News / Africa

Report: Somalis Want Justice, Dignity

In Mogadishu, AU forces display ammunition left behind by militants.
In Mogadishu, AU forces display ammunition left behind by militants.
Joe DeCapua

In Somalia, as in other conflict areas, civilians have suffered the most. Besides being caught in the crossfire, they’ve been forced from their homes and faced drought and starvation with little aid available. A new report says Somalis want the warring parties to understand the damage that’s been done to life and property.

The report is a joint effort by CIVIC, a Washington-based NGO, and the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

“When I was in Somalia earlier this year and I visited Mogadishu with AMISOM forces, you know, I looked around and thought, I never thought it was this bad,” said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of CIVIC.

AMISOM is the African Union’s mission in Somalia. Its mandate calls for stabilizing the situation in the country to allow for humanitarian operations. Holewinski said the conflict has taken its toll on the Somali capital.

“Bombed out buildings and civilians huddled underneath roofs to avoid mortars coming from al Shabab. It is one of the worst places I have ever visited,” she said.

The U.S. has labeled al-Shabaab terrorist group. It has battled forces loyal to the Transitional Federal Government. The group is currently the target of a Kenyan military offensive, following a number of terrorist attacks in Nairobi. Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees have fled to Kenya.

What’s been missing

Holewinski said it was obvious that humanitarian assistance was needed immediately, but something else was missing. That something was the voice of the Somali people.

“What do the Somali people want when their homes have been bombed or they’re injured or they’ve had loved ones killed, including breadwinners? And so we took the past months to really investigate that in Mogadishu, in the displaced persons camps, and figure out the perspective of the Somali people and be able to bring that to the African Union and of course the other warring parties that are there,” she said.

More than 100 Somalis were interviewed for the report called Civilian Harm in Somalia: Creating an Appropriate Response. Holewinski said, “Nothing will be able to bring back what the Somalis have lost.”

She added, “consider yourself in an armed conflict and your mother or father is killed or one of your children. Or you have an injury now, which means you can’t drive that taxi that you used to or you can’t go to the factory to work. Or your house has been bombed and it’s been in your family for 50 years. Those are things that can never be given back. What can be given back to some extent is dignity.”

Seeking justice

The report calls on warring parties to never intentionally target civilians. Al-Shabab has been accused of using human shields in Mogadishu. Holewinski said warring parties should make amends.

“It means making sure that when you have caused harm you figure out what that harm is. You investigate it. You apologize. You give the family an explanation and then you make some sort of tangible amends, which can be compensation. It can be livestock. It can be the rebuilding of a home. You can’t bring the family back to normal, but you can recognize their losses in a way that is meaningful in their lives,” she said.

She said the Somalis want justice, but justice that’s in line with Somali culture and tradition.

“We talked with, for example, a man who had been injured and lost his son. He was not the kind of angry that I would be if that had happened to me. Rather, what he said was, look, we’ve got these traditional mechanisms in Somalia for conflict resolution, whether it’s based on Sharia, Islamic law – whether it’s based on some particular clan culture’s law for conflict resolution. I’d like to see the warring parties use those mechanisms and somehow recognize my losses,” she said.

Women usually bear the brunt of the conflict, after the men in their lives leave to fight or risk their lives trying to find food and are killed. They have children to care for and few options. Some are forced to marry an uncle, for example.

This year, many Somali women walked for days to escape drought and famine. Many had to leave dying children along the way. Holewinski says had it not been for security problems, many more lives might have been saved.

She said while she can give the report’s proposals to AMISOM, she admits it’s unlikely al-Shabab would even consider them.

“With al-Shabab, the only thing that I can say to them is stop targeting civilians. Abide by international law. Once we get to that point, that baseline point, then we can start talking about actually dignifying civilian harm,” she said.

The report says the African Union will need financial assistance and experts “to create the model mechanisms and procedures” to help return dignity to the Somali people.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid