Genocide is the word used to describe the deliberate annihilation or destruction of a race or ethnic group of peoples, for example the Nazi Holocaust. The term was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-born adviser to the U.S. War Ministry, in his 1944 book, "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe." Its unusual etymology is a combination of the Greek word "genos," meaning people, with the Latin suffix "cide," which comes from the verb "caedere," meaning to kill. The Somali genocide was a result of ethnic warfare between various "tribes," resulting in many thousands of civilian deaths, approximately four million starving people and a million displaced people.
History and Causes of Somalia Genocide
The people of many African countries and states comprise a number of different formerly nomadic clans and "tribes," speaking different traditional languages. Somalia was formerly ruled by a variety of powerful Muslim empires, but was turned into two separate colony countries by the Italians and British in the 19th century. The government of Somalia was overthrown in 1991 but native groups failed to agree on a new national leader and the north and center of the country initially plunged into chaos and strife, resulting in insurgency and interference from external African countries and states, leading to ongoing lack of power of the transitional government.
Effects on Civilians
Competing Somali warlords battling for territories often looted food and harvests, tortured, raped or killed civilians and massacred villages. Many of the dead were identified as racial minority descendants of slaves, a fact highlighted by Bantu refugees from the Jubba Valley district. Civilians also disappeared or were taken hostage. The Somalia conflict has been described as a slow genocide involving use of civilians as shields and common use of indiscriminate land mines, often attracting reprisal attacks upon civilians. Where civilian women enter areas controlled by the militant group al-Shabab, they are forced to wear traditional niqab covering and are often questioned when out without male companionship. Children's education is suffering because school attendance in rebel-held districts is poor. Many civilians have been forced to flee the capital Mogadishu as living conditions became too dangerous and permanent relocation to safety was needed. In effect, civilians trapped within war zones in Somalia became political prisoners or refugees. Journalists covering the conflict have also been targeted; by the year 2013, 52 had been killed..
The Somali government pursued a genocidal policy against the Isaaq clan for many years. Between May and December 1988 it is estimated 5,000 Isaaqs were bayoneted to death and the cities of Hargeisa, formerly housing around 500,000 inhabitants, and Bur'o were in ruins.
Ongoing Conflict in Somalia
As of January 2014, the Somalia conflict was still ongoing. None of the nine major clans fighting this war have sufficient power to take control or protect their own territories. The militant group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, launched a terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Kenya in late 2013, giving further impetus to the conflict.
- World Without Genocide at William Mitchell College of Law: Somalia
- Global Research, Centre for Research on Globalization: Somalia How Colonial Powers Drove a Country into Chaos
- eScholarship, University of California: A Critique of Said S Samatar's "Somalia: A Nation in Turmoil"
- Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Genocide in Somalia's Jubba Valley and Somali Bantu Refugees in the U.S.
- BBC News Africa: 'Slow Genocide' in Somalia's Capital Mogadishu
- Human Rights Watch: Somalia, Events of 2009
- Committee to Protect Journalists: 52 Journalists Killed in Somalia Since 1992, Motive Confirmed
- The United States Department of Justice, Virtual Law Library: Somalia
- BBC News Africa: Q&A, Who Are Somalia's al-Shabab?
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images