The United Nations says more than 4,500 civilians have been killed or wounded in the conflict in Somalia since the start of 2016.
The U.N. Human Rights Office and the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) have issued a new report that implicates parties to the conflict in the death and injuries sustained by the civilians.
In the report, covering a period from January 1, 2016, until October 14, 2017, UNSOM documented 2,078 civilian deaths and 2,507 injuries. The worst perpetrators of the killings against civilians are the al-Shabab militant group that is responsible for more 60 percent of the casualties according to the report. About a quarter of the death toll comes from the October 14 truck in Mogadishu where a special committee tasked to investigate the incident reported that 512 people were killed and more than 300 others were injured. Al-Shabab has been blamed for the attack.
“They are by far the worst when it comes to activities that kill civilians in conflict,” said U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia Michael Keating. “Of the incidents attributable to al-Shabab, 79 percent are as a result of the use of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] whether they are vehicle-borne or otherwise.”.
The report says clan militias are responsible for 13 percent of the casualties, while state actors, including the army and the police, are responsible for 11 percent. The report says the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is responsible for four percent. A further 12 percent of the casualties were caused by unidentified or undetermined attackers, the report said.
The U.N.’s Keating said civilians are paying the price for the failure to resolve Somalia’s conflicts through political means.
“Parties to the conflict are simply not doing enough to shield civilians from the violence. This is shameful,” he said.
The U.N. report coincides with the International Human Rights Day. The United Nations expressed concern over the death of some civilians in the hands of Somali security forces and AMISOM because they “undermine the Somali population’s trust in the Government and the international community”.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch welcomed the report. Senior researcher Laetitia Bader told VOA Somali this report is “very important” given the difficulties in getting data about human rights violations in Somalia.
“Too often the extent and the magnitude of the toll on civilians from the ongoing conflict in Somalia has been undermined in many ways because of the lack of data, so this report which seeks to offer a baseline to quantify casualties is a very important insight into just how many civilians have been lost,” she said.
The report says the conflict disproportionately affected children, exposing them to “grave violations” during military operations.
In the first 10 months of 2017, 3,335 cases of child recruitment were reported with 71.5 percent attributed to al-Shabab, 14.6 percent to clan militia, and 7.4 percent to the Somali National Army, the report says.
Bader said some of the report’s findings corroborate their own research in Somalia.
“A lot of the grave abuses which are documented in this report and quantified to a certain extent are ones which we ourselves have continued to document, whether it is cases of sexual violence against internally displaced people, whether it’s ongoing recruitment of children by al-Shabab in Baidoa,” she said. “I was recently in Baidoa looking into the recruitment trend in Bay region, so a lot of the things they document in this report are ones which confirm our own research.”
– Harun Maru