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Peacekeepers abusing Somali girls, says report

12 September 2014


Wounded: People carry injured civilians to hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, last month. At least 15 were killed and dozens more injured in confrontations between local militias and Somali goverment forces backed by AMISOM

Wounded: People carry injured civilians to hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, last month. At least 15 were killed and dozens more injured in conf...

THE case of a 12-year-old Somali girl allegedly raped by a Ugandan soldier is among the evidence compiled by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a new report on sexual abuse by African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces in Somalia.

The girl's parents told investigators that they had been taken to meet officials from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and had been promised 50 camels as compensation. These have not appeared.

"Whenever we go out, people started pointing their fingers at us," the mother said. "My daughter was the victim who felt the physical pain, and paid the price of the stigma after that. People laugh at her whenever she comes out. They say, 'An infidel raped her.'"

The HRW report, The Power These Men Have Over Us, which was published on Monday, is based on 50 interviews. It documents the way in which some AMISOM soldiers, deployed to Somalia since 2007 to help restore stability, have, at their bases in Mogadishu, sexually abused and exploited vulnerable Somali women and girls. Researchers spoke to 21 women and girls who described being raped or sexually exploited by Ugandan or Burundian military personnel serving with the AU forces. Some soldiers have exploited women's poverty and lack of food, the report alleges.

UN policy explicitly prohibits peacekeepers from exchanging any money, goods, or services for sex. AMISOM has developed a draft policy on prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse, but HRW argues that "there are still no complaint mechanisms, and little or no capacity to investigate abuses."

"The AU military and political leadership needs to do more to prevent, identify, and punish sexual abuse by their troops," Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW, said. "As another food crisis looms in Mogadishu's displacement camps, women and girls are once again desperate for food and medicine. They should not have to sell their bodies for their families to survive."

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