AMISOM troops alleged ugly crimes in Somalia

(AMISOM troops patrolling the Zona-K camp for displaced people in Mogadishu's Hodan district in June 2012. ©2012 Clar Ni Chonghaile)

Girls and women have the right to live free from violence and discrimination and achieve their potential in today’s world, but many don’t get the chance to a life they so choose.
The African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is facing a credibility crisis over the recent allegations that some of their troops have gang-raped women and girls from ages 12 onwards trading important food aid for sex, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Internationally funded African Union troops, have sexually abused and exploited vulnerable Somali women and girls on their bases in Mogadishu and surrounding areas, Human Rights Watch has said in a its report released 8 September 2014.

The 71-page report is explicit in its words that Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia is rife and has been on-going without much involvement from officials. There are many unanswered questions in this report, how can a system ( AMISOM ) created to protect the vulnerable become the devils sceptre by destroying young lives. According to AMISOM’s website, its mandate is to support the rehabilitation of governing systems in Somalia by “protecting” its citizens.

"Some of the women who were raped said that the soldiers gave them food or money afterwards in an apparent attempt to frame the assault as transactional sex," the HRW report said.

In 1920’ Chicago, in an era when women’s rights where at best ludicrous, many mafia used a similar system to rape and torture women and offering them money afterwards in order to protect the abusers from the law. Isn’t AMISOM being run like a mafia organisation? What makes them any different to the criminals in suits? A wolf in sheep’s clothing I say.

‘’African Union soldiers have misused their positions of power to exploit Somalia’s most vulnerable women and girls ” said LieslGerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Somalia has many intractable problems, but the Somali and AU leadership could end sexual exploitation and abuse by pressing troop-sending countries to hold abusers responsible.”

Just recently the GIRL summit was initiated in London with many important delegates in attendance. The summit raised many key issues relating to girls, but it vehemently protested that all girls should be protected from dangers, as girls are the backbone of our families.

As recently as 20th September 2014, a similar summit was held at the U.N, it was first of its kind targeting gender equality.

A powerful speech by actress Emma Watson (Harry Potter) drew superlatives in its deliverance and standing ovation. The point of the HeForShe campaign, she said, is to make people "see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals." Watson added, "We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are. We can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about."

The HRW report indicated they raped or otherwise sexually assaulted women who were seeking medical assistance and water at AMISOM bases. Human Rights Watch interviewed 21 women and girls who described being raped or sexually exploited by Ugandan or Burundian military personnel serving with the AU forces.

The incidents highlighted in the HRW report undermines the credibility of the peacekeeping mission.

Which its aim is protecting the most vulnerable people from abuses and such a crimes is an obstacle for long waited sustainable peace in the horn.

It is always not easy for peacekeeping troops to win the hearts and the minds of the people they intended to support and assist as we learnt from peacekeeping mission in conflict countries such as Haiti, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Cambodia, East Timor and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and this alleged exploitation of sexy is set back to the confidence and collaborations of Somali people have for AMISOM.

Nevertheless, the alleged abuses of Somali women and girls invalidates the mandate of the African Union (AU). Hence the donors to AMISOM and Somali government should urgently address these abuses and accomplish urgent mechanisms to ensure perpetrators are bring to justice and heal the impunity. 

As concern Somali citizens, we want all stakeholders to mobilise of all possible means to bring justice to the criminals and put an end to this epidemic of brutal sexual violence against women by AMISOM. As well as facilitate trusted third party to oversee AMISOM operations in Somalia with clear guidance and procedures.

The world needs our girls as much as our girls need us to live carefree lives.  What the London and U.N summits have taught me is that, as much as girls need protection from all dangers, love and respect starts from home. If we teach our young men that the girl is not a piece of meat, but a beautiful vessel that nurtures, loves and protects. She will carry, she will lift spirits, and her smile shall pierce even the darkest of souls. She will move mountains for you.

Have hope I say, have strength and believe that all darkness in society shall be defeated and should be overcome. However, it is extremely difficult to imagine what the future holds for Somalia when the much-needed peacekeeping troops are perpetrators of crimes against the most vulnerable of society.

By Abdirashid Fidow

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