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Somalia: Escalation and Human Rights Abuses
Apr 9, 2007 (070409)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
More than 100,000 Somalis have fled fighting in the capital area in
the last two months, according to UN reports. As many as 400
civilians were killed in the most recent attacks by Ethiopian and
Somali government troops on areas said to house insurgents, and a
European Union observer has warned that "war crimes" may have been
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has reported the secret rendition and
detention of Somali refugees, with the collaboration of Kenyan,
Ethiopian, and U.S. officials. While U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State Jendayi Frazer visited Somalia in a surprise visit on April
7, she did not reply to the charges of human rights abuses against
U.S. allies. Instead, she accused "global jihadists" and Eritrea of
fomenting destabilization, and said reconciliation talks should
exclude "committed jihadists."
A national reconciliation conference is scheduled for April 16, but
recent fighting raises doubts that any meaningful meeting can be
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several reports on recent
developments from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks
and from the UN News service, as well as a press release from Human
Rights Watch and a commentary on the charges of "war crimes" from
a blog on http://www.africanpath.com
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, see
http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php For a commentary by
AfricaFocus editor William Minter on the U.S.-supported Ethiopian
intervention in Somalia, "Don't Replay Iraq in Horn of Africa," see
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Somalia: Locals mobilised to assist displaced civilians
Civil society organisations are stepping into the breach to help
those displaced by the fighting in Mogadishu
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
[This material comes from IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and
information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of
the United Nations or its agencies.]
Nairobi, 5 April 2007 (IRIN) - Civil society organisations in
Somalia have launched a campaign to help thousands of desperate
civilians displaced by the fighting in Mogadishu, the capital.
"We have been trucking water in the last three days," said
Abdinasir Ahmed Usman, head of a civil society taskforce that is
assisting the displaced.
Shortage of water is one of the biggest problems. Abdinasir said
six tankers had been delivering water four times a day for
displaced people camped between Mogadishu and Afgoye, south of the
Other local groups, including the business community, had begun
delivering water to people camping at Ceel Ade and Ceel Ma'an in
the north of the city.
The taskforce estimates that more than 100,000 people have been
displaced around the city. "From Bal'ad [north] to Merka [100km
south], Ceel Ma'an [east] and Dayniile [west] people are living
under trees or sheltering under whatever structure they can find,"
Against the backdrop of grim pictures of women and children living
under trees or begging for food on the roadside, hundreds of
ordinary Somalis and business people have volunteered their
support, said Madina Muhammad Ilmi, deputy head of the taskforce.
"Everybody is giving what they can," she said. "This is our way of
showing the world that we care for each other,
''We cannot wait for international agencies before we do
despite all the problems," she added, saying some owners of water
tankers had provided them for free and were even driving them.
Mahamud Abdikarim, chairman of the Business Council, said his group
was also participating in the aid effort. "We asked our members to
contribute what they can in kind or in cash," he said. Ahmed Yusuf,
chairman of Hormuud Telecommunication Company, said: "We are part
of the community and we must participate. These are our people
suffering and we cannot wait for international agencies before we
Usman said the various groups had covered "almost all the water
needs but we cannot cover the food and shelter needs".
Ilmi said conditions in the camps were deteriorating by the day.
"The approaching GU rains [long rains] will make matters worse,"
she added. "We already have children dying of diarrhoea every day,
and if the rains arrive and they are still living in these
conditions many more will die."
She said some agencies, such as the International Committee of the
Red Cross, Danish Refugee Council and Daryeel Bulsho Guud (a local
NGO backed by German agencies) had also been supporting the
Fighting escalated in Mogadishu in December when Somali troops,
backed by Ethiopia, fought to remove the Union of Islamic Courts
from the city. Since then, violence has escalated, despite the
presence of an African Union peacekeeping force. Nearly 400 people
were killed in recent clashes.
Somalia: UN decries civilian deaths in Mogadishu
Nairobi, 4 April 2007 (IRIN) - The parties to conflict in Somalia
must respect international law, protect civilians and allow
humanitarian aid to get to those in need, a top United Nations
"There is worry that civilians will bear the brunt of fighting if
the ceasefire in place since Sunday does not hold," Louise Arbour,
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Tuesday.
"Parties should respect international humanitarian law [and]
remember their duty to protect the rights of civilians at all
times, by granting civilians safe passage and allowing humanitarian
aid to reach those who have been affected," she added.
Almost 100,000 people have fled Somalia's capital of Mogadishu over
the past two months and there are growing concerns about the
worsening humanitarian conditions for civilians still trapped in
the city, Arbour said in a statement.
Heavy artillery and mortar shells rained on Mogadishu last week,
hitting residential areas and causing a large number of casualties.
A hospital was reportedly hit on 30 March, killing one person and
injuring others, while other health facilities are saturated with
The violence increased after the Transitional Federal Government
(TFG), backed by Ethiopian forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic
Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu in December.
Separately, the International Contact Group on Somalia (ICGS)
called on all parties to immediately cease all hostilities, ensure
the protection of the Somali population, and guarantee the security
of humanitarian and relief workers.
At a meeting held on Tuesday in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, the
ICGS said it was paramount that an inclusive and genuine political
and reconciliation process that reaches out to Somalis be
established. It also stressed the need for disarmament within the
context of this process.
A ceasefire between pro-government troops and insurgents was
holding for a third day on Wednesday. People who were trapped in
their homes had begun to come out to count their losses, said a
local journalist, and some businesses that had closed had now
Hawiye clan elders and Ethiopian commanders have set up a joint
committee to collect the dead and wounded. The dead are being
buried, and those who had been trapped and wounded in some
neighbourhoods are now being brought in, said Ahmed Abdisalam, the
managing partner of HornAfrik radio and television, and the
facilitator of the talks.
The committee is also expected to go to areas where the fighting
forces are deployed to help reduce tensions. "These are confidence
building measures and we hope to begin more substantive discussions
tomorrow [Thursday]," he added.
UN Envoy Cautions Against Forced Disarmament Before Somalia
UN News Service (New York)
April 4, 2007
Welcoming plans to convene a national reconciliation congress for
war-ravaged Somalia, the senior United Nations envoy to the country
has cautioned against forced disarmament to facilitate holding the
meeting in the capital, Mogadishu.
Addressing a meeting of the International Contact Group in Cairo,
the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Fran‡ois Lons‚ny
Fall, said recent fighting in Mogadishu "clearly brings in sharp
focus the differences between the views of those who want to carry
out forced disarmament to secure the capital and those who believe
that genuine reconciliation must precede any form of disarmament."
He noted plans to establish a National Governance and
Reconciliation Committee consisting of six imminent Somali
personalities and to convene a congress in Mogadishu in mid-May,
but pointed out that the security of the venue remains an issue.
The Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian
forces, dislodged the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu
and much of the rest of the country at the end of last year.
"From our contacts, it was clear that the TFG wants to secure the
city by disarming the insurgent forces before the convening of the
planned National Reconciliation Congress," Mr. Fall said. "However,
the UIC leaders doubt whether genuine reconciliation can be
achieved through this Congress. They oppose any forcible
disarmament in Mogadishu, and they have stressed the need to have
an agreed venue and agenda, and a neutral mediating body for the
The UN welcomes the TFG's initiative to convene the Congress, which
should receive international support, he said. "However, we are
concerned about the security of Mogadishu as venue. We believe that
providing security through forcible disarmament may not be the best
approach may undermine the efforts undertaken by the African Union
(AU) to stabilize the country and subsequently affects efforts for
a sustainable peace and reconciliation."
Those who have influence with members of the former UIC should
encourage them to "renounce violence and extremism and participate
in the planned Congress, or otherwise open a dialogue with the TFG,
without preconditions for the sake of national unity and
reconciliation," he said.
The International Contact Group on Somalia includes Italy, Kenya,
Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States,
together with the AU, European Union, Intergovernmental Authority
on Development, League of Arab States and the UN.
People Fleeing Somalia War Secretly Detained
Kenya, US and Ethiopia Cooperate in Secret Detentions and
Human Rights Watch
(New York, March 30, 2007) - Kenya, Ethiopia, the United States and
the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia cooperated in a
secret detention program for people who had fled the recent
conflict in Somalia, Human Rights Watch said today.
In a March 22 letter to the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Human Rights Watch detailed the arbitrary detention, expulsion and
apparent enforced disappearance of dozens of individuals who fled
the fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts and the joint
forces of the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopia from
December 2006 through January 2007.
"Each of these governments has played a shameful role in
mistreating people fleeing a war zone," said Georgette Gagnon,
deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "Kenya has secretly
expelled people, the Ethiopians have caused dozens to 'disappear,'
and US security agents have routinely interrogated people held
Human Rights Watch's recent research in Kenya indicates that since
late December 2006, Kenyan security forces arrested at least 150
individuals from some 18 different nationalities at the Liboi and
Kiunga border crossing points with Somalia. The Kenyan authorities
then transferred these individuals to Nairobi where they were
detained incommunicado and without charge for weeks in violation of
Human Rights Watch recognizes that Kenya may have valid security
concerns regarding people seeking refuge within its borders.
Nonetheless these concerns must be addressed through a fair process
in accordance with international law, not arbitrarily at the
expense of fundamental human rights.
US and other national intelligence services interrogated several
foreign nationals in detention in Nairobi, who were denied access
to legal counsel and their consular representatives. At least 85
people were then secretly deported from Kenya to Somalia in what
appears to be a joint rendition operation of those individuals of
interest to the Somali, Ethiopian, or US governments.
Human Rights Watch obtained the flight manifests for three flights
from Kenya to Mogadishu and Baidoa, Somalia in January and February
2007. Each manifest listed the names of several Kenyan police
officers who accompanied the detainees.
Many of the people expelled from Kenya were later transferred from
Somalia to Ethiopia, but their exact locations in Ethiopia are
unknown. Several detainees managed to briefly contact relatives
prior to or following their transfer to Ethiopia, and said they
were being held with numerous other people who had been deported
from Kenya and Somalia.
"Dozens of people have effectively disappeared into Ethiopian
detention facilities," said Gagnon. "It's imperative that the
Ethiopians acknowledge the people they are holding and permit
independent international access to them."
War crimes in Somalia by Ethiopia and the AU
Blog by Joshua Wanyama on http://www.africanpath.com
April 07, 2007
[Joshua Wanyama is a Kenyan living in Minnesota is the developer of the AfricanPath website.]
Today's Washington Post carries an article in which it reports
that there are possible human rights violations occurring in
Somalia right now. This comes in the wake of heavy fighting in
Mogadishu last week where Somali's transitional government backed
by Ethiopian troops attacked military insurgents. The result from
this offensive was heavy casualties amongst local residents and the
fleeing of up to a hundred thousand civilians from the bloody
The story broke after an urgent e-mail was sent to Eric van der
Linden, the chief E.U. official for Kenya and Somalia. It was sent
by a senior E.U. official whose identity is being kept secret. It
I need to advise you that there are strong grounds to believe that
the Ethiopian government and the transitional federal government of
Somalia and the African Union Force Commander, possibly also
including the African Union Head of Mission and other African Union
officials have through commission or omission violated the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court There arise urgent
questions of responsibility and potential complicity in the
commission of war crimes by the European Commission and its
This raises some serious questions. What is happening in Somalia?
I know that during war time people resort to their base instincts.
If the African Union troops who were supposed to ensure a safe
return to a peaceful Somalia get attacked, what do they do? Most
peacekeeping missions involve training, disarmament, organizing the
democratic process, providing security for civilians and
establishment of social services that attempt to bring back
normalcy to a country. This has not been the case in Somalia.
Before the African Union peacekeepers landed in Somalia, the ousted
Islamists had already vowed to attack and kill them. One AU plane
landing in Mogadishu Airport was shot at but managed to land
safely. Clearly, the situation on the ground is more than just
training, security and social service. These AU troops will
actually have to secure the peace. A mandate that Yoweri Museveni
said was not part of what his troops would do in Somalia.
As for the Ethiopian army occupying this country, they came in to
help the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia take over the
country. Ethiopia has never had warm relations with Somalis so
already they are an unwanted occupying army with a natural dislike
for Somalis. According to UN resolution, a bordering country can't
occupy its neighbor as a peacekeeper.
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1725, states bordering
Somalia would not be eligible to deploy troops under IGASOM. The
remaining (non-bordering) IGAD member nations include Sudan,
Eritrea, and Uganda. Because of the objection of the burden falling
on these three nations alone (and the rivalry between Ethiopia and
Eritrea), the mission was expanded to include other African Union
So Ethiopia's army needs to get out of Somalia otherwise the
situation keeps getting worse for both them and the Somalis. The
transitional government doesn't have the mandate of the people and
this makes it harder for them. Since the ouster of the Islamists,
they have come under moderate attacks until last week's offensive
where they attempted to crush the insurgency.
It will only be a matter of time before we get the full story of
what is happening in Mogadishu. If war crimes have been reported,
then all three bodies have been doing more than just fighting the
Islamists. They could have targeted civilians under the assumed
position of going after insurgents or tortured them while looking
for collaborators. Until the whole truth comes out, all we can do
I find it hard to imagine the situation the Ugandan peacekeepers
find themselves in. They went in knowing they were going to help
the Transitional Government ensure peace but discovered a guerilla
war instead. Once the first Ugandan troop was killed last week, I
am sure the gloves came off and it became a "Survival for the
fittest" type of assignment. A soldier is not trained to police a
citizenry, they are trained to kill and defend their countries.
Currently, the Ugandan peacekeepers are caught between a rock and
a hard place. More has to be done from both the African Union
leadership and the commitment of the nations that promised to
provide troops to ensure this situation is remedied. John Kufuor,
please step up to the plate and lead your people.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
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