According to a new report, all parties involved in the Somali conflict are guilty of violations of the laws of war, says Human Rights Watch.
The groups involved include the Islamist armed group al-Shabab, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the African Union peacekeeping forces (AMISOM), and Kenya- and Ethiopia-backed Somali militias. Much of central and southern Somalia is controlled by al-Shabab after decades of ineffective government rule.
"We refute these allegations and the government is willing to meet with Human Rights Watch officials to discuss their concerns," Abdirahman Omar Osman, a Somali government spokesperson, said in a statement. "Reliable figures are hard to come by in Somalia, which clearly shows that the information they have lacks credibility.”
According to the report:
“Both sides don’t spare the public. Sometimes it happens that the person you had breakfast with in the morning is killed by mortars in the afternoon. Al-Shabaab is fond of firing weapons from residential areas, knowing very clearly that the other side is going to return fire to the same place. Then al-Shabaab runs away. And the TFG and AMISOM don’t care whether there are civilians or not in the places they fire on. You don’t know whom to blame — do you blame al-Shabaab for hiding among the public, or the government for hitting back at the same place from where they were fired on?”
The report comes fresh on the heels of news that the United States is enlisting the help of American private security firms to train and arm African Union forces. Prior to the release of the report, serious concerns were aired about whether the security firms are following proper codes of conduct in training the forces.
“I think that neither the international community in general nor the U.S. government in particular really knows what to do with the failure of the political process in Somalia,” J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, a Washington research institution, told The New York Times.
(Photo: AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)