In Somalia’s armed conflict, thousands of people – most of whom are civilians – are killed every year by various armed actors. In south-central Somalia, where the fragile government in Mogadishu and its security forces are battling to oust al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, which maintains direct control of vast swathes of territory mainly in the hinterland, but also within some urban areas in the region, is also where civilian harm in the country is at its highest.

The armed actors in the Somalia conflict that routinely cause civilian harm are many. This Policy Briefing, however, examines civilian harm caused by the Somali National Army (SNA). The SNA, which primarily operates in the south-central area of the country is engaged in domestic operations against al-Shabaab and causes civilian harm in its combat operations against the group and in its daily interactions with civilians. This Policy Briefing explores whether the SNA and the government of Somalia provide “post-harm amends” or, in other words, recognizes and provides assistance to civilian victims and families harmed within the scope of its lawful combat operations. This is crucial as the African Union peacekeepers, ATMIS, plan to exit Somalia in December 2024, and the SNA assumes more security responsibilities for the security of the country. The Policy Briefing further investigates Somalia’s various approaches, particularly legal accountability measures, to address civilian harm caused by the SNA. It scrutinizes whether victims and families receive the requisite legal remedies for the civilian harm resulting from SNA actions.

Research for the briefing was conducted across various regions of south-central Somalia from April to September 2023. Respondents included policy makers, conflict experts, SNA officers and soldiers (including SNA CIMIC officers), legal experts, members of Somalia’s Court of the Armed Forces, federal and local government officials, journalists, community leaders, and civil society leaders. Additionally, the study included a significant number of interviews with civilian victims and families affected by SNA operations in several locations within the Lower Shabelle region, as well as in Mogadishu and Baidoa cities.

Read the full briefing here.

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