Tag Archive for: Somalia


Kenya’s Somali Refugees: Overcoming Cultural Obstacles to Girls’ Education in Dadaab

11 April 2012 [from the AllAfrica Web site]

Dadaab — A mix of cultural practices, such as early and forced marriage, as well as child labour, are depriving girls of education in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya.

Out of Dadaab’s estimated population of 463,000 mainly Somali refugees, more than half are children under 18; of these about 38 percent attend school. The proportion of girls in the camps’ primary and secondary schools is 38 and 27 percent, respectively, according to the UN Refugee Agency. A third of girls aged between 5 and 13 in Dabaab go to school; for those aged 14 to 17, only one in 20 are enrolled.

Hawa Ahmed, who arrived in Dadaab about seven months ago with her six children, told IRIN that only her sons attend school.

Her two daughters stay at home cooking, washing utensils and fetching water. “[These are] already enough lessons as they learn how to keep a family,” said Hawa as she plaited her daughter’s hair.

While boys are generally encouraged to attend school, barriers to girls’ education remain. A local saying among Somalis in Dadaab, for example, is ‘Gabar ama gunti rageed ama god hakaga jirto’ (a girl should either be married or in the grave).

Halima, 19, was married off to an older man in 2011 forcing her to drop out of high school at Dadaab’s Ifo camp. The now divorced single mother of one, said: “I am very disappointed. My life is almost destroyed. I can no longer go back to school because I have to take care of my child; I [have] lost my pride.”

Many young girls at the camp are married off against their will to Somali men who come back from the USA and can afford to pay a huge dowry, according to officials.

Female genital mutilation/cutting and sexual and gender violence are also a problem, according to Faiza Dahir, an official with the gender and community development unit of NGO CARE.

A traditional Somali justice system known as ‘maslaha’ makes it difficult to trace the perpetrators of gender violence, “since they are protected under the traditional council, which solves all cases and withdraws complaints to the police.”


Meanwhile, aid agencies are coming up with incentive projects to help encourage girls to enrol at, and stay in, school.

The UN World Food Programme, for example, is providing tokens of half a kilogram of sugar to girls who attend 80 percent of classes every month. CARE is also supplying adolescent girls with sanitary pads to minimize drop-outs during menstruation.

Windle Trust Kenya is providing remedial and extra classes to girls in their final primary school year, while the African Development and Emergency Organization (ADEO) provides them with solar lamps.

Those who make it to school in the Ifo-2 and Kambioos extension camps (opened in 2011 to accommodate an influx of Somali refugees fleeing hunger and violence) face congested classrooms with limited facilities, with some forced to sit on the ground due to a lack of desks.

“We have struggled to solicit a learning space for the children and immediately established some primary schools in the Ifo extension camp to accommodate as many children as possible,” Fanuel Rendiki, ADEO’s education coordinator in Ifo camp, told IRIN.

Aid agencies such as CARE and Save the Children have also started an accelerated learning programme to train the refugees in basic numeracy and literacy.

The refugee youth umbrella organization is also helping to provide stationery. “We have distributed over 2,500 exercise books to children in Kambioos; we are also planning to do the same in Ifo-2,” Aden Tarah, a member of the youth committee, told IRIN.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


The Terrorized Lives of Somali Child Soldiers

As the rattle of gunfire echoed loudly outside, Mohamed Abdi sat in the corner of a Mogadishu restaurant and wondered aloud how much longer he could survive in one of the world’s most dangerous capitals. “Mogadishu is full of miseries, sometimes you fall into traps and can be abducted by either government forces or insurgents, to fight for their cause.”

The 15-year-old’s father died two years ago and since then life in Somalia has been a daily struggle to support his mother and two brothers who live in a nearby refugee camp. Unlike thousands of his countrymen who have been displaced because of fighting between government forces and Al Shabaab -a militant Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda- Abdi is fortunate in that he recently found work as a waiter. However, it was not so long ago that the youth was fighting in urban warfare.

As Somalia’s civil conflict continues unabated, child soldiering is an issue of growing concern. In a report last month Amnesty International (AI) detailed cases of children as young as nine years being made to take fight in war. The report – In The Line of

Fire: Somalia’s Children Under Attack – exposed the full impact of the on-going conflict on children and said that both Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and Al Shabaab were guilty of gross human rights violations.

“Somalia is not only a humanitarian crisis: it is a human rights crisis and a children’s crisis,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa. “As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time: you can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by Al-Shabaab because you are caught listening to music or ‘wearing the wrong clothes’, be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents or even die because you don’t have access to adequate medical care.”

Abdi rarely leaves his workplace, or ventures onto Mogadishu’s streets, mainly out of fear he might be abducted again by his former captors. It was not long after his father died in 2009 that he was taken by Al Shabaab. He was initially accused of spying for the government and then driven from Mogadishu to a training centre in Marka about 60 miles from the capital. After military training he was moved back to Mogadishu.

“Children do tasks such as spying for the insurgents or the government, it depends on which side they are working with, and they also assemble explosives. I fought in Industrial Street in Mogadishu. While on the frontline one night, I was on guard at our base in Shirkole. It was dark and two of my colleagues on duty fell asleep so I managed to escape,” explained Abdi whose family moved to Mogadishu four years ago from the Bay and Bakol regions of the south Somalia.

The teenager now washes plates and earns 60,000 Somali shillings, the equivalent to US$ 2 per day. He considers himself extremely fortunate as reports from lower Shabelle, Hiram, Middle Shabelle and the lower Jubba regions of Somalia – strongholds of Al-Shabaab- indicate the forced recruitment of children drastically increased after insurgents withdrew from the capital this month to allow aid agencies into the benighted city.

“Children were forcibly dragged from their homes for recruitment even though some of the children were not able to hold a gun,” said Ali Mohamed, a father in the port town of Kismayo whose son is missing, believed to have been taken by Al-Shabaab.

The effect of war has been nothing short of catastrophic and AI said children are also being denied access to education and that many had been killed or injured in indiscriminate attacks carried out in densely populated areas. Education has suffered because school buildings have been destroyed or damaged during fighting in urban areas. In Mogadishu, many schools have closed down as children and teachers fear being killed or injured on their way to school.

“During the 21 years of the military rule ousted in 1991, education was free and orphanage centres were scattered around the country and children were given special care,” said Abdisalam Hared, a secondary school teacher in Mogadishu.

Like many of his peers, Hared is increasingly concerned about the influence radical Islamists hold over children. He said some of his pupils told him he must dress like a Muslim and not wear jeans. Mohamed Abdirahman, another high school teacher, said some pupils have been involved in fighting and have links with the insurgents while others told him their Amirs (group leaders) were calling for them to join the fighting.

“We let them go. Some of them did not come back and were reportedly killed in the frontlines,” Abdirahman added.

Many innocent youngsters have been killed during fighting, including three friends of  Abdifatah Hassan, a high school student in Mogadishu. They were killed in a mortar attack in which two others were wounded.  He said: “Sometimes we are out of schools for months when fighting intensifies in the capital and residents flee in their residential areas, students go with their parents and schools are almost empty.”

In the areas of Mogadishu controlled by Islamists, Al-Shabaab has imposed strict rules and ordered that students should enlist in the fight against the government. The insurgents have banned non-Arabic signs on shops and ordered businesses in the Elasha settlement on the outskirts of the capital to remove English and Somali posters and replace them with billboards in Arabic.

“Even children under the age of thirteen were joined (sic) in the list, we couldn’t stop this and parents often blame on us,” said Ali Mohamed Herzi, principal of an intermediate school at the Elasha settlement which is under Al-Shabaab control.

Al Shabaab is supposed to have left Mogadishu but its fighters are still launching attacks from their city strongholds and their strategy is based on Afghan style hit and run tactics designed for urban warfare. “We are present in the capital and our fighters are here ready to launch the second phase of our war against the infidels and their collaborators,” said Shaekh Ali Mohamoud , a spokesman for Al-Shabaab.

In northern parts of the city – including Deynile, Huriwaa and Suukha Hoolaha where government forces did not fully advance – remnants of Al-Shabaab and their sympathisers launch regular assaults to show their presence. Over the last two weeks more than ten people – including a women and three children aged between 13 to 15 years old – were beheaded in Huriwaa , Suukha Hoolaha and Huriwa districts for allegedly spying for the government, said Omer Ja’fan Abdulle, commissioner of Huriwaa.

Elsewhere, life is dire for hundreds of orphaned children left destitute. UNICEF said at least 2000 children are trying to survive as on the streets of Mogadishu. “We are aware of the difficulties and hardships they are facing” said Shepherd-Johnson, spokesman for UNICEF in Somalia. Aside from the fighting, Somalia is suffering the worst drought and famine in 60 years and nearly two million children under the age of five are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, Unicef added.


From playground to battleground: children on the frontline in Somalia

from The Guardian, reporter Mohamad Shil

As the rattle of gunfire becomes louder, Mohamed Abdi sits in the corner of a Mogadishu restaurant wondering how much longer he can survive in one of the world’s most dangerous capital cities. “Mogadishu is full of miseries. Sometimes you fall into traps and can be abducted by either government forces or insurgents, to fight for their cause,” says the 15-year-old.

Thousands have been displaced because of fighting between government forces and al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group linked to al-Qaida. Abdi is fortunate in that he recently found work as a waiter, but not so long ago he was involved in urban warfare.

As Somalia‘s civil conflict continues, the use of child soldiers is causing growing concern. In a report last month, Amnesty International detailed cases of children as young as nine being forced into combat. The report – In the line of fire: Somalia’s children under attack – exposes the ongoing conflict’s impact on children, arguing that both Somalia’s transitional federal government and al-Shabaab are guilty of gross human rights violations.

“As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time,” says Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa. “You can be killed, recruited and sent to the frontline, punished by al-Shabaab because you are caught listening to music or wearing the ‘wrong’ clothes, be forced to fend for yourself because you have lost your parents, or even die because you don’t have access to adequate medical care.”

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Somalia: Recruitment of Child Soldiers on the Increase

Source: Content Partner // IRIN

NAIROBI – With the escalation of fighting across Somalia since January, armed groups have reportedly recruited more child soldiers to their ranks, some even forcing teachers to enlist pupils.

In a recent offensive against rebel groups in Bulo Hawo town on the border with Kenya [ https://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=92070 ], the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated on 17 March, “…children were involved as fighters and a significant number of them were killed. According to reports, intense fighting in the area between Dhusamareb and Ceel bur in Galgadud has also resulted in many child casualties.”

“The TFG [Transitional Federal Government] forces, their allies, the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, and Al-Shabab are all engaged in the recruitment. Al-Shabab [the largest armed opposition group] is the biggest culprit,” said an official working with an NGO that monitors the state of children in the country. The official, who asked not to be named, did not suggest the African Union’s TFG-supporting military mission in Somalia, AMISOM, was also using children. Read more


Islamist Suicide Bombing Kills Somali Star International–Soccer Used as Tool to Prevent Child Soldiers

[from BleacherReports.com]

By James M. Dorsey/(Correspondent) on February 23, 2011

Soccer star killed in Islamist suicide bombing in war-torn Somalia
USAF/Getty Images

An Islamist suicide bombing that killed a star international on war-torn Somalia’s U-20 soccer team and wounded two other players constitutes a setback for the squad as well as efforts by the country’s football federation to lure child soldiers with the prospect of a soccer career away from the Islamist militia.

The attack is likely to figure prominently when FIFA President Sepp Blatter meets Somali Football Federation (SFF) president Said Mahmoud Nur on Thursday at a Confederation of African Football (CAF) gathering in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. FIFA supports the SFF campaign that has succeeded in turning hundreds of Somali youngsters recruited by the militia into soccer players.

The three players were targeted by the suicide bomber when they walked home earlier this week from training in a heavily fortified police academy in Hamar Jajab District, an area of several blocks in the bullet-scarred Somali capital of Mogadishu controlled by the US-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) rather than the Islamist insurgents of Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate.

Under-20 international Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali was among 11 people killed when the suicide attacker rammed his van packed with explosives into a police checkpoint. Players Mahmoud Amin Mohamed and Siid Ali Mohamed Xiis were two of the 40 people injured. Abdi Salaan was widely viewed as one of Somalia’s best young players.

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The U.S., Somalia, and Child Soldiers

Viewpoint/Elizabeth Gardner

I’ve been going through a mental checklist of some of the 12-year-olds that I’ve known. The list includes some extremely rambunctious boys and some spirited girls—my little sister’s friends, an old coach’s son, a family friend, girls that I coached at volleyball camp. It’s these kids that I’ve been thinking back to as I’ve read the recent press that’s come out regarding child soldiers in Somalia.

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