The UN Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, visited Somalia in early April to highlight rape in the country’s camps for internally displaced people. The Somali government, in a groundbreaking move, acknowledged the complicity of its own troops in the issue and resolved to take action.
Bangura’s visit, her first since taking up the role, saw her meet with civil society stakeholders and UN officials to discuss strategies for combating sexual violence in the Somali context. "I decided to make a trip to Somalia because I believe the country is embarking on an important and exciting journey after many years of conflict," she noted. "I want to offer the support of my office in helping the government achieve its stated goals of building an equitable society in which human rights are respected and communities are free from sexual and gender-based violence." Bangura has called for a stronger and transparent judicial system to increase public confidence and encourage survivors to come forward.
Somalia is home to 513 camps for internally displaced people, which have been the sites of rampant rape and gender violence committed by both government troops and armed militia members. The admission by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud that state security forces have been guilty of rape is an important one, which marks the end of years of denial. In response, the president stated that, "Those few among the security forces who rape and rob our citizens must be fought and be defeated just like Shabab.”
These developments come on the heels of the case of Lul Ali Isman, who was jailed for alleging she was raped by a government soldier, along with the journalist who had interviewed her. Moving forward, Bangura said that a team of experts will arrive in Somalia in July to work with the military and police on the issue. She also praised journalists such as Abdiaziz Abdinuur, jailed alongside Isman, for drawing attention to Somalia’s rape crisis.
UN: Somalia Needs Stronger Judiciary to Fight Sexual Violence, Voice of America, 4 April 2013
Hostages of the Gatekeepers, Human Rights Watch, 29 March 2013
Somali Rape Victim Sentenced to Jail, Stop Rape in Conflict, 12 February 2013
Somalia acknowledges rape by soldiers, Al-Jazeera English, 10 April 2013
Somalia: UN Official in Mogadishu to Raise Sexual Violence Awareness, AllAfrica, 4 April 2013