Since being thrown into anarchy following the coup against President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia’s political terrain has seen slow and stagnated progress. Dubbed the Horn of Africa, Somalia has been attempting to rebuild itself after more than two decades of political instability and violent infighting. Human rights in Somalia are in need of vast improvements.
The country’s efforts have been widely disrupted by insurgent uprisings and terrorist groups, which have flourished in an environment of reduced economic security and weak state control. Egregious violations of human rights in Somalia have occurred from the violent uprisings as well as the inability to access adequate food, water and shelter.
In March 2017, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared Somalia’s drought a national disaster. With an estimated 43 percent of Somalians living below the poverty line, the dire situation has only been exacerbated by poor climate conditions. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicted that the drought had put further strain on the 6.5 million Somalis who already face resource insecurity due to years of violent conflict.
In the dry and sparse terrain of the most rural parts of Somalia, many young girls and women alike have been targets of gender-based violence as they are forced to venture further out in search of sources of food and water. UNICEF officials fear that the scope of the issue is even larger than is known, as not all cases have been reported. With gender and human rights in Somalia at continued risk, there have been fervent calls for further international engagement with the issue.
The U.S. has been quick to respond to the emergence of insurgent groups and al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. Experts have called for a multifaceted approach towards eradicating poverty and improving the record of human rights in Somalia. The Human Rights Watch amongst others have articulated that military intervention in the form of drone strikes can only be a part of a much more robust strategy, especially one that does not put innocent civilians at such high risk.
On an international level, 2017 saw the U.N. Migration Agency launch a project, assisted by one million dollars in donations by China, to have emergency relief resources reach Somalia’s most vulnerable. On a domestic level, the 9th Parliament served its full-term after two decades, with the election in 2016 resulting in 17 percent youth and 26 percent women MPs, which marked a significant step forward for Somalia.
Although there is much left to be done, with an internationally sponsored government intact and multi-faceted relief projects on their way, there appears to be more hope for stability than there has been in decades for human rights in Somalia.
– Sydney Nam