Killings: Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, AMISOM, and al-Shabaab resulted in the death and injury of civilians and the displacement of many others. Clan-based political violence in the Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle Regions involved revenge killings and attacks on civilian settlements. Clashes in the Hiraan, Galguduud, and Gedo Regions also resulted in deaths. Somaliland used military force to suppress supporters of the self-declared Khatumo State (see section 1.a.).
Conflict between Biimaal and Habar Gedir militias in the Lower Shabelle Region continued, although reports of abductions and killings decreased. Local civil society organizations continued to report that rape occurred in the context of fighting in Lower Shabelle. The ad hoc official commissions that the government established in 2014 to investigate alleged abuses by federal military forces and allied militias in the Lower Shabelle Region did not produce any reports.
Clashes throughout the south and central regions resulted in deaths and displacement. For example, on January 22, clashes between Dir and Hawadle clan militias over land in the towns of Burdhinle and Hada-Ogle in the Hiraan Region resulted in at least 23 deaths and numerous injuries.
Clan fighting revolving around the state formation process resulted in numerous deaths. ASWJ militias and federal forces skirmished throughout the year, causing internal displacement of persons. For example, on February 10, the ASWJ attacked SNA forces in Guri’el, Galguduud Region. According to local sources, fighting killed at least three civilians and injured many more.
Al-Shabaab continued to kill civilians. This included politically motivated killings that targeted civilians affiliated with the government and attacks on humanitarian NGO employees, UN staff, and diplomatic missions. Al-Shabaab often used suicide attacks, mortar attacks, and improvised explosive devices. It also killed prominent peace activists, community leaders, clan elders, and their family members for their roles in peace building, and it beheaded persons accused of spying for and collaborating with Somali national forces and affiliated militias.
There were numerous reported al-Shabaab attacks, including the February 20 vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu that killed approximately 25 persons, including government officials.
Fighting between al-Shabaab and AMISOM and Somali forces resulted in civilian deaths.
There were numerous reports that, on July 21, AMISOM Ugandan army troops killed at least 11 civilians, including a woman, two teenagers, and two elderly men, in separate incidents in the Jujuuma, Balle, and Rusiya neighborhoods of Merca, Lower Shabelle Region. Human Rights Watch also reported the alleged killing of six men on July 31 by AMISOM Ugandan army troops at a wedding in Merca.
Abductions: Al-Shabaab continued to abduct Somali civilians and foreign nationals; at year’s end, several of them remained captive.
On July 9, Kenyan authorities announced the release of two Kenyan police officers abducted in Kenya and taken to Somalia by al-Shabaab in May 2013.
Al-Shabaab abducted humanitarian workers. In one case reported on April 13, al-Shabaab allegedly abducted three Somali national staff working for the NGO Solidarity between the towns of Garilley and Faafahdun, Gedo Region.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government forces, allied militias, men wearing uniforms, and AMISOM troops committed sexual violence, including rape, of IDPs in and around Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab also committed sexual violence, including through forced marriages.
A September 2014 Human Rights Watch report documented 24 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by Ugandan and Burundian AMISOM personnel. In five of the cases, the victims were under age 18. Cases included those in which girls and women reportedly were asked for sex in exchange for money, raped while seeking medical assistance or water, or raped and then given food or money. When releasing the results of its internal investigation on April 22, the chair of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, qualified most of the allegations in the report as false and exaggerated, claiming only two of the 21 rape cases reported were potentially true. The report concluded that sex abuse by AMISOM troops did not appear to be widespread.
There were several casualties involving land mines and other unexploded ordnance. Landmine incidents were prevalent in the central region. For example, on September 22, two children died after ordnance they mistook as a toy exploded in Dom-Adi, Middle Shabelle Region.
Child Soldiers: During the year there were continued reports of the SNA and allied militia, the ASWJ, and al-Shabaab using child soldiers.
Implementation of the government’s action plan with the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children by the national army remained limited, although the federal government made additional progress.
In January, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed a law ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through the first eight months of the year, the SNA’s Child Protection Unit (CPU) reported it conducted training awareness campaigns in Baidoa, Beledweyne, Kismayo, and Dinsoor on the importance of preventing child recruitment into the security forces. During screening missions with UN personnel, the CPU identified one child in the SNA’s Jazeera training camp in March and 36 children at the Marina Camp in Kismayo in June. According to a global UN report on children in conflict, in 2014 a mobile SNA/UN team screened more than 1,000 soldiers and the Barre Aden Shire “Hirale” militia that surrendered in anticipation of integration into the national army. No children were found during the screening exercises.
The United Nations provided training on child protection to more than 8,000 SNA soldiers in collaboration with the EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Somalia and AMISOM. In addition, following UN advocacy, the AMISOM force commander issued a directive to reinforce accountability and compliance with children’s rights during operations.
The United Nations supported the reintegration of 500 former child soldiers (375 boys, 125 girls) into their families and communities. Reintegration activities included the provision of psychosocial assistance, “back-to-school” support programs, and vocational training.
Authorities handed over children separated from armed groups to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Due to the absence of established birth registration systems, it was often difficult to determine the age of national security force recruits. The EUTM provided refresher training to approximately 500 Somali soldiers in Mogadishu, where they underwent interviews and screening to determine their ages. These screenings did not identify any children among the soldiers.
UN officials documented the recruitment and use of 819 children (779 boys, 40 girls) in 2014, including by al-Shabaab (437), the SNA and allied militia (197), Ahlu Sunna wal-Jama’a (109), and other armed elements (76). There were 133 children abducted: 97 by Al-Shabaab, 25 by the national army and allied militia, and 11 by unknown armed groups. More than half of the children al-Shabaab abducted were used to increase its numbers ahead of joint SNA/AMISOM operations.
Al-Shabaab continued to recruit and force children to participate in direct hostilities, including suicide attacks. Al-Shabaab raided schools, madrassas, and mosques for recruitment purposes. The United Nations reported 82 cases of child recruitment in mosques or during religious events convened by al-Shabaab. According to UN assessments, trends reflected in a 2012 Human Rights Watch report continued. These included children in al-Shabaab training camps subjected to grueling physical training, inadequate diet, weapons training, physical punishment, and religious training. The training also included forcing children to punish and execute other children. Al-Shabaab used children in combat, including placing them in front of other fighters to serve as human shields and suicide bombers. In August the CPU reported that 26 children who had previously served in al-Shabaab turned themselves in to federal government representatives in the Tieglow District. In addition, al-Shabaab used children in support roles, such as carrying ammunition, water, and food; removing injured and dead militants; gathering intelligence; and serving as guards. The organization sometimes used children to plant roadside bombs and other explosive devices. The Somali press frequently carried accounts of al-Shabaab indoctrinating children at schools and forcibly recruiting students into its ranks.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: Armed groups, particularly al-Shabaab, but also government forces and militia, deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies and other items indispensable to the survival of the civilian population as well as access by humanitarian organizations, particularly in the southern and central regions.
Humanitarian workers regularly faced checkpoints, roadblocks, extortion, car-jacking, and bureaucratic obstacles. Humanitarian organizations were often treated with suspicion and extorted. According to the United Nations, there were 15 reported incidents of denial of humanitarian access, the majority by unknown armed groups, and three each by al-Shabaab and the SNA.
There was small-scale diversion of World Food Program wet food commodities with suspected government involvement.
On January 22, the federal government arrested the mayor of Buulo-Burde, Osman Gedi Elmi, for mismanagement and diversion of food aid.
There were reports humanitarian access to the contested territories of Sool and Sanaag, between Somaliland and Puntland, was restricted. NGOs reported incidents of harassment by local authorities in both Somaliland and Puntland.
Al-Shabaab blocked critical transportation routes to prevent the delivery of humanitarian assistance to areas liberated by AMISOM in the southern and central regions. Human Rights Watch reported al-Shabaab imposed blockades around Hudur, Bulo-Burte, Elbur, Qoryoley, and other towns that had been liberated by AMISOM and Somali government forces, severely restricting the movement of goods, assistance, and persons.
Al-Shabaab restricted medical care, including restricting civilian travel to other areas for medical care, destroying medications provided by humanitarian agencies, and closing medical clinics.
International aid organizations evacuated their staff or halted food distribution and other aid-related activities in al-Shabaab-controlled areas due to killings, extortion, threats, harassment, expulsions, and prohibitions by al-Shabaab. International aid agencies increasingly relied on Somali staff and local organizations to deliver relief assistance in these areas.
Because of fighting between al-Shabaab, AMISOM, and the SNA, al-Shabaab’s humanitarian access restrictions, taxation on livestock, failed water redistribution schemes, and insecurity, many residents in al-Shabaab-controlled areas fled to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia and IDP camps in other areas of the country.