Ethnic Groups 

6.79 Somali society is characterised by membership of clan-families, which are sub-divided into clans, and many sub-clans (clan members are classified as ethnic Somali), or minority groups (minority groups are usually defined as those of non-ethnic Somali origin) and any political affiliation generally follows clan lines. [8][32]   

Somali clans 

6.80 The clan structure comprises four major "noble" clan-families of Darod, Hawiye, Isaaq or Dir. "Noble" in this sense refers to the widespread Somali belief that members of the major clans are descended from a common Somali ancestor, and that the minority clans/groups have a different, usually mixed, parentage. [7][32] More than 80% of the population shares a common ethnic heritage, religion and nomadic influenced culture. [2a] Two further clans, the Digil and Mirifle - collectively referred to as Rahanweyn (see below), take, in many aspects, an intermediate position between the main Somali clans and the minority groups. [7]

6.81 Most Somalis ensure their personal safety by residing in the 'home areas' of their clan, where they are assured full status and protection by their kinship group. This may in effect mean a form of internal displacement, even for some people in Mogadishu, who have to move from their actual homes in the city to traditional clan areas elsewhere. [38] 

6.82The dominant clan in any particular area has generally excluded other clans and minorities from participation in power. [2a] An individual will be most secure in an area in which their clan is dominant and able to afford them protection. However, the Majerteen-dominated Puntland authorities have been willing to allow thousands of people from other clans and minorities to live in the territory they administer. Similarly, the Isaaq-dominated Somaliland authorities have been tolerant of non-Isaaq clan members living in their territory, even Ogaden clan members who moved into the area under Siad Barre's administration. The authorities in the central Hiran and Galgudud regions have also proved tolerant of Somalis from other clans and regions travelling into their territories and, with consent, settling there. [31][32][36] 

6.83 After the fall of Siad Barre's Marehan-dominated administration in 1991 thousands of Marehan in Mogadishu died in the ensuing fighting at the hands of the Hawiye-dominated USC militia. Many Marehan consequently fled to their home region of Gedo but some have been able to return to Mogadishu and generally do not face persecution. [33][34][35][36] 

6.84 In south and central Somalia rival Hawiye factions control much of the territory.  The rival members of other clans, such as the Digil and Dir, also live in these areas but are not directly involved in the conflict.  However, whilst they are not a target of general persecution by the parties to the conflict they risk becoming victims of hostilities. [33] [36] 

The Rahanweyn clans 

6.85 As reflected in the British/Danish Nairobi fact-finding report on Minority Groups in Somalia, published in December 2000 the Rahanweyn clans, comprising the Digil and Mirifle, are considered as a minority group by some experts and related to the major Somali clans by others, though considered as less 'noble' by others.  However, the Digil and Mirifle were included as one of the major Somali clan-families and allotted 49 seats (including 5 for women), distinct from the recognised official minorities who formed a separate grouping when seat allocations for the TNG were decided upon at the Arta conference of 2000. [8]  

6.86 The Rahanweyn clans were largely excluded from political participation in the Rahanweyn-populated Bay and Bakool regions following their capture by General Aideed's Hawiye-based USC/SNA in September 1995, when the Rahanweyn-supported SDM regional administration was ousted. Since then the RRA has fought to reassert Rahanweyn control, capturing Huddur town from the USC/SNA in October 1998 and taking Baidoa in June 1999 with Ethiopian assistance. The RRA set up a regional administration for Bakool region in December 1998. [11a][15a][20][33][36] In March 2002, the RRA set up a new regional administration, SWS, effectively covering Bay and Bakool but claiming to cover other regions. [7][28] 

Minority Groups  

6.87 Minority groups within Somalia include the Bajuni, Bantu, Benadir, Bravanese, Eyle, Midgan, Tumal and Yabir.  As with the majority clans several of these individual groups are divided into sub groups. The minority groups were the only people in Somalia who, when Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, did not have their own armed militia to protect them.  During the civil war minority groups were among the most vulnerable and victimised populations in the country. [8] Certain minority groups, most notably the Benadiri and Bravanese, have been particularly disadvantaged and targeted by clan militia since the collapse of central authority in 1991. [7][8] 

6.88 Minority groups are not evenly distributed throughout Somalia; there is a higher concentration in the control and southern parts of the country. [8] However, some groups, such as those with special occupational skills (see the section on Midgan, Tumal and Yibir below) are more likely to be found in different parts of the country. Other members of minority groups have, in some cases, been able to settle outside their traditional areas. [8][31][33]  

General security position for minority groups 

6.89 Generally, minority groups remain unarmed and, according to the US Department of State have limited access to whatever social services are available, including health and education. [2a][8] Minority groups are generally excluded from participation in the political system; however, they are represented in the TNA. [2a] Politically weak social groups are less able to secure protection from extortion, rape and other human rights abuses by the armed militia of various factions and remain somewhat vulnerable wherever they reside. [2a][38] In its report covering 2002 AI refers to female members of minority groups being particularly at risk of rape at the hands of faction militias and other gunmen. [6b]  

6.90 As with Somalia as a whole, an individual in Mogadishu will be most secure in an area in which his or her clan is able to afford them protection. Members of small clans and minority groups are inevitably at more risk.  However, some minority groups, such as the low-caste Midgan, Tomal, Yahar, Ayle and Yibir may risk harassment by Somali clans in rural areas, do not necessarily find themselves facing particular human rights or security problems in Mogadishu. [35] Although minorities have usually been able to avoid involvement in clan disputes they have sometimes come under pressure to participate in fighting in areas of conflict. This happened to the Midgan in Mogadishu following the collapse of the Barre administration. [36][35] 

6.91 While many displaced minority groups would not necessarily face persecution on the basis of clan membership or ethnicity were they to return to their home areas, they may well face difficulty in regaining their homes and land which were seized by clan militia which took control of their territories. Members of smaller clans and minority groups such as the Bantu have been able to settle in Somaliland and Puntland. As minorities often have skills such as weaving, fishing and building (see below) they are often economically better off than ethnic Somalis. Persecution solely on the basis of clan membership or ethnicity is now very unlikely in most areas of Somalia. [7][36][31][33][34] 


6.92 The small Bajuni population, numbering some 3,000 to 4,000, possibly as many as 11,000, are mainly sailors and fishermen who live in small communities on the coast south of Kismayo and on islands between Kismayo and the border with Kenya. The Bajuni are of mixed Arabic, Bantu, Somali and possibly Malay ancestry. Their principal language is Kibajuni, a dialect of Swahili. Bajuni Elders who met with the delegation of a joint British-Danish-Dutch fact-finding mission on Somali minority groups to Nairobi in September 2000 informed the delegation that most Bajuni also speak Somali. The Elders stated that younger Bajuni, who have lived mainly in exile, might only have a limited knowledge of Somali but they stressed that they should know at least some key words in Somali as their family Elders would have taught them. The Elders stated that the Bajuni do not regard themselves as a Benadiri people, although they had some trading links with the Bravanese people. [8][43]  

6.93 The Bajuni had traditionally held a low status in Somalia. As Siad Barre's administration collapsed in the early 1990s, the Bajuni were attacked by groups of Somali militia who wanted to force them off the islands. Many Bajuni left Somalia for Kenya, the majority having fled during 1992. Some Bajuni earned money by transporting refugees out of towns such as Brava and Kismayo to Kenya. In Kenya the Bajuni went to the Jomvo refugee camp in Mombasa. When the Jomvo vamp was closed in 1997 many Bajuni were returned by the UNHCR to the Bajuni islands, which at the time were considered safe. However, with the fall of Kismayo in 1999 to the allied forces of the SNF and Aideed's SNA, and subsequent attacks on the Bajuni islands, the UNHCR suspended returns. [8][43] 

6.94 A visit by a UN official to the Bajuni islands in early 2002 found 3,000 Bajuni families living on the islands, compared to only 50 in 1994, after most Bajuni had fled the invading Marehan. Elders stated that the position of the Bajuni had improved of late. Bajuni were able to return to their home areas, although they were still not able to own boats with engines, only traditional sailing boats. Recent Marehan settlers still have effective control of the islands. Bajuni can work for the Marehan as paid labourers, which is at least an improvement over the period when General 'Morgan's' forces controlled Kismayo and the islands, when the Bajuni were treated by the occupying Somali clans as little more than slave labour. With the Bajuni, their position is more one of denial of economic access by Somali clans than outright abuse. [7] 


6.95 The Bantu, the largest minority group in Somalia, are an agricultural group found in pockets, usually in the river valleys of southern Somalia in Hiran region (the Reer Shabelle and Makanne groups), Gedo (the Gobaweyne), Lower and Middle Shabelle (the Shidle and 'Jereer') and Lower Juba (the Gosha). [2a][7] There are also several other Bantu groups, it is also the case that some Bantu have settled in other parts of Somalia. [8] Some Bantu have adopted Somali clan identity while others maintain their East African tribal identity. Some Bantu are descendants of pre-Somali Bantu populations while others are descendants of slaves taken from East Africa to Somalia. [7][36] Other Somalis, including those of Bantu origin commonly refer to Bantu as "Jarer". [6b][8]  

6.96 The Bantu did not take part in the civil war and are therefore not in danger of recriminations or reprisals, but they were displaced by the fighting and often lost their land along the Juba River and in the Middle Shabelle region. According to the UNHCR many Bantu preferred to resettle in their ancestral lands rather than stay in Somalia, however many Bantu have since returned to the country. [7][36] In September 2000 Bantu Elders suggested to a British/Danish fact-finding delegation visiting Nairobi that there were a number of regions where the Bantu population were actually in the majority in numerical terms. [8] Some Bantu have also found work in the construction industry in Somaliland. [36] The Bantu are represented by Somali African Muki Organisation (SAMO) which is aligned to the SSA (see Annex C); SAMO aligned itself with the G8 group at the Eldoret/Nairobi peace talks. [10bc]   

6.97 Conditions for Bantu reportedly vary according to the region in which they live. [7][8] As stated above Bantu have been largely displaced along the Juba and Shabelle rivers. They are usually able to remain in their home areas, to work mainly as labourers for the Somali clans (mainly the Marehan, Ogadeni and Habr Gedir) that have taken their traditional land. They can usually retain about 10% of their land for their own use. [7] However, in some cases Bantu work as plantation labourers in what Bantu elders describe as situations of near slavery. [8] Bantu try to link themselves to the dominant Somali clans that have dispossessed them of most of their land, as, for their own security, they still need their protection. [7][8] However, in Bay and Bakool Bantu have largely been incorporated into the Rahanweyn clan structure and are able to retain their land.  Bantu that have assimilated themselves with the indigenous clans they live with are reportedly known as 'sheegato', which means they are not bloodline clan members, but adopted. [7] 

Benadiri and Bravanese 

6.98 The Benadiri (an urban people of East African Swahili origin, living mainly in the coastal cities of Mogadishu, Merka and Brava) and Bravanese (a people long established in the city of Brava, believed to be of mixed Arab, Portuguese and other descent), suffered particularly badly at the hands of armed militia and bandits as their home areas were fought over by the competing USC factions and the SPM. USC/SNA forces in particular singled out the Benadiri and Bravanese, with a campaign of systematic rape of women. Members of the minority populations, such as the Reer Hamar, the original Benadiri population of Mogadishu (known in Somali as Hamar) living in the Hamar Weyne and Shingani districts found themselves particularly exposed at times of heavy fighting.  Most homes belonging to the Reer Hamar in Mogadishu have been taken over by members of Hawiye militias. [1a][8][36][32][33] [35][43]  

6.99 Information obtained by a British/Danish fact-finding delegation in May 2002 suggests that Bravanese have mostly fled from the coastal town of Brava, although some are still living in the town, which is controlled by the Habr Gedir.  Information suggested that Bravanese who remained faced abuses forced labour, sexual slavery and general intimidation. [7]  

Hamar Hindi  (Indians in Somalia) 

6.100 The small Indian community in Somalia numbered, at the most, 200 families, who were mainly engaged in cloth dying in Mogadishu and, in fewer numbers, Merka. Indians established businesses in Somalia during the 1940s and 1950s. There were also some Indians recruited by the Italians in the 1940s and 1950s as foremen on plantations, mainly around Qoryoley. The Indians were mainly from the Bohora community, which is also present in Mombasa, Kenya, and were mostly Muslims. There had also been approximately 200 Indians in Kismayo at one time but they had left the city, mostly for Mogadishu, by the early 1980s. The Indians were recruited directly from the Indian sub-continent rather than from the established Indian community in former British East Africa. Traditionally, Indians and Somalis were business rivals. Virtually all Indians had left Somalia by the time that Siad Barre's regime fell in 1991, mostly relocating to Mombasa. [7] 

6.101 The name “Hamar Hindi”, meaning “Mogadishu Indians”, was applied to the Indian community in Mogadishu. Indian businesses were concentrated in an area that was also known as Hamar Hindi, a small area near the fish market and national museum, close to the Hamar Weyne district (district names in Mogadishu tend to relate to the original home of the inhabitants, e.g. Shingani is named after an area in Tanzania from where the original inhabitants had been brought as slaves). [7] 

6.102 All Indians in Somalia could speak Somali, usually to a good standard but at the very least all would have had a basic command of the language. In the cities, the Indian businessmen would have had to speak Somali to be able to engage in business activities. Likewise, the Indian foremen on the Italian plantations, who each managed between 100 and 150 plantation workers, had to speak Somali in order to communicate with their workforce. Also, under Siad Barre's rule, society was much regulated and a good command of Somali would have been essential for Indians to be able to deal with official bureaucracy. [7] 

Midgan, Tumal and Yibir (the occupational castes) 

6.103 The Gaboye/Midgan (usually referred to as the Midgan but also known as the Madhiban), Tumal and Yibir (a group said to have Jewish origins) traditionally lived in the areas of the four main nomadic clan families of Darod, Isaaq, Dir and Hawiye in northern and central Somalia. [7][8][35][36] In the last few decades many of them migrated to the cities, these groups are now scattered throughout the country but are mainly found in northern and central regions; Midgan have been able to settle in Puntland. [7][35][36] The Midgan, Tumal and Yibir are called "occupational castes" as they traditionally perform specialist services and settle in areas where they obtain protection from a clan and build up an economic activity. [8][36][35] 

6.104 The Midgan, or Madhiban, have always been placed at the lower end of Somali society, but their position improves at times of stability and recovery. In some areas their position can even be slightly better than that of so-called 'noble' Somali clans. Midgan can trade freely, although they are usually unable to own property and livestock. [7] Although Midgan may have been easy prey for clan militias during the civil war, their situation improved and Midgan do not face depredation at the hands of militias or face persecution merely because of their ethnic origin. [33]


6.105 Women and children suffered disproportionately heavily in the fighting following the fall of Barre's administration. [2a][31][32] There were large numbers of rapes, abductions and forced marriages of women by the warring militia, especially in 1991-92, which has stigmatised the victims. [8][30a][32] Many women, who would traditionally have had the protection of men in their parents' and husbands' clans, have been left to head their families with the breakdown of normal structures. [36][31] Most vulnerable have been women who have been internally displaced within Somalia, who have lacked the protection of powerful clan structures, and those from minority clans and ethnic minorities. [30a]  

General legal provisions relating to women 

6.106 In the June 2003 report of the Secretary-General on the security situation in Somalia, reference is made to a rapid assessment of women's justice.  According to this, women are generally disadvantaged under all three systems of law that operate in Somalia.  It is noted that whilst each provides a measure of protection, all systems (namely civil, customary and Shari'a) remain inadequate and contradictory to an extent, leaving women vulnerable and insufficiently protected.  The report notes that there are an "almost negligible number of women" in service within the judicial process. [3c]  

6.107 Laws made by the former central government allowed female children to inherit property but only half the amount to which male siblings were entitled. [2a][36][32] In the traditional practice of blood compensation and under Shari'a law, those found guilty of killing a woman must pay only half as much to the victim's family as they would if the victim was male. [2a][7] While polygyny is allowed polyandry is not.  The TNG charter, not implemented at the end of 2002, contains provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or national origin. The Somaliland Constitution also contains provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or national origin.  The TNG charter provides for universal suffrage as do both the Puntland and Somaliland administrations. [2a]  

Women in Government 

6.108 Women have historically been excluded form the political process; whilst they have played important background roles in various factions, high-level office has been reserved for men. [36] However, women's groups played a prominent role in the Arta Conference of 2000 and were allocated 25 reserved seats in the TNA in Mogadishu. [2a][7][8] This represented a major breakthrough in women's rights and was the first time that women had been guaranteed parliamentary representation in Somalia. [8] At this time TNG leader Abdiqassim spoke of the important position of women and stated his intention of including women in his Government, but as of mid 2002 women held only four out of 75 ministerial posts in the TNG.  [7][8] In Puntland, five seats are reserved for women in the 69 seat House of Representatives. There are no women in Somaliland's parliament. [2a][7]

6.109 As of June 2003 women comprised 35 of the 362 official delegates at the Kenya peace talks.  Most of these women are from privileged groups and have been able to spend some or all their time outside Somalia since 1991.  A recurring theme in the women's agenda at the peace conference is a 25 percent female representation in the new government.  Most male delegates at the talks reportedly support the concept of greater women's involvement but this has not translated into overwhelming backing for the women's agenda.  Delegates favoured bringing the issue of women's representation to a vote but voted against 25 percent representation.  Delegates agreed instead on women having 12 percent of seats, this is however slightly more than they were allocated at the Arta conference.  [10bi]

Position in society and discrimination

6.110 The position of women in the patriarchal Somali society is largely subordinate and societal discrimination is widespread. [2a][36] Several women's groups in Mogadishu, Hargeisa (Somaliland), Bossaso (Puntland), and Merka (Lower Shabelle) are actively involved in promoting equal rights for women.  Such organisations advocated the inclusion of women in responsible government positions and participate in peace building programmes. [2a][7] UN agencies work with women's groups in Somalia and are actively involved in initiatives aiming to promote the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. [3a]  

6.111 A widowed woman would usually receive protection from her husband's clan. A widow and her children may be taken in by the direct family of her husband, whose brother, under the 'dumal' principle, would have the opportunity of marrying her. This traditional approach ensures that a widowed woman would only rarely find herself without protection. Although marriage is usually within the same sub-clan, inter-marriage across clan lines does occur. Only in exceptional cases does this present a difficulty for a widow. [36]