The impact of conflict on marginalized communities in Somalia is a crucial issue that needs to be discussed from a human rights perspective. Conflict often aggravates existing inequalities and discrimination, violating fundamental human rights such as a person’s right to life, liberty, and security. It is essential to understand the unique challenges marginalized communities face in Somalia and how they are disproportionately affected by conflict. By examining the impact of conflict on marginalized communities through a human rights lens, we can identify the root causes of the problem and work towards finding sustainable solutions that promote equality, justice, and dignity for all.
Somalia has a long history of conflict, dating back to the colonial era when it was divided into different territories controlled by various European powers. Following independence in 1960, Somalia struggled with political instability and military coups. The country descended into civil war in the 1990s, which resulted in the collapse of the central government and the rise of warlords who divided the country into fiefdoms.
Marginalization is when an individual or group cannot do tasks or gain access to essential services or opportunities, such as ethnic minorities, women, and children, who have been disproportionately affected by the conflict in Somalia. Minority clans have faced discrimination, marginalization, and violence for decades in Somalia. They have been denied political representation, access to resources, and justice. They have been subjected to violence, displacement, and discrimination. In particular, women and girls have been targeted for sexual violence and forced marriages, while children have been recruited into armed groups.
Pregnant women and young children suffer most from inadequate nutrition and lack access to basic health services. Displaced women and girls struggle to access food, water, and shelter in camps. They are also often unable to continue their education or maintain their livelihoods after being displaced.
Forced displacement is another major issue impacting Somali women and children. Over 2.9 Million people in Somalia are currently displaced within the country, and many more have fled to neighboring nations as refugees.
International Human Rights Law and its Relevance to the Situation in Somalia
International human rights law provides a legal framework to protect the rights of marginalized communities worldwide, including in Somalia. While Somalia faces many challenges in implementing and enforcing these international laws, they still provide essential standards and principles.
The most fundamental international human rights instrument is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. It outlines civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. Despite not being a binding treaty, the Declaration’s principles have become customary international law through widespread acceptance and implementation.
Somalia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2015, obligating the government to implement policies and programs to protect children’s rights. However, children in Somalia still face issues like child marriage, female genital mutilation, lack of access to education and health services, and recruitment by armed groups. More efforts are needed for Somalia to comply with the Convention fully.
While Somalia hasn’t ratified fundamental conventions on women’s rights like CEDAW, some positive steps have been taken. The Sexual Offenses Bill proposed in 2017 aimed to criminalize sexual violence and harassment but was ultimately rejected by Parliament. National laws also fail to protect women from discrimination and violence adequately.
To sum up, International human rights laws provide an important framework for protecting marginalized communities in Somalia, but efforts are needed to ensure adequate protection and justice.
Role of the International Community
Somalia is facing conflict and instability, with the international community playing an essential role in addressing the crisis from a human rights perspective. Humanitarian aid has been vital in meeting the basic needs of displaced populations and other at-risk communities. However, more can be done to ensure assistance reaches the most vulnerable, including minority clans, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Peacekeeping missions have helped stabilize parts of Somalia, yet security threats persist. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) should enhance their protection of civilian strategies to safeguard marginalized communities better. The international community must use its influence to promote respect for human rights and protect civilians, and donors can condition aid on rights protections and inclusive governance.
Humanitarian and security interventions play an indispensable role in Somalia. A comprehensive, human rights-based approach is needed to empower minorities and the disadvantaged to participate in the future.
The ongoing conflict in Somalia has devastated the country’s most vulnerable populations, including women, children, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with disabilities. It has undermined human rights and exacerbated existing inequalities, including sexual and gender-based violence, restricted access to health and education services, and limited economic opportunities. The international community has a role in providing assistance, building peace, and promoting inclusion. Still, a long-term solution requires a Somali-led process that addresses the needs of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
Somali conflict devastates millions, especially marginalized groups. Prioritize human rights for peace and stability. I suggest the following to Somalia’s government, civil society, and the global community:
To the Somali Government, I recommend that you:
- Make human rights and the protection of minorities a priority in all peace and reconciliation efforts.
- Ensure that marginalized groups sit at the negotiation table and that their rights are upheld in any agreement.
- Provide protection for minorities and vulnerable groups, especially internally displaced persons.
- Ensure security forces act to prevent violence and discrimination against minorities.
- Investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses against minorities.
To Civil Society Organizations, I recommend that you:
- Continue advocating for the rights of minorities and other marginalized groups.
- Provide humanitarian relief for displaced persons and other vulnerable populations, especially those at risk of violence and discrimination.
- Foster reconciliation between different communities through education, dialogue, and grassroots initiatives.
To the International Community, I recommend that you:
- Make protecting human rights and minorities a priority in all peace-building efforts and provide funding, expertise, and political support accordingly.
- Support Somali-led initiatives to foster justice, reconciliation, and rebuilding institutions that protect all citizens’ rights.
- Impose targeted sanctions on individuals and groups responsible for human rights violations against minorities.
 Anders Thomsen, ‘Overview of Gender-Based Violence Situation in Somalia’ (UN Women – Headquarters, 5 May 2022) <https://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/overview-gender-based-violence-situation-somalia-advocacy-brief-2022 > accessed 9 June 2023.
 “Situation CCCM Somalia Overview” (Situation CCCM Somalia Overview, January 31, 2022) <https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/cccm_somalia> accessed 9 June 2023.