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Idil not her real name had fled to the capital, Mogadishu, during the famine and was stuck in a camp for displaced people with little food. He was old enough to be my father. The African Union deployed soldiers to Mogadishu in to restore stability at the height of renewed fighting. But this is despite mounting evidence that warrants investigations. Some soldiers raped women and girls and then gave them food or money in an apparent attempt to frame the assault as transactional sex or discourage them from filing a complaint.
Some soldiers exposed women to serious health risks. Idil said she worries because the soldier never used a condom. If I have it, I will go crazy. Survivors told us they felt powerless and feared reprisals from their attackers, government officials, or from their own families but also from Al-Shabaab, which targets perceived supporters of foreign forces. It is unclear where a survivor in Mogadishu should go to report exploitation or abuse.
The AMISOM leadership acknowledged that they need to set up a functioning complaints mechanism and have started to appoint staff who, if adequately trained, could receive complaints and work with sexual abuse survivors. Uganda and Burundi have exclusive legal jurisdiction over their forces in Somalia. As AU troops mentor Somali armed forces to fight Al-Shabaab they should lead by example and rid their ranks of those abusing their power, violating the trust of local communities, and undermining the credibility of the mission.
Rather than dismissing or denying allegations, troop-contributing countries should hold their own soldiers accountable for their conduct in Somalia. This will require troop contributors to reinforce their investigative and prosecutorial capacity in Somalia. Uganda sent a military court to Somalia in late to try wrongdoing by its soldiers.
This can help facilitate evidence gathering, ensure witnesses are available to testify, better assure victims of justice, and serve as a deterrent. Unfortunately, the court was recalled in without explanation, but the model should be replicated. With very few exceptions there have been no criminal prosecutions or disciplinary proceedings for sexual exploitation and abuse by AMISOM troops. Ugandan military officials told me of only one rape case awaiting trial in Kampala.