Information on persecution of members of the Majerteen clan by the Maheran clan. [SOM1441]

Somalia, located in the "Horn of Africa" with a population of about 5.8 million, has few natural resources and has undergone severe environmental degradation during the past decade. The country is presently affected by a civil war which erupted in the Northern part of the country in May 1988. The fighting broke out after the main opposition force, the Somali National Movement (SNM), crossed the Ethiopian border and launched major attacks in towns of the North, including Burao and Hargeisa. ["The Somali-South African Connection", in Africa Events, April 1989, p. 32.] The government response included bombings of civilian populations, causing thousands of deaths and the displacement of about two million people. [ Somalia: Imprisonment of Members of the Isaaq Clan since Mid-1988, (London: Amnesty International, 1988), p. 2.]

Since 1969, Somalia has been governed by a military dictatorship lead by Siyaad Barre. The regime has been repeatedly accused of violations of human rights. The army, police and, in particular, the National Security Service (NSS), have been most frequently identified as the agencies which commit such abuses. [Critique to the U.S. Department of State's Country Reports, 1986, 1987, 1988: Somalia, (Washington: Human Rights Watch, 1986, 1987, 1988); Amnesty International Reports 1979-1988 and Somalia: a long term human rights crisis, (London: Amnesty International, 1979-1988, September 1988); Scientists and Human Rights in Somalia, (Washington: National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, 1988).] The NSS has unlimited powers of arrest, search and confiscation, and has detained thousands of people for political or unspecified reasons in recent years. [ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, (Washington: U.S. Department of State, 1989), p. 308.] Prisoners are reported to be subject to torture and extra-judicial executions. [ Somalia: a long term human rights crisis, and Critique, various pages.]

Tensions between the Somali government and the two main opposition groups, the Somali National Movement (SNM), a mainly Isaaq-clan organization, and the Democratic Front for the Salvation of Somalia (DFSS) linked to the Majerteen clan, arose about a decade ago; this apparently gave the government an excuse to increase its abuses, which reportedly have increased sharply since the start of the civil war. [ Somalia: Imprisonment of Members of the Isaaq Clan since Mid-1988; "Somalia: Showdown in the North", in Africa Confidential, 29 July 1988, pp. 1-3, and Beyond the Headlines: refugees in the Horn of Africa, (American Council for Nationalities Service, 1988), p. 38.]

International institutions, including the Canadian Centre for Torture Victims and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, report torture, abduction, rape, extortion and other abuses being committed throughout the country, mostly, but not exclusively, by the NSS. [ Critique, p. 135.] Dr. Wendall Block, on behalf of the Canadian Centre for the Investigation and Prevention of Torture, reports in November 1987 that the Somalis he interviewed were detained and tortured for presumed reasons such as fund raising for the SNM, verbal criticism of government policies and simply for being a relative of a member of an opposition organization. [Somalia: A Long Term Human Rights Crises, (London: Amnesty International, 1979-1988, September 1988), p.44.] Everyone denied being formally charged or brought to trial. Their detentions ranged from a week to three and a half years. [ibid. ] Some of them were detained in military camps but most were kept in NSS centres. Aside from the inhuman conditions, there were regular beatings, including the "Mig" (chest to floor, arms and legs pulled back so that wrists are tied to ankles). [ibid. p.45]

Political, labour and individual rights are severely restricted and controlled by the government. Independent unions and demonstrations are banned, and the government routinely intervenes with personal communications. Freedom of movement within Somalia and the right to leave the country are limited by the authorities. [ Country Reports for 1988: Somalia, various sections.] Somali officials allegedly demand large bribes from members of the Somali community who return from abroad and attempt to leave the country again. [ Critique, p. 136.] Young men are reportedly recruited at gunpoint for military service in order to maintain a sufficient number of armed forces in the North. [ "Somalia: The Mogadishu factor", in Africa Confidential, (London: Miramoor Publications, Limited), 16 December 1988, p. 2.] A curfew is currently in effect throughout the northern region of the country. [ Critique, p. 136.] Government hostility towards and interference with religious leaders is also reported to have increased in recent years. Instances of imprisonment and execution of religious leaders who have criticized restrictions placed on the freedom of worship have been reported. [ Ibid, p. 139.]

The Somali nation has evolved from a pastoral society divided into six main clan-families, which are, in turn, divided into many more sub-clans (see attached chart). The Majerteen is one of four pastoral clans which has inhabited the central and eastern regions of Somalia. [C. Legum, ed. Africa Contemporary Record, Annual Survey and Documents 1986 - 1987., vol. XIX, (New York: Africana Publishing Company., 1987), p. B410.] During the civilian rule preceding the present dictatorship, all clans participated and were represented in government; this participation tended to ease clan rivalries and conflicts. [Ibid, pp. 90-91.]

Since the early years of his dictatorship, general Siyaad Barre has limited the participation in government of members of the Majerteen clan, the predominant group during the civilian era. This has led to a confrontation, with Barre alluding to the Majerteen as his enemies, and, ultimately, identifying enemies of his regime according to clan membership. [ Ibid, p. 91.] In retaliation for a coup attempt in 1971, Barre executed members of the three leading clans (Majerteen being one of them) and has since institutionalized clan membership as the predominant feature of Somali politics. [ Ibid.] Barre has also reportedly promoted interclan divisions and in-fighting to maintain himself in power. Members of the Majerteen, Isaaq and Hawiye clans have voiced uncertainty about their status under Siyaad Barre's rule as he has formed a ruling coalition of the Mareehan, Ogadeen and Dolbahanta clans (an alliance often referred to as MOD). [Ibid, pp. 91-92.] Having lost influence in political, social and economic life, the Hawiye, Majerteen and Issaq clans, although numerous, have limited access to the country's wealth. [ Ibid, p. 156.] Presently, the Marehan clan, to which Barre belongs, dominates Somalia's political and economic system. [Critique, pp. 133-134.]

The SSF, Somali Salvation Front, was established in February 1979 by Osman Nur Ali, a former minister in Siyaad Barre's first cabinet in 1969. The SSF was based mainly on members of the Majerteen tribe. [Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, An International Guide., (London: Longman Group UK Ltd.) 1988., p.325] In October 1981, the SSF along with the DFLS, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Somalia, and the SWP, Somali Workers' Party created the DFSS, Democratic Front for the Salvation of Somalia. [ibid.] Prior to 1985 DFSS fought mainly in southern Somalia. In 1982 two small border towns, Goldogob and Balambale, were occupied by FDSS. [Somalia: A Long Term Human Rights Crises, Amnesty International, p.6.] In October 1982 DFSS announced that it would form a Joint Military Committee with the SNM, a move which was to eventually lead to the unification of the two movements. [Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, p. 325.]

At the present time, interclan enmity is reported to be worse and potentially more violent than in any period of Somalia's history. [ Somalia: Nation in Search of a State,
p. 94.] Feuding clans often resort to reciprocal assassination of one another's elders in order to deprive a rival clan of its able leadership. [ Ibid, p. 161.] The SNM has allegedly killed members of rival clans (non-Isaaq), often on the suspicion that they were opposed to the SNM. [ Country Reports for 1988, p. 308.] The army has also been riddled with internal clan-derived divisions, resulting in desertions and arbitrary detentions. ["Somalia; Generals fall out", in Africa Confidential, 23 September 1988, pp. 1-2, and "Somalia: Showdown in the North".] Moreover, since the outbreak of civil war, the government has increased its efforts to eliminate opposition throughout the country, [Somalia: A long term human rights crisis and Somalia: Imprisonment of members of the Isaaq clan since mid-1988; Africa Confidential, 16 December 1988, 6 January 1989, 20 January 1989.] and Amnesty International reports that being a member of a particular clan can be enough to arouse suspicion among Somali authorities, who work on the assumption that many clan-members support particular opposition groups. [ Somalia: A long term human rights crisis and Somalia: Imprisonment of members of the Isaaq clan since mid-1988, various pages.]

Lately, the SNM has

reportedly tried to open a southern front by gaining support from the Hawiye clan, but only two sub-clans (no specific names available) have assisted the SNM in its endeavour. [ "Somalia: Showdown in the north", in Africa Confidential, 29 July 1988, p. 2. ] Prior to a major SNM campaign last year, small groups of Hawiye troops deserted the Somali army. [ Ibid.] Hawiye elders, however, have refused to put Hawiye urban and business interests at risk, particularly after the government's indiscriminate attacks on populations of other clans in the North. [ Ibid.] Nonetheless, there are reports of widespread resentment among the Hawiye, as this clan has been most affected by the army's conscription campaign in the Mogadishu and Southern areas, prompting differing views on whether to form a militia to compensate for the clan's lack of political power. [ Ibid.]

Attached is a chart showing the clan and sub-clan families and a map indicating the general distribution of the major clans.

A repressive regime which has increased its abuses against opposition groups as a part of its strategy to entrench its position during the recent civil war, a society riddled with inter and intra-clan rivalries, as well as severe environmental and economic hardships, have forced numerous Somalis out of their country. [ Somalia: Imprisonment of Members of the Isaaq Clan Since Mid-1988.] In addition to the large numbers of Somalis who had previously escaped the Barre regime and sought refuge abroad, over half a million moved into Ethiopia during the first months of the civil war, [ Ibid, pp. 2-3.] and the flow has continued and extended into other countries, from neighbouring Djibouti to as far away as Canada.

For the internally displaced, the situation has worsened: international relief agencies such as the International Red Cross and the Australian Community Aid Abroad have left Somalia in the face of increasing brutality. [ "U.N. ends Somali refugee work", in The Guardian, 11 January 1989.] These agencies gave relief to internally displaced and homeless refugee groups which, by late 1988, were estimated to number a million and a half people from the northeastern areas of conflict. [ Somalia: Imprisonment of Members of the Isaaq Clan since Mid-1988.] The UNHCR also reported that Ethiopian refugees living in refugee camps inside Somalia are being armed and conscripted by the Somali government. [ Ibid.] A group of Western ambassadors that visited the areas affected by conflict, expressed serious concern about the fact that the army controls the distribution of food and water. ["Somalia: Wounded North, Bruised South", p. 3.]

Because of the Ogaden war in the late seventies, in which Somalia launched an ill-fated military campaign against Ethiopia, the support given by Somalia to the Ethiopian rebel groups on one hand, and the establishment of Somali rebel bases in Ethiopian territory on the other, Somali-Ethiopian relations are tense, to the point where occasional incursions and clashes in border areas occur. [ "The Somali-South African Connection", pp. 32-33. ]

The present repression, instability and violence, together with social and economic problems and tension along the Ethiopian border, seem to be decisive factors in generating the large exodus of Somalis that has occurred in the last few years. No immediate solution to Somalia's internal problems seems likely, as reports describe Siyaad Barre's regime as a very stable one, and inter-clan rivalries are deeply rooted. [Somalia: Nation in Search of a State, pp. 153-167.] The SNM rebel group is reported to pose a limited threat, as the extension of supply lines from Ethiopia hamper its military capacity, while the DFSS is described as virtually inactive in spite of a force stationed in bases in Ethiopia numbering approximately 2,000 men. [ "Somalia: Showdown in the North", pp. 1-3.] It has been in disarray since Ethiopia detained its head, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf in 1985. A number of DFSS members have accepted Siyaad Barre's offer of amnesty. [Somalia: Nation in Search of a State. p. 99.]

From 1969 to 1980 there have been 61 public executions. The charges have been anti-social, anti-revolutionary or anti-government activities. [Somalia: Nation in Search of a State. p. 98.] In February 1988, 22 Somalis finally faced trials before the National Security Court in Mogadishu, six years after they were arrested. Six of the defendants were former Members of Parliament. [Somalia: A Long Term Human Rights Crises. p.28.] After international appeals for clemency, eight death sentences were commuted by Siyaad Barre. The revised sentences were 24 years imprisonment. [ibid. p.29]