A study on minorities in Somalia
Until recently, many people perceived Somalia as a country with a population of 7,000,0000 people who share one culture, one language and one religion. This was the impression given during previous regimes in order to sustain the illusion of homogeneity. One of the things that were deliberately downplayed was the existence of minority groups. Although the population of minority groups living in Somalia has not as yet been established, estimates indicate that they constitute one third of the total Somalia population; approximately 2,000,000 people. The minority groups include Bantu, Bravenese, Rerhamar, Bajuni, Eyle, Galgala, Tumal, Yibir and Gaboye. These groups continue to live in conditions of great poverty and suffer numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.
The Socio economic problems faced by minority groups in Somalia existed prior to the armed conflict that continues in parts of Somalia following the overthrow of the dictator Siyad Barre in 1991, and the subsequent collapse of a Somalia national government. These problems have arisen as a result of cultural values that segregate and exclude the minority groups from dominant clan societies. These minority groups are considered inferior, without full rights, hence their low social, economic and political status. As a result of social segregation, economic deprivation and political manipulation minority groups were systematically excluded from mainstream government positions and the few minorities who held positions had no power to speak on behalf of their communities. Furthermore, as a result of their distinct ethnic identity, some minorities, particular the Bantu and Bajuni have suffered systematic confiscation of their lands and properties. In other cases, minority groups have been politically manipulated to oppose certain dominant clans. This resulted in animosity between some minority groups and dominant clans. When the Somalia state collapsed, the minority clans suffered brutal reprisals.
Unlike other clans from dominant groups, minorities lack international support in the form of regular remittances. Recurrent insecurity caused by conflict creates an environment where minority groups are vulnerable and abnormally displaced from their homes. Notably, some minority groups who were abnormally displaced lost their lands, which were reallocated. Insecurity further affects the delivery of services to minority groups post-displacement in areas such as Kismayo, Jilib and Luuq. However, in areas like Hargeisa, Beletweyne, Jowhar and Ballad where security is not a big problem, minority groups \ receive very little assistance from aid agencies. Estimates indicate that about seventy per cent of the minorities who live in IDP camps or returnee settlements have difficulties in accessing adequate food, proper shelter and education.
In a country where there is no national Government that would be responsible for safeguarding and upholding the rights of minority groups, Somalia minorities are truly in a vulnerable position. Careful and thorough attention needs to be focused on the issues faced by vulnerable populations in order to develop concrete assistance strategies that will have a positive impact on the security and livelihoods of minority groups.
1. Introduction to Study
In the analysis of this study, it has been found that social segregation and other forms of discrimination, in addition to economic exclusion are some of the key factors in the creation of a wide socio-economic gap between dominant clans and minority groups. Social segregation is a deep-rooted social issue that divides the Somali society into two categories; laandeer (noble) and langaab (inferior). In Somalia, it is generally the case that noble groups are those belong to the culturally dominant group of transhumant pastoralists, who form nearly sixty per cent of the total population. Groups that are not pastoralist are often considered inferior and this includes all minority groups. It is important to note nonetheless that not all non-pastoralists are minorities. For instance, the Rahanweyn clan is made up of settled agriculturalists.
This survey has been carried out in order to assess and analyse the socio-economic conditions of minority groups with which modalities can be mapped out to provide them with adequate international assistance subsequently.
The methodology adopted for the study comprised qualitative and quantitative assessment. Qualitative assessments involved group discussions and interviews with informants from the minority groups, elders, leaders, intellectuals and humanitarian workers. Quantitative assessments involved the use of semi-structured interviews conducted with 5% to 10% of the minority households in the visited areas using random sampling. Information collected included access to basic needs such as food, water, shelter, health care and education. Other information collected includes their social relationship with dominant clans and their access to protection and humanitarian assistance.
Areas visited include Kismayo and Jamame in Lower Juba regions, where Bantu, Bajuni and Galgala live; Jilib in Middle Juba region where Bantu (wa Gosha) live; Jowhar and Balad in Middle Shabelle region where Bantu (Shidle) live; Beletweyn in Hiran region where Bantu (Makane) live and Hargeisa, where the Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir live. Areas including Merka, Barave and Bossaso were not visited due to security reasons.
The reason for the wide geographical coverage was in order to observe how varying socio-economic conditions in different locations affect the living conditions of minority groups. The emerging differences are not glaring because all the minority groups live below the threshold of acceptable living standards
Social segregation of minority groups in Somalia dates back to periods before the armed conflict of 1991. Siyad Barre's regime gave minority issues some prominent and positioned some minorities, mainly from the Gaboye (Midgan), Tumal and Yibir in high military and government posts. However, the regime did not carry out any tangible programmes to empower minority groups. On the contrary, it seriously violated the basic human rights and right to development of these groups.
2.1 Minority Clans
The Bantu are believed to be descendants of Bantu communities in East and Central Africa from regions like Tanzania and Malawi, brought into Somalia by Arab slave traders. However, there are also other Bantu who are believed to be non-Somali, who lived in Somalia before the arrival of the aforementioned Bantu. Most of the Bantu are small-scale farmers who live in the riverine areas along the Juba and Shabelle rivers, the only permanent rivers that run through southern Somalia
Rerhamar and Baravnese
The Rerhamar and Baravnese are believed to be descendents of Arab immigrant settlers from Yemen and Far East countries. They settled in coastal towns of southern Somalia some ten centuries ago. Most of them are traders.
The Bajuni are a people related to the coastal people (Waswahili) along the Eastern African Coast. They live in Kismayo and the Islands of Jula, Madoga, Satarani, Raskamboni, Bungabo, Dudey, Koyoma and Jovay (Bajuni Islands). They are a seafaring community.
Gaboye, Tumal, Yibir and Galagala
The Gaboye, Tumal, Yibir and Galgala are ethnically associated with the Samale, which forms a dominant clan in Somalia. However, cultural stigma and traditions have excluded them as outcastes from the Samale clan. They engage in the activities of blacksmithing and shoemaking, as well as being hunters/gatherers. They live mainly in central and northern Somalia.
Most of the minority groups have assimilated into other Somalia clans with whom they live. For example, the Galgala have assimilated into the Abgal in Jowhar and Mogadishu. However, they identify themselves as Nuh Mohamud, a sub clan of the Majerten clan. Some Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir assimilated into the Isak in Somaliland, while others yet have assimilated into the Darod in Puntland and central regions. There are also other Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir who assimilated with Hawadle, Murasade and Marehan clans in Galgadud region.
With the exception of the Bantu, Rerhamar, Bravanese, Bajuni and Eyle who have distinct "non-Somali" physical appearance, all other minorities have physical appearances similar to that of the dominant clans, as well as having ethnic and cultural similarities. What distinguish the assimilated minorities are their distinct economic livelihoods.
3.1 Social, economic and political exploitation/exclusion
In 1975, large sections of Bantu agricultural lands in Jilib and Jamame were systematically appropriated by the Siyad Barre regime under the pretext of development projects through the Resources Sharing Policy of Hawl iyo Hantiwadaag. This is a Leninist and Marxist ideology that the regime adopted. The lands appropriated include lands in Marerey and Mugambo, where the Marerey Sugar Project and Mugambo Rice projects were set up. The Bantu farmers in these areas were forced to abandon their lands without any compensation. They lost hundreds of mango trees, large fields of maize crops, and large quantities of underground crops. Other Bantu lands in the same area where distributed as political rewards to Siyad Barre's supporters from the Marehan and Dhulbahante clans. All these violations resulted in the suffering of Bantu families in the Lower and Middle Juba riverine areas.
The tradition seafaring Bajuni community were also subjected to similar abuses of their rights in Kismayo, and the Bajuni Islands. These communities were forced to join government cooperatives such as the Somali Fishing Cooperative, established in Kismayo in 1974. Marehan, Majerten and Dhulbahante people who did not have the traditional culture of fishing established this and other cooperatives. They took over most of the fishing equipment including fishing boats and forced the Bajuni to joint the cooperatives. This had and continues to have a serious effect on the most important economic lifeline of the Bajuni community.
In the north, minority groups suffered from the denial of their right to own land or livestock. Minorities were confined to their traditional skills of blacksmithing and shoe making; the occupation of outcastes.
3.2 Economic exclusion
Economic dominance is one of the most serious socio-economic problems facing the minority communities. Since independence, the major clans at the expense of minority groups have dominated social and political affairs of Somalia. This trend has continued more than ten years after the collapse of the Somali state.
In Kismaiyo, all economic sources such as the seaport, airport and commercial activities are all controlled by the Habregedir and Marehan. Those who do not belong to these groups, and particular the Bantu and Bajuni work only as underpaid servants. In Jowhar and Balad, the Warsengeli (Abgal) and Da'ud control revenue collection, farm and livestock production and marketing, as well as all other economic activities. In Beletweyne, the Hawadle and other dominant clans control the economy. Minorities occupy subordinate roles. In Hargeisa there are nearly five telephone companies, six money transfer companies, several light industries, transportation and construction companies; all of which create hundreds of job opportunities. The minorities claim that these jobs are offered according to the ethnic identity of the individual. The Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir have no access to those jobs because of their ethnicity.
Remittances have also been, for the last decade, an important economic source for the Somalis. However, remittances have had little impact on the livelihoods of the minority groups in the north and even far less in the south. Very few minorities emigrated to Europe, North America and Australia during and after the Siyad Barre regime. Ninety per cent of the Somalia refugees resettled those countries through UNHCR programmes, are from major clans.
3.3 Armed conflict
The situation of minority groups deteriorated when the armed conflict broke out in both Somaliland and south Somalia. Some minorities such as the Galgala, Gaboye and Yibir were perceived as enemies because of their working relationship with the Siyad Barre regime. They therefore suffered grievous human rights violations, which included extra judicial killings, appropriation of lands and properties, and forced displacement from their lands to IDP or refugee camps situated along the Somalia Ethiopia border.
The Galgala people in Mogadishu and Gedihir in Jowhar suffered brutal reprisals from the Abgal clan with whom they lived. These reprisals took place at the beginning of the 1991 war. During the last days of his rule, Siyad Barre misused the Galgala community by arming them against the Abgal. Following his defeat, the Abgal killed many Galgala and forced many others to abandon their houses. There are now nearly 5,000 Galgala IDPs in Kismayo and elsewhere. Important to note, as already mentioned, since the Galgala identify themselves with the Majerten sub clan, they have received minimal clan support from the Darod clan in Kismayo.
The Bantu did not participate in clan-based conflicts. Notwithstanding, they still suffered attacks and violations of their rights. In January 2001, heavily armed militia from the Wersengeli (Abgal clan) carried out a well organised attack on the Bantu (Shidle) farmers in Bananey and Barey villages in Jowhar, following a dispute over grazing land for cattle. According to unconfirmed reports from the Bantu farmers, ten Bantus were killed, all houses in the two villages were burnt down and farming equipment including two generators and three water pumps were looted. To date, no compensation has been given to the Bantu by the Abgal1. The Bantu (Makane) in Beletweyne suffered mistreatment and violation from the Hawadle, Galjele, Badi Adde and Jijele clans. Most of them were displaced from Beletweyne town to rural areas in Hiran region.
The Bajuni from Kismayo and Bajuni Islands were attacked by militiamen from Habargedir (Eir) and others during the initial periods of armed conflict. They suffered violations including confiscation of their lands and rape of the women. Most of them abandoned their homes and sought refuge in Kenya camps.
The Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir in Hargeisa and elsewhere in Somaliland suffered both during after the armed conflict between Siyad Barres' army and the Somali National Movement of the Isak clan. These groups have similar physical characteristics as the Isak and it was difficult for Siyad Barre's army to differentiate between the Isak and other clans. When Siyad Barre was defeated, the Isak meted harsh punishments on the Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir because they were perceived to be Siyad Barre supporters.
3.4 Current security conditions
The current condition of minority groups has changed as a result of changing social, economic and political environments in the various regions of Somalia. In Kismayo, for instance, previous rivals (Habargedir and Marehan) have now become allies and are now in control of Kismayo's social and political affairs. There is less insecurity between these clan groups, positively affecting the minorities. However, conflicts between these allies and General Morgan's forces that are currently in Bay region are expected. In general, security conditions have improved. Nevertheless, there are unconfirmed reports of rape of Bantu and Galgala women in IDP camps.
In Jowhar, security conditions have improved since 2000 when Mohamed Dheere from the Wersengeli clan took control of Jowhar and other parts of Middle Shabelle region. Nevertheless, the Bantu and other vulnerable groups in the area complain about taxes taken each month from every household. They report that most of the Bantu families are economically vulnerable and therefore unable to pay taxes. Each household is required to pay 15,000 Somali Shillings every month. Failure to remit the taxes on time results in arrest until the right amount is paid.
In Beletweyne, there appears to be power equilibrium between the Hawadle, Galjeel and Jilele. The town is divided into east and west sections. The eastern section is controlled by the Hawadle and the west by Galjeel. There has been no major fighting between the clans since 1996 when General Aideed's force was ousted jointly by the Hawadle, Galjeel and Jilele communities in Beletweyne. In spite of the seemingly placid environment, the Bantu (Makane) are still vunerable.
In Somaliland, the security conditions are better than those of any other place in the south. There is a functioning administration, which has not received international recognition. Properties confiscated from minority groups during armed conflicts were returned. However, the minority groups report that they suffer discrimination because they do not benefit from social services and activities and remain unemployed.
3.5 Minority returnees
Most of the displaced minorities were not willing to return to their original lands until only very recently. Some feared renewed persecution, while others lost all their possessions and means of livelihood and had no incentive to return. However, during the past two years, a considerable number of minorities have returned from refugee camps. These include the Bajuni from Kismayo and the Bajuni Islands, and Gaboye, Midgan, Tumal and Yibir in Somaliland.
According to Bajuni elders in Kismayo, approximately 2,000 Bajuni voluntarily repatriated from Jomvu refugee camp in Kenya in 1997, following the Government of Kenya's decision to close all three refugee camps (Benadiri, Bravan and Jomvu camps). Had the Bajuni remained, they would have been forced to relocate to other distant camps of Kakuma on the border of Kenya and Sudan, or Dadaab, in the northeastern part of Kenya. Many minority refugees including the 2,000 Bajuni declined the relocation claiming that the living conditions would be too harsh in these two camps. With the help of UNHCR and the Mombasa community, the Bajuni refugees were repatriated to Kismayo and their Islands. During the first stage of their repatriation, the Bajuni's were given some assistance by UNHCR to "jumpstart" their livelihoods. They were given ten fishing boats and nets. Since then the Bajunis claim that they have received no further assistance. They also claim that they need more assistance including the rehabilitation of their wells, water catchments, schools and health centres, which were all destroyed during the war.
In Hargeisa, most of the minority refugees returning from Ethiopia were initially fearful of persecution by the Isak upon their return. These fears were allayed following a cross border operation conducted jointly with UNHCR and the Somaliland authorities. Approximately 2,000 minorities were voluntarily repatriated to Hargeisa and elsewhere. They live in Dami and Gaan Libah, where living conditions are harsh. The minorities claim that they have not received the assistance required. Furthermore, being minorities means that they cannot hope to depend on extended clan support to help them cope with the difficult living conditions.
3.6 Current conditions
In order to estimate the extent of assistance required, it is necessary to understand the needs of minority groups through understand their current socio-economic conditions desegregated into rural and urban categories. It is important to note that regarding basic needs, most Somalis have been affected since the armed conflict began. However, minorities are believed to be the most vulnerable of all due to a number of interrelated socio-economic factors including purchasing power, inflation, the steady devaluation of the Somali Shilling and overwhelming poverty.
3.6.1 General conditions
- Devaluation of the Somali currency is a factor that affects minorities' access to food and basic needs.
- Large quantities of fake money in southern Somalia resulted in inflation.
- The result of limited access to economic sustenance is the increase of food insecurity and malnutrition2. According to WFP standards, these levels of malnutrition do not indicate a critical situation that needs emergency interventions. However, it indicates that there are vulnerable families within the minorities such as widowed or divorced women.
- The changes in relief food distribution into Food For Work programmes aimed at assisting vulnerable communities and improving their food security has had little impact on minority groups, as they report that the programme is mostly controlled by the dominant clans.
3.6.2 Rural conditions
- Given the Bantu agricultural way of life and their residence in riverine areas, their food security appears to be better than those in IDP camps and minority returnees.
- Drought, famine and flooding affects the Bantu food security. In the event of flooding the Bantu have inadequate resources to deal with broken riverbanks. In Jilib and Jamame in the Lower and Middle Juba regions, there is seasonal displacement of Bantu into IDP camps mainly in Kismaiyo. This is taxing on the already overburdened socio-economic conditions in the camps.
- In Beletweyne, recurrent dry seasons have resulted in the gradual, large movement of Bantu farmers into urban areas. This has further reduced crop establishment among the Bantu farmers
3.6.3 Urban conditions
- Poor purchasing power of minority groups is associated with their marginal income. According to findings from this study, 95% of the minorities have no regular jobs3.
- Minorities have no access to land for subsistence cultivation and keeping livestock.
- Minorities, who traditionally worked as blacksmiths and shoemakers and then fled as refugees, are without start-up capital to revive their economic livelihoods. According to some blacksmiths and shoemakers, approximately fifty of them were provided with working tools, but there are still many others in need of such assistance.
3.7 Access to basic needs
3.7.1 Access to shelter and housing
Poor shelter and housing is another major concern of minority groups in Somaliland and south Somalia. It is caused mainly by:
- Poverty - the minorities cannot afford to purchase building materials and instead use scavenged metals, sticks and plastics.
- Land issues - the minorities lack access to land on which they can settle and construct shelters. Instead, they congregate in congested places and in abandoned public buildings.
- Sale of shelter materials - the minorities sometimes sell shelter materials provided by aid agencies as a result of extreme poverty.
3.7.2 Access to sanitation and safe drinking water
Sanitary conditions in most the visited areas, particularly the IDP camps in Kismayo and returnee settlements in Dami and Gaan Libaah in Hargeisa are very poor. There are very few latrines, most of which need rehabilitation. Regarding access to safe, drinking water, poverty plays a significant role. For instance, in Jamame, Jilib, Jowhar, Balad and Beletweyne, access to water is not an issue (riverine areas). However, in areas where UN agencies and other NGOs have dug boreholes that would provide potable water, the Bantu minorities cannot afford to purchase the water. Another reason is the distance between the minority areas and boreholes. Therefore, the Bantu opt to use river water for all their needs and this greatly increases the risk of water borne diseases because the river water is often contaminated. The destruction of water supply facilities of the Bajuni community during the war has resulted in acute water shortages because these facilities have not yet been rehabilitated.
3.7.3 Access to health care
Minority groups experience numerous difficulties when it comes to accessing health care services. These are some of the main impediments faced by minorities:
- Conflict and insecurity makes it difficult for aid agencies to access vulnerable communities.
- Lack of adequate information regarding the health status of minority groups.
- Lack of adequate transport infrastructure including land routes and water routes.
- Insufficient numbers of health centres including MCHs and TB clinics in minority areas.
- Minorities in urban areas observe that their concerns are not given much consideration when establishing health centres. They say that local authority staff does not report serious health conditions in Dami and Gaan Libah, where the most minorities reside.
3.7.4 Access to Basic Education
In spite of the gradual reestablishment of the educational system and programmes in Somaliland and parts of the south, minority children have very limited opportunities for basic education. Most minorities children do not go to school but instead work in order contribute to the family income and ration. This is yet another indication of how poverty affects access to basic needs.
4. Conclusions and Recommendations
While the minority groups may have limited resources and skills with which to build their own economic livelihoods, ethnicity is the major socio-economic impediment to their progress. This report brings out several key issues including the need for a comprehensive survey on minorities. This will minimise the current information gaps regarding minority group's socio-economic status. This report clearly highlights the high levels of vulnerability experienced by minority communities, and the need for prioritised basic needs assistance.
The following recommendations have been developed:
1. Strengthen relationships between aid agencies and minorities
- Decrease communication gap between aid agencies and minorities;
- Consider the situation and needs of minority groups during aid operation planning;
- Increase the capacity of minority organisations to effectively represent minority concerns in both national and international forums.
2. Combat discrimination against minority groups
- Conduct minority rights advocacy programme through civil society including elders and media.
3. Improve livelihoods of minorities
|Food and Food Security||All Groups||
|Economic Opportunities||Gaboye, Tumal & Yibir returnees in Hargeisa, and Galgala IDPs in Kismayo||
|Water and Sanitation||IDPs & Returnees||
|Health Care||Bantu (riverine) & Bajuni||
Table. 1: Main minority groups in Somalia
Location: Main Districts
|Bantu||Bantu communities in East and Central Africa||
15% of the total 7000,000 Somali
|In the riverine areas across the Juba and Shabelle rivers: Jilib, Jamame, Buale, Sakow, Merka, Qoryoley, Afgoye, Jowhar, Balad, Buloburte, Beletweyne,||Somali ( both Maay and Mahatiri);
small percentage of Christian (about 300 people) mainly from the Mushunguli communities in Kakuma regugee camp
|Some Bantu subclans in the Lower shabelle region identify themselves with Digil and Mirifle in the Lower Shabelle region||Small scale farming and laborers|
|Rer Hamar||Immigrants from Far East countries||
Hamarweyne districts in Mogadishu; and Merka
|Somali (Rer-Hamar Dialect)||Islam||Some subclans have patron clans within Hawadle||Business, fishing|
|Arab immigrants mainly from Yemen||
|Mainly in Brava town||Baravenese||Islam||No patron clans||Business, fishing,|
|Bajuni||Kswahili people from Kenya Coast||
|Kismaio, and islands off coast: Jula, Madoga,
Satarani, Raskamboni, Bungabo, Hudey, Koyama, and Jovay islands.
|Bajuni||Islam||No patron clans||Mainly fishing|
|Mogadishu and Gedihir in the Middle Shabelle Region.||Somali (Mahatiri)||Islam||Identify themselves as Nuh Mohamud; Clan patrons- Osman Mohamud and Omar Mohamud subclans of Majetren,||Wood craft making, pastorals|
|Erigabo (Sanag)||Somali (Mahatiri)||Islam||Warsengeli (Darod)||pastorals|
|Along the border between Kenya and Somalia:||Somali (Mahatiri)||Islam||No patron clan||hunters|
|Mainly in Burhakaba, Jowhar and BuloBurte||Somali (Some use May, and others Mahatiri||Islam||Rahaweyn||hunters and gathers|
|Midgan or Gaboye||Samale||
|Scattered in the north and central Somalia, Hiran, Mogadishu
|Islam||No clan patrons||shoemaker|
|North and Central Somalia, Hiran, Mogadishu
|North and Central Somalia, Hiran, Mogadishu
|Ashraf||Arab immigrants from Saudi Arabia||
|Merka, Brava, Bay and Bakol regions||Mainly May, there are also some Mahatiri||Islam||Rahaweyn||Farmers and pastorals|
1 Although there is no social contract between the Abgal clan and the Bantu that specifically deals with the rights of the Bantu community, general Somali customary laws safeguard lives and properties of all people regardless of the individual ethnic identity. These laws were not respected during the conflicts. Customary laws in the Diya paying system, which requires compensation to the immediate family of the victim when death and damages occur.
2 Adequate information about the nutrition conditions in the visited areas in not fully available because proper nutritional surveys in most of these areas have not been carried out in the past several years. However, there are some rough malnutrition estimates of children as follows: . Bantu (Johwar & Balad) - 10%, Bantu (Kismayo, Jilib & Jamame) - 15%, Bantu (Beletweyne) - 10%, minorities (Damey & Nasa Hablood in Hargeisa) - 5%
3 they find poorly paid menial jobs such as porting, shoemaking, hairdressing, or as domestic servants. Their average daily income ranges from 10,000 Somali Shillings in the south & 3,000 - 5,000 Somali Shillings in Hargeisa.