A study on minorities
Until recently, many
people perceived Somalia as a country with a population of 7,000,0000
people who share one culture, one language and one religion. This was
the impression given during previous regimes in order to sustain the
illusion of homogeneity. One of the things that were deliberately
downplayed was the existence of minority groups. Although the
population of minority groups living in Somalia has not as yet been
established, estimates indicate that they constitute one third of the
total Somalia population; approximately 2,000,000 people. The minority
groups include Bantu, Bravenese, Rerhamar, Bajuni, Eyle, Galgala,
Tumal, Yibir and Gaboye. These groups continue to live in conditions
of great poverty and suffer numerous forms of discrimination and
The Socio economic
problems faced by minority groups in Somalia existed prior to the
armed conflict that continues in parts of Somalia following the
overthrow of the dictator Siyad Barre in 1991, and the subsequent
collapse of a Somalia national government. These problems have arisen
as a result of cultural values that segregate and exclude the minority
groups from dominant clan societies. These minority groups are
considered inferior, without full rights, hence their low social,
economic and political status. As a result of social segregation,
economic deprivation and political manipulation minority groups were
systematically excluded from mainstream government positions and the
few minorities who held positions had no power to speak on behalf of
their communities. Furthermore, as a result of their distinct ethnic
identity, some minorities, particular the Bantu and Bajuni have
suffered systematic confiscation of their lands and properties. In
other cases, minority groups have been politically manipulated to
oppose certain dominant clans. This resulted in animosity between some
minority groups and dominant clans. When the Somalia state collapsed,
the minority clans suffered brutal reprisals.
Unlike other clans from
dominant groups, minorities lack international support in the form of
regular remittances. Recurrent insecurity caused by conflict creates
an environment where minority groups are vulnerable and abnormally
displaced from their homes. Notably, some minority groups who were
abnormally displaced lost their lands, which were reallocated.
Insecurity further affects the delivery of services to minority groups
post-displacement in areas such as Kismayo, Jilib and Luuq. However,
in areas like Hargeisa, Beletweyne, Jowhar and Ballad where security
is not a big problem, minority groups \ receive very little assistance
from aid agencies. Estimates indicate that about seventy per cent of
the minorities who live in IDP camps or returnee settlements have
difficulties in accessing adequate food, proper shelter and education.
In a country where there
is no national Government that would be responsible for safeguarding
and upholding the rights of minority groups, Somalia minorities are
truly in a vulnerable position. Careful and thorough attention needs
to be focused on the issues faced by vulnerable populations in order
to develop concrete assistance strategies that will have a positive
impact on the security and livelihoods of minority groups.
1. Introduction to Study
In the analysis of this
study, it has been found that social segregation and other forms of
discrimination, in addition to economic exclusion are some of the key
factors in the creation of a wide socio-economic gap between dominant
clans and minority groups. Social segregation is a deep-rooted social
issue that divides the Somali society into two categories; laandeer
(noble) and langaab (inferior). In Somalia, it is generally the case
that noble groups are those belong to the culturally dominant group of
transhumant pastoralists, who form nearly sixty per cent of the total
population. Groups that are not pastoralist are often considered
inferior and this includes all minority groups. It is important to
note nonetheless that not all non-pastoralists are minorities. For
instance, the Rahanweyn clan is made up of settled agriculturalists.
This survey has been
carried out in order to assess and analyse the socio-economic
conditions of minority groups with which modalities can be mapped out
to provide them with adequate international assistance subsequently.
The methodology adopted
for the study comprised qualitative and quantitative assessment.
Qualitative assessments involved group discussions and interviews with
informants from the minority groups, elders, leaders, intellectuals
and humanitarian workers. Quantitative assessments involved the use of
semi-structured interviews conducted with 5% to 10% of the minority
households in the visited areas using random sampling. Information
collected included access to basic needs such as food, water, shelter,
health care and education. Other information collected includes their
social relationship with dominant clans and their access to protection
and humanitarian assistance.
Areas visited include
Kismayo and Jamame in Lower Juba regions, where Bantu, Bajuni and
Galgala live; Jilib in Middle Juba region where Bantu (wa Gosha) live;
Jowhar and Balad in Middle Shabelle region where Bantu (Shidle) live;
Beletweyn in Hiran region where Bantu (Makane) live and Hargeisa,
where the Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir live. Areas including Merka, Barave
and Bossaso were not visited due to security reasons.
The reason for the wide
geographical coverage was in order to observe how varying
socio-economic conditions in different locations affect the living
conditions of minority groups. The emerging differences are not
glaring because all the minority groups live below the threshold of
acceptable living standards
Social segregation of
minority groups in Somalia dates back to periods before the armed
conflict of 1991. Siyad Barre's regime gave minority issues some
prominent and positioned some minorities, mainly from the Gaboye (Midgan),
Tumal and Yibir in high military and government posts. However, the
regime did not carry out any tangible programmes to empower minority
groups. On the contrary, it seriously violated the basic human rights
and right to development of these groups.
2.1 Minority Clans
The Bantu are believed to
be descendants of Bantu communities in East and Central Africa from
regions like Tanzania and Malawi, brought into Somalia by Arab slave
traders. However, there are also other Bantu who are believed to be
non-Somali, who lived in Somalia before the arrival of the
aforementioned Bantu. Most of the Bantu are small-scale farmers who
live in the riverine areas along the Juba and Shabelle rivers, the
only permanent rivers that run through southern Somalia
Rerhamar and Baravnese
The Rerhamar and Baravnese
are believed to be descendents of Arab immigrant settlers from Yemen
and Far East countries. They settled in coastal towns of southern
Somalia some ten centuries ago. Most of them are traders.
The Bajuni are a people
related to the coastal people (Waswahili) along the Eastern African
Coast. They live in Kismayo and the Islands of Jula, Madoga, Satarani,
Raskamboni, Bungabo, Dudey, Koyoma and Jovay (Bajuni Islands). They
are a seafaring community.
Gaboye, Tumal, Yibir
The Gaboye, Tumal, Yibir
and Galgala are ethnically associated with the Samale, which forms a
dominant clan in Somalia. However, cultural stigma and traditions have
excluded them as outcastes from the Samale clan. They engage in the
activities of blacksmithing and shoemaking, as well as being hunters/gatherers.
They live mainly in central and northern Somalia.
Most of the minority
groups have assimilated into other Somalia clans with whom they live.
For example, the Galgala have assimilated into the Abgal in Jowhar and
Mogadishu. However, they identify themselves as Nuh Mohamud, a sub
clan of the Majerten clan. Some Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir assimilated
into the Isak in Somaliland, while others yet have assimilated into
the Darod in Puntland and central regions. There are also other Gaboye,
Tumal and Yibir who assimilated with Hawadle, Murasade and Marehan
clans in Galgadud region.
With the exception of the
Bantu, Rerhamar, Bravanese, Bajuni and Eyle who have distinct "non-Somali"
physical appearance, all other minorities have physical appearances
similar to that of the dominant clans, as well as having ethnic and
cultural similarities. What distinguish the assimilated minorities are
their distinct economic livelihoods.
3.1 Social, economic
and political exploitation/exclusion
In 1975, large sections of
Bantu agricultural lands in Jilib and Jamame were systematically
appropriated by the Siyad Barre regime under the pretext of
development projects through the Resources Sharing Policy of Hawl iyo
Hantiwadaag. This is a Leninist and Marxist ideology that the regime
adopted. The lands appropriated include lands in Marerey and Mugambo,
where the Marerey Sugar Project and Mugambo Rice projects were set up.
The Bantu farmers in these areas were forced to abandon their lands
without any compensation. They lost hundreds of mango trees, large
fields of maize crops, and large quantities of underground crops.
Other Bantu lands in the same area where distributed as political
rewards to Siyad Barre's supporters from the Marehan and Dhulbahante
clans. All these violations resulted in the suffering of Bantu
families in the Lower and Middle Juba riverine areas.
The tradition seafaring
Bajuni community were also subjected to similar abuses of their rights
in Kismayo, and the Bajuni Islands. These communities were forced to
join government cooperatives such as the Somali Fishing Cooperative,
established in Kismayo in 1974. Marehan, Majerten and Dhulbahante
people who did not have the traditional culture of fishing established
this and other cooperatives. They took over most of the fishing
equipment including fishing boats and forced the Bajuni to joint the
cooperatives. This had and continues to have a serious effect on the
most important economic lifeline of the Bajuni community.
In the north, minority
groups suffered from the denial of their right to own land or
livestock. Minorities were confined to their traditional skills of
blacksmithing and shoe making; the occupation of outcastes.
3.2 Economic exclusion
Economic dominance is one
of the most serious socio-economic problems facing the minority
communities. Since independence, the major clans at the expense of
minority groups have dominated social and political affairs of
Somalia. This trend has continued more than ten years after the
collapse of the Somali state.
In Kismaiyo, all economic
sources such as the seaport, airport and commercial activities are all
controlled by the Habregedir and Marehan. Those who do not belong to
these groups, and particular the Bantu and Bajuni work only as
underpaid servants. In Jowhar and Balad, the Warsengeli (Abgal) and
Da'ud control revenue collection, farm and livestock production and
marketing, as well as all other economic activities. In Beletweyne,
the Hawadle and other dominant clans control the economy. Minorities
occupy subordinate roles. In Hargeisa there are nearly five telephone
companies, six money transfer companies, several light industries,
transportation and construction companies; all of which create
hundreds of job opportunities. The minorities claim that these jobs
are offered according to the ethnic identity of the individual. The
Gaboye, Tumal and Yibir have no access to those jobs because of their
Remittances have also
been, for the last decade, an important economic source for the
Somalis. However, remittances have had little impact on the
livelihoods of the minority groups in the north and even far less in
the south. Very few minorities emigrated to Europe, North America and
Australia during and after the Siyad Barre regime. Ninety per cent of
the Somalia refugees resettled those countries through UNHCR
programmes, are from major clans.
3.3 Armed conflict
The situation of minority
groups deteriorated when the armed conflict broke out in both
Somaliland and south Somalia. Some minorities such as the Galgala,
Gaboye and Yibir were perceived as enemies because of their working
relationship with the Siyad Barre regime. They therefore suffered
grievous human rights violations, which included extra judicial
killings, appropriation of lands and properties, and forced
displacement from their lands to IDP or refugee camps situated along
the Somalia Ethiopia border.
The Galgala people in
Mogadishu and Gedihir in Jowhar suffered brutal reprisals from the
Abgal clan with whom they lived. These reprisals took place at the
beginning of the 1991 war. During the last days of his rule, Siyad
Barre misused the Galgala community by arming them against the Abgal.
Following his defeat, the Abgal killed many Galgala and forced many
others to abandon their houses. There are now nearly 5,000 Galgala
IDPs in Kismayo and elsewhere. Important to note, as already mentioned,
since the Galgala identify themselves with the Majerten sub clan, they
have received minimal clan support from the Darod clan in Kismayo.
The Bantu did not
participate in clan-based conflicts. Notwithstanding, they still
suffered attacks and violations of their rights. In January 2001,
heavily armed militia from the Wersengeli (Abgal clan) carried out a
well organised attack on the Bantu (Shidle) farmers in Bananey and
Barey villages in Jowhar, following a dispute over grazing land for
cattle. According to unconfirmed reports from the Bantu farmers, ten
Bantus were killed, all houses in the two villages were burnt down and
farming equipment including two generators and three water pumps were
looted. To date, no compensation has been given to the Bantu by the
Abgal1. The Bantu (Makane) in Beletweyne suffered
mistreatment and violation from the Hawadle, Galjele, Badi Adde and
Jijele clans. Most of them were displaced from Beletweyne town to
rural areas in Hiran region.
The Bajuni from Kismayo
and Bajuni Islands were attacked by militiamen from Habargedir (Eir)
and others during the initial periods of armed conflict. They suffered
violations including confiscation of their lands and rape of the women.
Most of them abandoned their homes and sought refuge in Kenya camps.
The Gaboye, Tumal and
Yibir in Hargeisa and elsewhere in Somaliland suffered both during
after the armed conflict between Siyad Barres' army and the Somali
National Movement of the Isak clan. These groups have similar physical
characteristics as the Isak and it was difficult for Siyad Barre's
army to differentiate between the Isak and other clans. When Siyad
Barre was defeated, the Isak meted harsh punishments on the Gaboye,
Tumal and Yibir because they were perceived to be Siyad Barre
3.4 Current security
The current condition of
minority groups has changed as a result of changing social, economic
and political environments in the various regions of Somalia. In
Kismayo, for instance, previous rivals (Habargedir and Marehan) have
now become allies and are now in control of Kismayo's social and
political affairs. There is less insecurity between these clan groups,
positively affecting the minorities. However, conflicts between these
allies and General Morgan's forces that are currently in Bay region
are expected. In general, security conditions have improved.
Nevertheless, there are unconfirmed reports of rape of Bantu and
Galgala women in IDP camps.
In Jowhar, security
conditions have improved since 2000 when Mohamed Dheere from the
Wersengeli clan took control of Jowhar and other parts of Middle
Shabelle region. Nevertheless, the Bantu and other vulnerable groups
in the area complain about taxes taken each month from every household.
They report that most of the Bantu families are economically
vulnerable and therefore unable to pay taxes. Each household is
required to pay 15,000 Somali Shillings every month. Failure to remit
the taxes on time results in arrest until the right amount is paid.
In Beletweyne, there
appears to be power equilibrium between the Hawadle, Galjeel and
Jilele. The town is divided into east and west sections. The eastern
section is controlled by the Hawadle and the west by Galjeel. There
has been no major fighting between the clans since 1996 when General
Aideed's force was ousted jointly by the Hawadle, Galjeel and Jilele
communities in Beletweyne. In spite of the seemingly placid
environment, the Bantu (Makane) are still vunerable.
In Somaliland, the
security conditions are better than those of any other place in the
south. There is a functioning administration, which has not received
international recognition. Properties confiscated from minority groups
during armed conflicts were returned. However, the minority groups
report that they suffer discrimination because they do not benefit
from social services and activities and remain unemployed.
3.5 Minority returnees
Most of the displaced
minorities were not willing to return to their original lands until
only very recently. Some feared renewed persecution, while others lost
all their possessions and means of livelihood and had no incentive to
return. However, during the past two years, a considerable number of
minorities have returned from refugee camps. These include the Bajuni
from Kismayo and the Bajuni Islands, and Gaboye, Midgan, Tumal and
Yibir in Somaliland.
According to Bajuni elders
in Kismayo, approximately 2,000 Bajuni voluntarily repatriated from
Jomvu refugee camp in Kenya in 1997, following the Government of
Kenya's decision to close all three refugee camps (Benadiri, Bravan
and Jomvu camps). Had the Bajuni remained, they would have been forced
to relocate to other distant camps of Kakuma on the border of Kenya
and Sudan, or Dadaab, in the northeastern part of Kenya. Many minority
refugees including the 2,000 Bajuni declined the relocation claiming
that the living conditions would be too harsh in these two camps. With
the help of UNHCR and the Mombasa community, the Bajuni refugees were
repatriated to Kismayo and their Islands. During the first stage of
their repatriation, the Bajuni's were given some assistance by UNHCR
to "jumpstart" their livelihoods. They were given ten
fishing boats and nets. Since then the Bajunis claim that they have
received no further assistance. They also claim that they need more
assistance including the rehabilitation of their wells, water
catchments, schools and health centres, which were all destroyed
during the war.
In Hargeisa, most of the
minority refugees returning from Ethiopia were initially fearful of
persecution by the Isak upon their return. These fears were allayed
following a cross border operation conducted jointly with UNHCR and
the Somaliland authorities. Approximately 2,000 minorities were
voluntarily repatriated to Hargeisa and elsewhere. They live in Dami
and Gaan Libah, where living conditions are harsh. The minorities
claim that they have not received the assistance required. Furthermore,
being minorities means that they cannot hope to depend on extended
clan support to help them cope with the difficult living conditions.
3.6 Current conditions
In order to estimate the
extent of assistance required, it is necessary to understand the needs
of minority groups through understand their current socio-economic
conditions desegregated into rural and urban categories. It is
important to note that regarding basic needs, most Somalis have been
affected since the armed conflict began. However, minorities are
believed to be the most vulnerable of all due to a number of
interrelated socio-economic factors including purchasing power,
inflation, the steady devaluation of the Somali Shilling and
Devaluation of the
Somali currency is a factor that affects minorities' access to
food and basic needs.
Large quantities of
fake money in southern Somalia resulted in inflation.
The result of limited
access to economic sustenance is the increase of food insecurity
and malnutrition2. According to WFP standards,
these levels of malnutrition do not indicate a critical situation
that needs emergency interventions. However, it indicates that
there are vulnerable families within the minorities such as
widowed or divorced women.
The changes in relief
food distribution into Food For Work programmes aimed at assisting
vulnerable communities and improving their food security has had
little impact on minority groups, as they report that the
programme is mostly controlled by the dominant clans.
3.6.2 Rural conditions
Given the Bantu
agricultural way of life and their residence in riverine areas,
their food security appears to be better than those in IDP camps
and minority returnees.
Drought, famine and
flooding affects the Bantu food security. In the event of flooding
the Bantu have inadequate resources to deal with broken riverbanks.
In Jilib and Jamame in the Lower and Middle Juba regions, there is
seasonal displacement of Bantu into IDP camps mainly in Kismaiyo.
This is taxing on the already overburdened socio-economic
conditions in the camps.
recurrent dry seasons have resulted in the gradual, large movement
of Bantu farmers into urban areas. This has further reduced crop
establishment among the Bantu farmers
3.6.3 Urban conditions
Poor purchasing power
of minority groups is associated with their marginal income.
According to findings from this study, 95% of the minorities have
no regular jobs3.
Minorities have no
access to land for subsistence cultivation and keeping livestock.
traditionally worked as blacksmiths and shoemakers and then fled
as refugees, are without start-up capital to revive their economic
livelihoods. According to some blacksmiths and shoemakers,
approximately fifty of them were provided with working tools, but
there are still many others in need of such assistance.
3.7 Access to basic needs
3.7.1 Access to shelter
Poor shelter and housing
is another major concern of minority groups in Somaliland and south
Somalia. It is caused mainly by:
Poverty - the
minorities cannot afford to purchase building materials and
instead use scavenged metals, sticks and plastics.
Land issues - the
minorities lack access to land on which they can settle and
construct shelters. Instead, they congregate in congested places
and in abandoned public buildings.
Sale of shelter
materials - the minorities sometimes sell shelter materials
provided by aid agencies as a result of extreme poverty.
3.7.2 Access to sanitation and safe drinking water
Sanitary conditions in
most the visited areas, particularly the IDP camps in Kismayo and
returnee settlements in Dami and Gaan Libaah in Hargeisa are very poor.
There are very few latrines, most of which need rehabilitation.
Regarding access to safe, drinking water, poverty plays a significant
role. For instance, in Jamame, Jilib, Jowhar, Balad and Beletweyne,
access to water is not an issue (riverine areas). However, in areas
where UN agencies and other NGOs have dug boreholes that would provide
potable water, the Bantu minorities cannot afford to purchase the
water. Another reason is the distance between the minority areas and
boreholes. Therefore, the Bantu opt to use river water for all their
needs and this greatly increases the risk of water borne diseases
because the river water is often contaminated. The destruction of
water supply facilities of the Bajuni community during the war has
resulted in acute water shortages because these facilities have not
yet been rehabilitated.
3.7.3 Access to health
Minority groups experience
numerous difficulties when it comes to accessing health care services.
These are some of the main impediments faced by minorities:
insecurity makes it difficult for aid agencies to access
Lack of adequate
information regarding the health status of minority groups.
Lack of adequate
transport infrastructure including land routes and water routes.
of health centres including MCHs and TB clinics in minority areas.
Minorities in urban
areas observe that their concerns are not given much consideration
when establishing health centres. They say that local authority
staff does not report serious health conditions in Dami and Gaan
Libah, where the most minorities reside.
3.7.4 Access to Basic Education
In spite of the gradual
reestablishment of the educational system and programmes in Somaliland
and parts of the south, minority children have very limited
opportunities for basic education. Most minorities children do not go
to school but instead work in order contribute to the family income
and ration. This is yet another indication of how poverty affects
access to basic needs.
4. Conclusions and
While the minority groups
may have limited resources and skills with which to build their own
economic livelihoods, ethnicity is the major socio-economic impediment
to their progress. This report brings out several key issues including
the need for a comprehensive survey on minorities. This will minimise
the current information gaps regarding minority group's socio-economic
status. This report clearly highlights the high levels of
vulnerability experienced by minority communities, and the need for
prioritised basic needs assistance.
recommendations have been developed:
relationships between aid agencies and minorities
gap between aid agencies and minorities;
Consider the situation
and needs of minority groups during aid operation planning;
Increase the capacity
of minority organisations to effectively represent minority
concerns in both national and international forums.
2. Combat discrimination against minority groups
3. Improve livelihoods of minorities
|Food and Food
- Conduct vulnerability
- Develop action plan to meet
immediate needs of community
||Gaboye, Tumal &
Yibir returnees in Hargeisa, and Galgala IDPs in Kismayo
- Provide start-up capital to
enable them to resume the livelihood skills
- Rehabilitate infrastructure
related to skill
- Rehabilitate fishing
industry through the provision of equipment
- Provide farm inputs and
- Rehabilitate irrigation
systems in Jilib, Jamame, Jowhar, Balad and Beletweyne
through cash for work projects
- Identify and construct flood
protection points along the river banks
||IDPs & Returnees
- Make available basic social
services including water and sanitation
- Rehabilitate collapsed
latrines in IDP camps in Kismayo and Beletweyne
- Construct new latrines in
Dami and Gaan Libaah for the minorities in Hargeisa
- Dig new boreholes for
returnees near their camps or areas
- Rehabilitate water supply
systems (water catchments and boreholes) in the Bajuni
- Training on water sanitation
and water supply maintenance for Bajunis
- Carry out water chlorination
and treatment programmes
- Distribute drugs for
diarrhoea, malaria and other infections
- Distribute medical kits to
to midwives and other health workers
- Train community members in
basic health care
- Establish health centres
especially in remote areas
- Ensure sustainability of
health centres by integrating them into existing health
service provision systems where feasible
Table. 1: Main minority
groups in Somalia
Location: Main Districts
||Bantu communities in
East and Central Africa
15% of the total 7000,000 Somali
|In the riverine
areas across the Juba and Shabelle rivers: Jilib, Jamame,
Buale, Sakow, Merka, Qoryoley, Afgoye, Jowhar, Balad,
||Somali ( both Maay
small percentage of Christian (about 300 people) mainly from
the Mushunguli communities in Kakuma regugee camp
|Some Bantu subclans
in the Lower shabelle region identify themselves with Digil
and Mirifle in the Lower Shabelle region
||Small scale farming
||Immigrants from Far
Hamarweyne districts in Mogadishu; and Merka
||Some subclans have
patron clans within Hawadle
mainly from Yemen
|Mainly in Brava town
||No patron clans
||Kswahili people from
|Kismaio, and islands
off coast: Jula, Madoga,
Satarani, Raskamboni, Bungabo, Hudey, Koyama, and Jovay
||No patron clans
Gedihir in the Middle Shabelle Region.
as Nuh Mohamud; Clan patrons- Osman Mohamud and Omar Mohamud
subclans of Majetren,
||Wood craft making,
|Along the border
between Kenya and Somalia:
||No patron clan
|Mainly in Burhakaba,
Jowhar and BuloBurte
||Somali (Some use
May, and others Mahatiri
||hunters and gathers
|Midgan or Gaboye
|Scattered in the
north and central Somalia, Hiran, Mogadishu
||No clan patrons
|North and Central
Somalia, Hiran, Mogadishu
|North and Central
Somalia, Hiran, Mogadishu
||Arab immigrants from
|Merka, Brava, Bay
and Bakol regions
||Mainly May, there
are also some Mahatiri
Although there is no social contract between the Abgal clan and the
Bantu that specifically deals with the rights of the Bantu community,
general Somali customary laws safeguard lives and properties of all
people regardless of the individual ethnic identity. These laws were
not respected during the conflicts. Customary laws in the Diya paying
system, which requires compensation to the immediate family of the
victim when death and damages occur.
Adequate information about the nutrition conditions in the visited
areas in not fully available because proper nutritional surveys in
most of these areas have not been carried out in the past several
years. However, there are some rough malnutrition estimates of
children as follows: . Bantu (Johwar & Balad) - 10%, Bantu (Kismayo,
Jilib & Jamame) - 15%, Bantu (Beletweyne) - 10%, minorities (Damey
& Nasa Hablood in Hargeisa) - 5%
find poorly paid menial jobs such as porting, shoemaking, hairdressing,
or as domestic servants. Their average daily income ranges from 10,000
Somali Shillings in the south & 3,000 - 5,000 Somali Shillings in