need for training of police officers “on human rights something the junior officers lacks and needs” as in reality any effective and credible prosecution will need the police force. The Somalia government will also will need to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Such a move could boost the effectiveness of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa that Somalia has already ratified. The charter commits the government to countering all forms of discrimination against women, including violence, via the appropriate legislative and institutional measures.


Since March 2014 when the rights agencies and civil societies groups raised the alarm over increasing cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in Somalia. The Somalia government, Africa Union and United nation have been finding ways to either take action or explain their intentions. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamudwhile speaking to military cadets at a training camp in Mogadishu on April 10th 2013 stated that “security forces who rape and rob our citizens must be fought and be defeated just like Al-Shabaab.” The President said that his government had indicated its resolve on tackling the matter by creation of relevant ministries and supporting deliberations towards legislations seeking to promote human rights, gender equality and sexual reproductive rights programmes in Somalia.

The Africa Union as the custodian of AMISOM in response to the Human Rights Watch report has stated that the “allegations will be thoroughly investigated” and “appropriate measures” taken. However the AU Commission registered its “deep concern” over what it called as “imbalance, inaccuracies and partial view contained” in the report. The Commission argued that the report used “a small number of cases to arrive at a generalized conclusion” and secondly, that report was “contradictory” by making “sweeping general assertions about AMISOM culpability” before “exhaustively interrogating the scale and prevalence” and thirdly, that “report lacks coherence in its account of AU’s efforts to prevent and respond” to the allegations (AU, 2014, September, 8, pp.1-2). Beyond questioning the report, the AU Commission has deployed “an investigation team to look into allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse levelled against” the AMISOM personnel and “establish the facts” and the team was expected to complete its investigation by November 30 2014 (AU, 2014, October, 17, p.1). Through interview The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) for SomaliaFatiha Serour says its “important to expose these cases” and that the UNSOM has written to AU and that those who have more information or cases should share.

The UN’s Deputy Special Representative noted that while the UNSOM wants to see the allegations investigated, stressed upon the AU to contemplate a joint probe to due to the “need for transparency” adding “it is the responsibility of the troop contributing country to carry out the necessary criminal investigations, in a transparent manner.” Uganda in early November (2014) suspended 15 military officers including two generals who previously commanded Uganda contingent in Somalia serving under the auspices of the AMISOM. Further, Uganda military has banned all the accused army officers from future Somalia deployments. Uganda said the suspended officers were under investigation for “sexual exploitation” in Somalia but Burundi whose troops were also implicated in the SEA had given the matter a dead silence. However, the seriousness of the Uganda action can be questioned after its army spokesman Lt. Col Paddy Ankunda down played the seriousness of sexual exploitation allegations made by Human Rights Watch by saying “reports of sexual exploitation are a small matter” (Daily Monitor, 2014, November, 6).

In previous occasion where AMISOM troops have been implicated in sexual exploitation as with December 2012 following “media reports of shops on the AMISOM base” being used as conduit for “exploitative sex” the then AMISOM force commander “ordered the closure of the shops” and further “banned Somalia women from the camp base” (Ibid). However the owners of the shop “refused to relocate” as ordered by the AMISOM commander but Human Rights notes that the commander directive could only have “merely relocated the problem to a new area” HRW, 2014, September, p.31). While United Nations Secretary General in his 2013 report to Security Council noted that sexual violence acts in countries like Somalia tantamount to violations of the “Security Council resolution 1960 (2010)” that among other things calls for “timely investigation of alleged violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable.” Almost one year on, the victims of Somalia sexual violation are still waiting for the UN’s Secretary General words to be turned into action. The Security Council resolution does accord the Secretary General powers that if exploited could to SEA perpetrators prosecuted. The level of violence and weak governance structures shouldn’t be allowed to derail the path towards prosecution and prevention of SEA. The same violence that has subjected women and girls to ‘double victimisation’ should not be let to take away or prevent their access to justice and protection.


As Somalia undergoes transition from a two-decades of protracted conflict, the tackling of sexual violence will involve several approaches;

Somali Federal Government

  • Strengthening the capacity of civil societies and NGOs to respond to on behalf of the survivors and support them through programs and activities that will help seek justices
  • Strengthen the capacity of the community to be better informed and willing to rise above the ‘culture of silence’
  • Influencing and mobilise the political, religious and clan leadership to spearhead better cultural attitudes and practices
  • Establish a sexual violence desk within the police force and strengthen their capacity to detect, investigate and prosecute SEA
  • Establishment of a system through which Government ministry, UNSOM, AMISOM, civil society and NGOs can collaborate through towards the tackling of SGBV

African Union/AMISOM/UN

  • For AMISOM to be forthcoming and accountable, donors to its operations in Somalia, namely United Nations, African Union, United States, European Union and Britain need to demand action on sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Revisit MOU with Somali government and align it with the revised standard Memorandum of Understanding between troop countries and the UN’s Department of peacekeeping operations.
  • Expedite the commission of inquiry investigating allegations of sexual abuses and exploitations by AMISOM forces and take the appropriate measures to punish those responsible for abuses and misconducts in Somalia.
  • Adopt a common understanding and definition among the troop contributing countries with regards to sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Respect and implement UN security Resolution 2093, which requires AMISOM to take adequate measures to prevent sexual violence and sexual exploitation and abuses by applying policies consistent with United Nations zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuses in the context of peacekeeping.


Questionnaire Guide for Interviews

The purpose of this Questionnaire is to gather information about sexual violence against women and girls (or rape) within Mogadishu. Aim being to come up with plan/strategy, that can be used by government and county officials security personnel (military and police) and community members for the protection of the women and girls from sexual violence or rape, and also prevent their recurrence and most importantly, the prosecution of the perpetrators.

Recently, there have been allegations of rape against members of the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia? How can we hold them to account for such violations? What are the findings of the committee if there is committee for investigations?

What is the government doing to ensure cases of sexual violence carried out by its security sector or by others are investigated and taken to trial?

What is the law suits African Union (AU) who were committed and accuses rape and other sexual harassment are going be taking to trail in Somalia or they will be taking to either own country? What is the punishment? What is the role for Somali government to insure to find justice for victim

What commitments is the government offering in relation to protecting human rights of women, of IDPs

Is there any plans for the government and training dealing with police authorities in Somalia to deal with women issues -related cases and which can be benefits in protection of women

AMISOM/AU Questionnaire Guide

Wide spread accounts of in appropriate behavior and sexual exploitation and abuses by AMISOM have been reported in the media and of recent have been documented by Human Rights Watch. Do you agree that these abuses are true and have been committed by some of the peace keepers that are meant to protect civilians in Mogadishu? Do you think this has tarnished the mandate and work of AMSOM in Somalia?

What has AMISOM taken to address these abuses against women and girls in Mogadishu? What steps have you taken? Will these perpetrators be tried in Mogadishu courts? Since the crimes were committed in Mogadishu?

As a peace keeping Mission, what is your policy on sexual violence and abuse against civilians in Mogadishu/Somalia? Does AMISOM/AU have zero tolerance on Abuses and sexual violence? If yes, could you elaborate?

What are the commanding officers of AMISOM doing to prevent, identify and punish perpetrators of sexual violence against civilians in Mogadishu?

All AMISOM personnel, including locally recruited Somalis, are immune from local legal processes in Somalia for any acts they perform in their official capacity, Don’t you think this is injustice to the victims of sexual violence since perpetrators can’t be prosecuted in Somali courts or even in AMISOM run military courts in Mogadishu. Is this justified?

How are you (AMISOM) ensuring that survivors of sexual violence are protected and supported, what is your policy on this? As a peace keeping mission do you have programs that address survivors of sexual violence either committed by AMISOM, individuals or militias?

Has AMISOM ever set up units and taken disciplinary action against perpetrators? Do you have enough resources to set up an independent and adequately resourced investigative unit that deals with sexual violence and abuses committed by AMISOM personnel?

Soldiers from troop contributing countries are routed quarterly or yearly basis, what measures have you put in place that the accused AMISOM soldiers return home and elude prosecution both in Somalia and in their original countries?

A commission of inquiry was set up my AU/AMISOM to investigate the current abuses and violations, How far are with this? When do we expect the commission to start its work? Don’t you think there will be conflict of interest from within the AU contributing countries to be investigated by fellow Africans? Would you suggest a more independent Commission to do this work?

What is your advice on ending sexual violence in Somalia? What do you think AMISOM/AU role can play to end this predicament?

AMISOM has got a Gender Unit, what is their role in your Mandate? Is this is not a shame that this abuses and violations are happening even when there is a gender Unit that address and promotes women’s rights within and outside the mission?


The purpose of this Focus Group Discussion is gather information about sexual violence against women and girls (or rape) within Mogadishu. Aim being to come up with plan/strategy, that can be used by government and county officials security personnel (military and police) and community members for the protection of the women and girls from sexual violence or rape, and also prevent their recurrence and most importantly, the prosecution of the perpetrators.

Focus Group DiscussionGuiding Principles

To be an inclusive, participatory process;

To focus on a limited number of key issues;

To provide a non-judgmental environment without seeking attribution nor retribution for input and observations;

To help build a shared understanding among participants


Thank you all very much for taking part in this Focus Group Discussion and my name is Ifrah Ahmed and work for_________________. This is _________________, who will be taking notes during our discussion today.

To guide our discussion today, I will ask a series of questions. As key issues arise, I may also ask follow-up questions to the group. Everyone’s viewpoints are valuable, so I encourage you all to speak up and share your thoughts. There is no need to come to consensus on any answer. We have scheduled 1 hour for our discussion today.


Before we get started, please be assured that all your responses will be held in strict confidence. Findings will be presented in summary, and no statements or quotes used in the report will be attributed directly to you.

Your participation is voluntary, and you may decline to answer any question or leave the discussion at any point. We would like to audio-tape the whole discussion for our reference and we assure you that the tapes will be destroyed once we prepare the notes from it.

Each one of you will be assigned a number so that we will not use your names. Do you agree to continue?

___Yes ( ) ___No ( ) ____________Facilitator’s Initials

Section A:
Prevalence and extent of sexual violence against women/girls or rape

Site of study, group composition and description of participants

What do you know about rape cases or sexual violence against women or girls?

Whether participants are aware of sexual violence against women/girls or rape violence in the area, their estimation on prevalence and who the main perpetrators are (community member/police/military/?)

Major reasons/circumstances that usually occasion/trigger sexual violence against women/girls or rape in the area

Section B:
Types and Forms of
sexual violence against women/girls or rape and the consequences

Nature and common types of prevailing sexual violence against women/girls or rape including psychological/emotional, economic and physical bodily abuse (probe in details the forms violence takes and estimated frequency of such occurrences) in the area

Consequences of the various types and forms of sexual violence against women/girls or rape in the area

Whether participants have experienced any sexual violence against women/girls or rape

Nature types of such support mentioned in (7) above and the estimated prevalence of such spousal support in the area

Section C:
Strategies for, and challenges of addressing
sexual violence against women/girls or rape

How the community, individual/ police/ military/ government official/ families/ communities deal with sexual violence against women/girls or rape in the area

Types and forms of interventions to sexual violence against women/girls or rape in the area that the participants are aware of in the areas

Existing community level structures, government and civil society actors in the area that are involved in addressing sexual violence against women/girls or rape (probe on the various initiatives)

Performance (success/failure stories) of initiatives focusing on sexual violence against women/girls or rape in the area

What participants perceive to be challenges and barriers for success in addressing sexual violence against women/girls or rape in the area

Section D:
Suggestions on the way forward in tackling
sexual violence against women/girls or rape

Participants’ suggestions on how to surmount the identified challenges and barriers to effectively addressing sexual violence against women/girls or rape in general and their area in particular (probe for what they perceive as appropriate individual, community, civil society and government level initiatives)

Participants’ ideas on who should be involved in processes for addressing sexual violence against women/girls or rape and for what reasons

The views of participants on strategies and activities that should be deployed to deal effectively with sexual violence against women/girls or rape generally and particularly in their area

Thank you,


Academy for Peace and Development (2002), Women’s Rights in Islam and Somali Culture, UNICEF, Hargeisa, Somaliland, December 

Africa Union (2014, October, 17) The Africa Union (AU) Establishes Team to Investigate Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) by the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), published by Africa Union Media, Addis Ababa, Accessed 2014, November 4, .

Africa Union (2014, October 16) Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Situation in Somalia, Published by Africa Union during the Peace and Security Council 462nd meeting, Addis Ababa, Vol SC/PR/2.(CDLXII),

Africa Union (2014, September 8) The Africa Union Strongly Rejects the Conclusions Contained in the Report of the Human Rights Watch on Allegations on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by AMISOM, Publication- AU Press Release, Addis Ababa, Accessed November 4, 2014

Ballesteros,A (2007).Traffickinginhuman beings andinternationalpeacekeeping missions: The 2004NATOTHBPolicyConnections6/3. 2007. 125.

Daily Monitor (2014, November 6), Army names officers suspended over abuse, by Daily Monitor on November 6, 14, Accessed November 6, 14

Gerstle, D.J., Warsame, M.O., Ismail Ali, A.K., & Nuh, S.O., (2007), Under the Acacia Tree: Solving Legal Dilemmas for Children in Somalia, UNDP & UNICEF. p. 47. Quoted in Violence in the Lives of Women, UN, UNPOS, UNDP UNDP, & UN Women, 2012. p.82.

Human Rights Watch (2014, September) The Power These Men Have Over Us: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia, Published by Human Rights Watch, Washington DC, Vol ISBN: 978-1-62313-1876, pg 98

Human-Rights-Watch (2014, March), “Here, Rape is Normal” A Five-Point Plan to Curtail Sexual Violence in Somalia. United States of America: Human Rights Watch. P:1

Kesic,V (2001).The statusofrape as awarcrime ininternationallaw:Changeintroducedafter the wars inthe former Yugoslavia andRwanda, M AThesis, NeSchoolUniversity, New York.

Martin,S (2005)Boys Must Be Boys?EndingSexualViolence andAbuseinUN PeacekeepingMissions.Washington,DC:Refugees International

Mugo Mugo (2014, March) Rape in Somalia: Women and Double Victimisation. Pubulsihed by Global Education Magazine, pg 11

United Nations (2013). Somalia: Sexual Violence in Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General, at UN’s General Assembly 67 Session Agenda Item 33
 Prevention of Armed Conflict, New York, March 14, 2013, Vol A/67/792 S/2013/149, P. 14

UN (2005, March, 24) Comprehensive review ofthe whole questionof peacekeepinoperationsin alltheir aspects, UN General Assembly, New York, (A/59/710) P. 8

UNDP, UNPOS & UN Women, (2012) Violence in the Lives of Girls and Women in the Somali Republic, 2012. P.87.


Claire Brown, Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal Interview, Legal Officer, Legal Action World Wide, Interviewed in Mogadishu, 18th November 2014

Duniyo, Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Officer at Women’s Development

Organisation (IIDA), Interview in Mogadishu on 27, October, 2014

Focus Group Discussion, Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Group Interview, 25 participants hailed from various IDPs camp within Mogadishu, interview at Al Cadaalo camp, Mogadishu, October 13, 2014

Mumina Maadeey’ Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, 55-years old raped at Afgooye in Lower Shabelle on June 5 2014, Interview at Ooryoley in Mogadishu on 12, October, 2014

Muslimo Muudeey’ Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, 27-yrs mother of two raped on June 2014 at Saidka IDP camp, interview Mogadishu, 10 October 2014

Jaamac Maryan Aweeys, Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Women, and Humanitarian Affairs,

Interview in Mogadishu

Shamso Hussein’ Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Interview conducted in the presence /assistance of her mother for needs of details and clarification, Raped on October 11, 2014, interview on Ex-Control, Mogadishu, 10th September 2014

Sheikh Hassan,Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Somali Police Commissioner who died two weeks after the interview, Interview in Mogadishu on 20, October, 2014

Serour Fatiha, Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Somalia, Interview in Mogadishu on 30, October 2014

Xalimo Hassan’ Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Raped on October 12, 2014 Owdhele, Lower Shabbele, interview Mogadishu, 16 October 2014

Xussen, Maryan Daqal Interview by Ifrah Ahmed, Personal interview, Gender Officer and Member of Somali’s Women’s Development Centre, Interview in Mogadishu on 1, November 2014


Research paper edited by: Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Senior Expert/Managing Partner at West Africa Conflict and Security (WACAS) Consultancy. Eric Gitonga, Founder and President of Global Efforts Initiative. Abdihakim Ainte, Managing Director, Trans-Link Advisory.

Support: Research paper was sponsored by Trans Trans-Link Advisory Consultancy that specializes on transitional challenges in the Horn of Africa

1In the context of this publication, the definition of “Sexual Violence” will borrow from UN reports that defines it as: Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men or children with a direct or indirect (temporal, geographical or causal) link to a conflict. This link to conflict may be evident in the profile and motivations of the perpetrator, the profile of the victim, the climate of impunity or State collapse, any cross-border dimensions or violations of the terms of a ceasefire agreement. SeeUnited Nations (2013). Sexual Violence in Conflict: Report of the Secretary-General, at UN’s General Assembly 67 Session Agenda Item 33
 Prevention of Armed Conflict, New York, March 14, 2013, Vol A/67/792 S/2013/149, p. 12

2United Nations estimates there are 1.1million IDPs in Somalia of whom at least 369,000 in Mogadishu (Ibid).

3 Human Rights Watch – The Power These Men Have Over Us: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia, released on September 2014

4AMISOM force in Somali comprises of 22,000 soldiers from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Djibouti and Ethiopia, has been fighting alongside Somalia troops against Al-Shabaab militants since 2007.

5Sexual Exploitation – “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another”. See UN’s Secretary General’s bulletin ST/SGB/2003/13, 9 October 2003. (accessed August 15, 2014) cited in Human Rights Watch, 2014, September, p.28

6Those interviewed included five survivors of SGBV within the youngest being aged 9-years and the oldest being 55-years woman. The rest of the individual interview were with the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Somalia, The Prime Minister Spokesperson, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Women, and Humanitarian Affairs, Spokesperson of the Somali military court, the then Somalis Police Commissioner Hassan Sheikh. Then from the civil society; the programme officer with Somali’s Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) and Officer at Women’s Development Organisation (IIDA), Legal Officer of Legal Action World and a questionnaire submitted to AMISOM upon request had not been replied to by the time of research publication. On the Focus Group Discussions, there were two FGDs, first involving thirteen participants on 13th October 2014 at Al Cadaala camp and the second involving twelve participants on 15th October at Sayidka camp, both IDPs camp within Mogadishu. The FGD brought together 15 women aged 16-25 years of whom 6 were survivors and then the rest 10 participants were men aged 15-29 years.

7Sexual Exploitation – “any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another”. See UN’s Secretary General’s bulletin ST/SGB/2003/13, 9 October 2003. (accessed Aug 15, 2014) cited in HRW, 2014, Sept, p.28

8 Chairperson of AU’s Commission report on the situation in Somalia, 16 October 2014: AMISOM peacekeepers in Somalia in conjunction with Somali government undertake a wide variety of complex tasks, from helping to build sustainable institutions of governance, to human rights monitoring, to security sector reform, to the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants

9In 2007 the Africa Union Peace and Security Council was mandated by UN’s Security Council to provide protection to Somalia government officials, the infrastructures and humanitarian operations. (The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1744 in February 2007. AMISOM mandate was expanded by Security Council Resolution 2036 (2012), paragraph 1 and 2 authorizing AMISOM “to take all necessary measures as appropriate in those sectors in coordination with the Somali security forces to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups in order to establish conditions for effective and legitimate governance across Somalia.” Despite the resolution allowing the AU to increase its forces from 8,00 0 to 17,731 it denied AMISOM the right of civilian protection despite pressure from the African Union. See from United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1744 (2007), S/RES/1744 (2007), (accessed November 6, 2014). See also United nations Security council 2036 (2012)

10UPDF: The armed forces of Uganda, previously known as the National Resistance Army and according to International Institute for Strategic Studies its land forces and air wing force (2007-2011) was at 40,000 – 45,000. See IISS Military Balance 2007, 297: IISS Military Balance 2011, 44

11BNDF: The state military organisation responsible for the defence of Burundi. See International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (2012). The Military Balance 2012. London: IISS. ISSN 0459-7222

12Customary law, Sharia legal systems whilst also considering international and national level legal frameworks

13Article7statesthatallpeopleareequalbeforelawand entitledtoequalprotectionofthelaw:,seeUNGeneralAssembly,UniversalDeclarationofHumanRights,1948,December10,217A(III),art.7

14 The Federal Republic of Somalia, Provisional Constitution, August 2012, Mogadishu, Somalia, Article 11:1, ‘All citizens, regardless of sex, religion, social or economic status, political opinion, clan, disability’


This article was published on 20th December 2014, for the International Human Solidarity Day, in Global Education Magazine.

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