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Head of AMISOM takes a tough stand on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Somalia

October 11, 2014

IMG_6681The recently appointed Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Maman Sambo Sidikou opened a three day workshop aimed at strengthening the Mission’s instruments and approaches towards preventing and addressing the issue of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The workshop which will continue until this Saturdayis aimed at supporting the continuing efforts of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to tackle SEA. The conference which was facilitated by UNSOA and ACCORD, a South African-based non profit organisation involved in Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Preventive Diplomacy throughout the continent of Africa, was opened by Ambassador Maman Sambo Sidikou with a strong message which took a tough stand on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Somalia. “AMISOM is duty-bound to diligently respect and implement the mandate entrusted to the mission by the African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) and authorized by the United Nations Security Council in line with applicable policy guidelines on gender and human rights,” stressed the Ambassador Sidikou. He went on to further argue that AMISOM must continue to improve both “systems and processes to respond to the dynamics of the mission, particularly on issues that affect the most vulnerable in society, such as those of sexual exploitation.” Ambassador Sidikou made clear in his summary that the workshop is crucial to enhancing the Mission he leads transparency and accountability among all the professionals that come under its umbrella and serving in Somalia. Ambasador Sidikou’s words were echoed by a senior official from African Union (AU) who clearly indicated that the constitution of the AU specifies the protection of civilians. The official went on to warn that the vey name of the AU is on the line if this allegation of grave breaches of Human Rights against the most vulnerable in Somalia is not overcome in a meaningful way. At the invitation of the Special Envoy of the AU Commission Chairperson on Women, Peace and Security, Ms. Bineta Diop, the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairperson of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, participated in a session of the workshop. Former President Obasanjo, while urging AMISOM leadership to be attentive in preventing and responding to SEA, also commended AMISOM personnel and the police and troop contributing countries for the remarkable sacrifices and contribution to the peace process in Somalia. A former army general himself before becoming the President of Nigeria in 1999, Mr. Obasanjo said that Soldiers were not made of wood and could make mistakes, even the grave ones they were accused of by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of sexual exploitation last month. However, he reminded the audience that Military leaders are responsible for ensuring soldiers behave properly and prosecute accordingly where they do not. AMISOM military officials at conference criticised the report of Human Rights Watch whom they referred to as a western based organization which was blind to the progress AMISOM was making on the ground. AMISOM officials stated vigorously that they contacted HRW with a request to share their information so that they could investigate but they refused on the grounds of protecting the victims. 20141010635485113360177291IMG_6683Talking privately to HOL some officials at the conference confirmed that they will work towards the establishment of an independent investigation into the allegations of Sexual Exploitation on the part of AMISOM soldiers against vulnerable Somali women. None commented on the merits of the HRW report but most felt that without a robust independent inquiry, the battle for hearts and minds against AlShabaab will be lost at a time when confidence in AMISOM appears to be increasing in Somalia due to the liberation of former AlShabaab held and governed towns. Participants at the workshop were drawn from the officals from Somali government, the AU Commission, AMISOM, United Nations (UNSOM and UNSOA), human rights experts and Civil Society organizations from across the continent, including Somalia and the media. . *Source hiiraan]]>

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