Communique: Stop Rape in Somali Famine Zone
The International Community Must Act Now!
The Global Call to Action Against Poverty and the Feminist Task Force of GCAP express their outrage and condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence being perpetrated against innocent Somali women and girls who are trying to escape famine and an outbreak of cholera and other diseases.
Somali's female refugees are undertaking heartbreaking journeys to leave behind an untenable existence at home, but then find themselves subjected to terror, rape and sexual harassment at the hands of marauding gangs and criminals. Male family members are also being terrorized; some have been even forced at gunpoint to rape their sisters and brothers' wives.
The Feminist Task Force and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty strongly urge domestic and international actors to take three actions as soon as possible:
- Contribute to the United Nations emergency appeal. The UN is calling for $2.4 billion to address the famine and the outbreak of cholera and other diseases, but so far only $1.1 billion in pledges have been received. Governments from the Gulf Region and elsewhere in Africa must participate in this international effort.
- The Kenyan government and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces need to urgently address security in refugee camps, at border crossings and nearby areas, where women and their families are subjected to subhuman conditions and are at greatest risk of attack. The international community must support these efforts.
- Refugee camps must provide services to the survivors of sexual violence and effective camp management to minimize the risks facing women and girls, as suggested by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström.
According to the New York Times, “The worst famine in sixty years is devastating the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia where it is the most acute with UN estimates of 3.9 million people at risk of starvation in Somalia and as many as 12 million throughout the region. Some 29,000 Somali children are believed to have died in the last 90 days alone. The casualties will only grow without an urgent and generous international response.”
“Gendercide,” the killing of innocent women and girls, and violence against women has become the greatest challenge for humanity in the 21st century. Not only in Somalia and Africa, but in every corner of the world, in private homes and central plazas, in fields and the country-side, under the so-called protection of security forces and humanitarian care, women are being beaten, raped, harassed, tortured and denigrated by sub-human treatment. The situation is exacerbated by increased poverty and extreme famine, as is the case in Somalia. It is also perpetrated by moral and financial corruption on the part of government officials and institutions. Action by civil society is necessary to pressure governments, raise awareness and shine a spotlight on severe cases of violence against women.
The Feminist Task Force and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty urge women’s organizations and civil society partners to:
- Pressure governments to contribute to the UN emergency appeal.
- Call for Kenya, Somali TFG and the African Union's AMISOM forces, which are already in Somalia, to urgently address security in refugee camps, at border crossings and nearby areas.
- Urge Augustine P. Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Somalia and Margot Wallström, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to provide services to the survivors of sexual violence and effective camp management to minimize the risks facing women and girls.
- Call on humanitarian aid partners, development and human rights organizations to raise awareness of the links between this famine, poverty, climate change and violence against women.
On their long journey from rural Somalia to Mogadishu or refugee camps in Kenya, Somali women are being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual harassment. They are attacked by marauding gangs and criminals who also rob them of food, water, money and other possessions before they can reach refugee camps.
1. After losing her kids she lost her honor
One 30-year-old woman who watched two of her five children die as they trekked through Somalia was raped after reaching what she hoped would be the safety of Kenyan soil. "I constantly ask myself, `would this have happened to you, or would you have lost your children if you had been in your country?'" said the woman. "My mind always says: `You ran away from a problem and ran into another.'"
2. Even the pregnant are not safe
A pregnant mother of three who spoke to AP in Dadaab said she was gang-raped by five men after a group of families traveling together was ambushed.
3. Brothers are forced to rape their sisters:
"The gunmen issued strange orders. They asked each woman to be raped by her brother. `Do it immediately,' they ordered," said a woman. "Some men are more audacious than others. When they were ordered to rape their sisters, they raped them to save their lives. … Death is better than doing that."
The attackers ordered her brother-in-law to rape her but he refused, saying: "You are men and I'm a man, and life and death is in the hands of God. Either kill me or spare me." They killed her brother-in-law and left his body unburied. "When they killed my brother-in-law, I wished they had killed both of us," she said. "A lot of thoughts went through my mind after the rape: `It would have been better to have died at home than risked your life on the way. What have you gained? You only gained battering and robbery.' Then another thought came to me, saying: `Don't worry, this ordeal maybe is the last one.'"
Thank you for tracing GCAP Somalia and informing us about the statement you are intending to disseminate.
The coalition has not been very active over the last two years, partly because of the immense violence that affected the cohesion within the coalition members.
Some other people are, nevertheless, involved in the running of the campaign, at whatever level. I hope to send you the names of the persons responsible in the coordination of GCAP Somalia.
It is my best hope that relationship, solidarity and dynamicity can be resumed between GCAP Somalia and the rest of the GCAP family.
Meanwhile, the issue raised by FTF is very sensitive and acting on it will not be too late. Actually, I can call it timely.
Since I am involved in the coordination of aid distribution, especially humanitarian items sent by Diaspora Somalis, I always come across people complaining of all sorts of violence taking place in the Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) camps in Mogadishu.
Of course, rape and killings are the most grisly, although famine-hit people face robbery and other sorts of inhumane acts by armed gangs.
Right now, I do not have numbers, but I agree with the notion that marauding militias in army uniforms commit all kinds of crimes in some camps.
Rape against needy women seeking support has occurred many times, particularly in camps in the southern outskirts of the city where people who walked from as far as 380 kilometres have established makeshift shelters.
This is occurring even during the Holy Month of Ramadan where the Muslim faithful is expected to show maximum obedience to Allah’s guide that human dignity, liberty and rights are more blessed.
Despite the harsh reality, the situation is not uniform across Mogadishu. In some parts, violence against vulnerable groups like women, children and the elders is more widespread. In some southern city districts, especially Wadajir and Dharkenley, criminals get away with their crimes, unpunished.
The Somali government has promised rigorous actions to improve the situation. Most people are looking forward towards more protection for the beleaguered people affected by the drought and famine.
Regarding the situation at the Kenya-Somalia, news reaching Mogadishu is reportedly appalling, but I have little information to present a comment.
I urge fellow GCAP activists to join the solidarity in support of victims of violence, by pressing the international community to help the Somali government to fulfil its constitutional duties.
It is very unfair to expect a perfect job from a government that has very limited facilities and freelance armed gangs are laughing at it. Indeed, in some parts it is a sort of no-go areas for the government army, let alone the police.
At the end of the day, rape of even of a single human being must be condemned in the strongest terms and by reputable network like GCAP.