Armed conflict continued between pro-government forces, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Islamist armed group al-Shabab, in southern and central Somalia. Pro-government forces took control of a number of key towns from al-Shabab, including the port of Kismayo. Political transition ended the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). A new parliament was selected in August, a new president was appointed in September and a new prime minister in October. Thousands of civilians were killed, injured or displaced by armed conflict and generalized violence. Aid agency access remained constrained by fighting, insecurity and restrictions imposed by parties to the conflict. Eighteen journalists were killed; others were attacked, harassed and forced into exile. Humanitarian and human rights workers also remained targets for abuses. Armed groups continued to forcibly recruit people, including children, and to abduct, torture and unlawfully kill people. Serious human rights abuses, including war crimes, remained unpunished. In Somaliland, freedom of expression deteriorated, and one journalist was killed.
The TFG and AMISOM remained in control of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Clashes with al-Shabab continued throughout the year, but there were fewer reported incidents and civilian casualties. Al-Shabab lost control of a number of key towns, including Baidoa, Afgoye, Merka and Kismayo, but remained in control of large parts of the countryside. Insecurity remained high. Civilians were at risk of indiscriminate fire, direct targeting and suicide attacks.
In July, Kenyan troops were formally incorporated into AMISOM, following their intervention in October 2011. International support for government security forces and allied militias continued, despite their lack of accountability for ongoing, serious human rights abuses.
In July, the UN Monitoring Group highlighted continuous violations of Somalia arms embargoes.
In February, the UN declared an end to famine in Somalia, but warned that a humanitarian crisis remained. By the end of 2012, 31% of the population remained in food crisis and required assistance.
In August, the TFG mandate ended. The 20 August deadline set for the TFG to hand over power to a new, more representative government was delayed several times. The parliament was selected in August and a new president appointed in September. A group of 135 elders was chosen to form a National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which would select 275 new MPs and approve Somalia’s new Constitution. The NCA approved the Constitution on 1 August. While it did not amend the document, it made a number of recommendations for the new parliament to consider. The public referendum required to approve the Constitution had not taken place by the end of the year. A Technical Selection Committee (TSC) supported the NCA in vetting prospective MPs. Candidates were assessed according to a range of criteria, including consideration of whether they faced allegations of human rights abuses. The High Court overturned the TSC’s decision to reject 16 nominated MPs because they were alleged warlords. In September, parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as President. He defeated the incumbent, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in a run-off by 190-79 votes. In October, the President appointed Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid as Prime Minister. Parliament approved his nominated Cabinet of Ministers in November. It included Somalia’s first woman Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In January, the state of Khatumo was created, claiming to consist of Sool, Sanag and Ayn regions, and claiming affiliation with the Mogadishu-based government. These regions are subject to disputes over control between Somaliland and Puntland. Clashes between Somaliland armed forces and militias allied to Khatumo state displaced thousands of people.Top of page
Hundreds of civilians were killed or injured by indiscriminate attacks by all parties to the conflict. Mortar attacks decreased, but some reportedly caused civilian casualties. Shooting and in-fighting between different TFG units and militia, particularly in Mogadishu, killed and injured civilians. So did improvised explosive devices and grenades, increasingly set off by al-Shabab or their sympathizers. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for suicide attacks that killed or injured hundreds of people. Air strikes – some conducted by Kenya – also killed or injured civilians in southern and central Somalia.
Direct targeting of civilians
Civilians remained at risk of being directly targeted in attacks and killings in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab factions continued to torture and unlawfully kill people they accused of spying or not conforming to their own interpretation of Islamic law. They killed people in public, including by stoning, and carried out amputations and floggings. They also imposed restrictive behavioural codes on women and men.
Extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment were reportedly carried out in Baidoa and Beletweyne by militias allied to the government, often in response to ongoing insecurity and attacks by al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab continued to forcibly recruit children before and during military operations. Most were sent to the front line. Militias affiliated to the government were also accused of continuing to recruit and use child soldiers.
In July, the TFG signed an action plan with the UN to end the recruitment and use of children in its own armed forces. Implementation of the plan had not started at the end of 2012, and children remained in their armed forces.Top of page
Somali journalists and media workers continued to be attacked, harassed and intimidated by parties to the conflict. At least 18 media workers were killed. In November, the President announced the creation of a taskforce to investigate the killings of journalists and identify the perpetrators. However, no one was appointed to the taskforce and no one had been held accountable at the end of 2012. The Puntland authorities also continued to arbitrarily restrict media freedom.
Fighting, insecurity and acute malnutrition continued to displace hundreds of thousands of people. Almost 1.36 million Somalis were internally displaced in 2012, mostly in southern and central Somalia, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
IDP camps in Mogadishu continued to grow. There were regular reports of aid being diverted by government officials and camp managers, including from the UN Monitoring Group. Poor security also had an impact on service delivery to the camps. Reports of sexual violence against women and girls continued. IDPs were reportedly forcibly evicted from former government buildings to make way for rehabilitation projects, and from camps close to the airport for security reasons.
There were over one million Somali refugees in the region, particularly in Ethiopia and Kenya. In November, Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado refugee complex became the world’s second largest, after Kenya’s Dadaab complex – also for Somali refugees.Top of page
Humanitarian operations continued to be hampered by fighting, general insecurity and access restrictions.
In Mogadishu, official government figures stated that four executions were carried out. However, there were indications that at least five executions were carried out. At least 51 death sentences were passed, following military court trials that lacked guarantees of fairness.
In Puntland, seven death sentences were reported and at least one execution was carried out.Top of page
Thousands of people were displaced by fighting in eastern Somalia between the Somaliland Army and militias affiliated to the newly created Khatumo state.
Freedom of expression was increasingly curtailed. Dozens of journalists were arbitrarily arrested and detained. Some reported being beaten in custody. One journalist was killed. A traditional elder was detained for four months for making statements criticizing the government.