A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that African Union soldiers have raped women in Somalia who were seeking aid at their peacekeeping bases.
Twenty-one women recounted their stories to HRW, saying that they were sexually exploited by the AU soldiers who were of Ugandan and Burundian origin. The report said the abuse took place at two bases and documents cases starting from 2013.
“Somalia has many intractable problems, but the Somali and AU leadership could end sexual exploitation and abuse by pressing troop-sending countries to hold abusers responsible,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, HRW’s director of women’s rights.
One of the victims, 15-year-old Qamar, told HRW of how she was raped by one AU soldier.
“First he ripped off my hijab and then he attacked me,” she said, adding that another soldier gave her $10 following the assault.
Another victim, Ayanna S, spoke of how she and three other women were beaten and raped by six soldiers, badly injuring one of them during the incident.
“We carried the injured woman home. Three of us walked out of the base carrying her,” Ayanna said. “She couldn’t stand. She couldn’t put weight on her leg. The Burundians were still there as we were leaving. They gave us porridge, cookies, and five dollars, but they didn’t say anything to us, they threw the items at us and a bag to put them in.”
The situation in Somalia has been chaotic since president Siad Barre was deposed in 1991, and the government is currently combating the Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which was deployed in 2007, employs soldiers from several Africa countries, comprising a number off 22,000 security personnel on the ground.
AMISOM head Mahamat Saleh Annadif responded to the HRW report, saying that if the allegations were true, AMISOM would “double its efforts” in combatting the problem.