Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Somalia (S/2016/1098)
The present report, submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions, is the fourth report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Somalia. It covers the period from 1 April 2010 to 31 July 2016. The report focuses on the six grave violations committed against children and provides information on the perpetrators and the context in which the violations took place.
The report sets out the trends and patterns of grave violations against children by all parties to the conflict and underlines the worsening impact of armed conflict on children. It also raises concerns about the detention of children. The report sets out progress made in addressing grave violations against children, including in the legislative framework of Somalia and through the adoption and implementation of action plans.
Lastly, the report provides a series of recommendations to end and prevent grave violations against children in Somalia and improve their protection.
The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) and subsequent resolutions on children and armed conflict and covers the period from 1 April 2010 to 31 July 2016. It describes the trends and patterns of grave violations committed against children since my previous report (S/2010/577) and outlines the progress and challenges since the adoption of the conclusions by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in March 2011 (S/AC.51/2011/12). Where possible, the parties to the conflict that are responsible for grave violations are identified in the report. In that regard, in the annexes to my most recent annual report on children and armed conflict issued in June 2016 (A/70/836-S/2016/360), Al-Shabaab, Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a and the Somali National Army are listed for child recruitment and use. The Somali National Army is listed for killing and maiming and Al-Shabaab for the killing and maiming as well as abduction of children.
Notwithstanding significant political developments in Somalia during the reporting period, the security situation remained highly volatile, resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties, including children. Multiple national and international actors have been involved in the fight against Al-Shabaab. The reporting period also witnessed continued violence involving clan militias and the alignment of various regional forces, mostly composed of clan-based militias, with the emerging federal states. Those developments led to an extremely complex situation, which heavily affected children.
Monitoring and reporting activities were significantly hindered by the security situation, ongoing military operations and very limited access to affected populations. With much of southern and central Somalia remaining inaccessible during the reporting period, it is important to note that the information contained in the present report is only indicative of the full extent of grave violations committed against children.
II. Overview of the political and security situation and parties to conflict
A. Political and security developments
The eight-year political transition in Somalia concluded on 1 August 2012 following the adoption of the Provisional Federal Constitution and the establishment of the Federal Parliament and Government on 20 August. One of the major aspects of state-building was the envisaged establishment of a federal system through the creation of regional states. On 28 August 2013, the Interim Jubba Administration was formed, followed by the Interim South-West Administration, the Galmudug Interim Administration and the HirShabelle Interim Administration. The establishment of the Galmudug Interim Administration led to clashes with Puntland and between pro-Federal Government forces and Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a, resulting in civilian casualties.
Al-Shabaab announced its retreat from Mogadishu in August 2011 following military operations by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Transitional Federal Government forces. With the subsequent intensification of operations against Al-Shabaab in southern and central Somalia, the country task force on monitoring and reporting received increasing reports of grave violations by all parties to conflict. During the reporting period, significant territorial gains were made in southern and central Somalia by the Somali National Army and allied militias, with the support of AMISOM. In mid-2015, AMISOM and the Somali National Army launched a joint military operation against Al-Shabaab, code named “Operation Juba Corridor”. With the loss of its strongholds and the weakening of its forces, Al-Shabaab increasingly resorted to asymmetrical attacks against the Somali National Army, AMISOM and soft targets, including through ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, suicide bombings and the use of improvised explosive devices, often resulting in heavy civilian casualties, including children. Later in the reporting period, Al-Shabaab extended its activities to Puntland. In March 2016, an attempted large-scale advance by Al-Shabaab into Puntland and Mudug was repelled by Puntland and Galmudug Interim Administration forces. The Government of Puntland reported that its forces had killed 208 Al-Shabaab fighters and captured 100, including children, while the Galmudug Interim Administration announced that its forces had killed 115 and captured 110, including children. Notwithstanding serious setbacks and loss of control of key towns and urban centres, large swa ths of territory and key transport routes remained in the hands of Al-Shabaab.
B. Parties to the conflict
Federal Government of Somalia security forces
- As specified in the Provisional Federal Constitution, the Federal Government of Somalia security forces are composed of its national army, intelligence services and police and prison forces. Additionally, various entities operated in different combinations in support of the Somali National Army, including clan militias and regional security forces. The integration of militia and regional forces into the Somali National Army progressed in the reporting period, albeit slowly. The lack of a precise overview of the composition, structure and deployment of the Somali National Army, frequent changes in allegiance by militias and the complexity of interactions among clan militias, the Somali National Army and regional forces rendered the identification of perpetrators difficult.
- Various regional forces, mostly composed of clan-based militias, aligned themselves with the emerging federal states and interim administrations, including the Interim Jubba Administration, Galmudug Interim Administration and Interim South-West Administration forces. In addition, Puntland and “Somaliland” maintained their own security forces.
Al-Shabaab emerged as an independent militant group around December 2006 after breaking away from the Union of Islamic Courts. While the group’s activities focused on targets within Somalia, it also carried out deadly strikes in the region. Al-Shabaab remained a major threat to Somalia and the region despite significant territorial losses.
Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a is a Somali militia that controls parts of Galmudug, including its capital Dhuusamarreeb. It joined forces with the Transitional Federal Government in 2010 to fight Al-Shabaab, presumably in exchange for positions in the Government. Not all members supported the move, and discord emerged. More recently, Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a factions boycotted the creation of the Galmudug Interim Administration and clashes erupted between Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama‘a factions and the Somali National Army.
AMISOM was deployed to Somalia in March 2007 to, inter alia, reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. At the time of writing, in December 2016, its military component comprised troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. While Ethiopian and Kenyan troops were rehatted into AMISOM in 2012 and 2014, respectively, both continued to also operate bilaterally in Somalia, outside of AMISOM command.
Towards the end of the reporting period, the United States of America also intensified its operations against Al-Shabaab in Somalia, including through air and drone strikes.
III. Grave violations committed against children
Given the challenging security context, the length of the reporting period and general lack of access for the country task force on monitoring and reporting throughout Somalia, data presented in the present report are only indicative of the scale, scope, patterns and trends of grave violations and the full impact of armed conflict on children. More specifically, the analysis by perpetrators started from 2012, the following sections focus on the period from 2012 to July 2016. In addition, the numbers provided in the sections on abduction and detention cover the period from 2014 to July 2016, given that related disaggregated data were available only from 2014 onwards. From 2012 to 2014, the country task force on monitoring and reporting identified clan militias as either allied with the Somali National Army or, in some cases, Al-Shabaab; they are thus presented under those classifications. Moreover, given that the establishment of interim federal administrations started to gain pace by the end of 2014, some of the clan-based militias evolved into regional security forces while several others remained separate and operated on the periphery of the Somali National Army. Disaggregated data on violations by regional security forces are therefore presented from 2015 onwards. Given the complexity of identifying perpetrators, grave violations that were not attributable to any specific party to the conflict are recorded as “unknown/unidentified armed element”.
In the light of the above premise, the majority of violations against children were documented in 2012 when the Somali National Army and AMISOM conducted major joint military operations against Al-Shabaab. A downward trend was observed in 2013 and 2014, which was largely attributable to the challenges faced by the country task force in gaining access for the purpose of monitoring and reporting. Against the background of an intensified military campaign against Al-Shabaab, violations increased again in 2015 and spiked during the first six months of 2016, exceeding the total numbers for 2013 and 2014 and approaching those of 2015.
Grave violations against children were carried out with impunity. The breakdown in law and order and the absence of State authority in large parts of Somalia exacerbated the situation. Traditional justice mechanisms were often preferred and led to financial settlements between families, at times in violation of victims’ rights and without the enforcement of any other form of punishment against perpetrators.