By Human Rights Watch Press with Ogova Ondego
Published September 9, 2014
Soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have sexually abused and exploited vulnerable Somali women on their bases in Mogadishu.
Human Rights Watch calls upon African Union (AU), donors and countries contributing troops to Somalia to “urgently address these abuses and strengthen procedures inside Somalia to seek justice.”
In a 71-page report, The Power These Men Have Over Us: Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia that was released in Nairobi on September 8, 2014, HRW documents the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls on two AMISOM bases in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, since 2013.
HRW says AU soldiers, relying on Somali intermediaries, have used a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid, to coerce vulnerable women into sexual activity. “They have also raped or otherwise sexually assaulted women who were seeking medical assistance or water at AMISOM bases,” HRW, that says it interviewed 21 women “who described being raped or sexually exploited by Ugandan or Burundian military personnel serving with the AU forces.” says.
“Some African Union soldiers have misused their positions of power to exploit Somalia’s most vulnerable women and girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, 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.”
Saying it also interviewed more than 30 witnesses, foreign observers, military personnel, and officials from troop-contributing countries besides the women who admitted to being exploited for its report, HRW says its “research focused on incidents in Mogadishu, where Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are present and does not preclude the possibility that similar abuses have occurred elsewhere.”
Years of conflict and famine in Somalia have displaced tens of thousands of women and girls from their communities, and from their family and clan support networks. Without employment options and basic resources, many must rely on outside assistance and are forced into exploitative and abusive situations to sustain themselves and their children.
The African Union Peace and Security Council deployed the peace support troops known as AMISOM to Somalia in 2007 under a United Nations Security Council mandate, to protect Somali infrastructure and government officials and to contribute to delivering humanitarian assistance. Since then, AMISOM’s mandate, size, and geographical presence have steadily increased. The force draws its military personnel from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sierra Leone.