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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Somalia's horrors

Nov 12th 2009
From The Economist print edition
Somalia's horrors

* SIR - Thank you for bringing the persecution of Christians in Somalia to the world’s attention (“Almost expunged”, October 24th). However, there is more to this story than extremist Muslims persecuting Christians. It is also another instance of nomadic “dominant” Somali clan militia attempting to violently control the valuable agricultural land and labour in southern Somalia.
The Shabab militia, whose fighters are drawn from the nomadic clans, only controls southern Somalia, which is home to the country’s sedentary and unarmed minority groups, such as the Bantu, Benediri, Bajuni and Barawa. You said the 13 murdered Christians were “evangelised by missionaries on the Juba river in southern Somalia.” This is the native region of the Somali Bantu people, still considered slaves in Somalia. Lacking clan protection, they can be murdered with impunity.
Our office has received reports that the Shabab is not only persecuting Christians, but also Bantu Muslims who are targeted for not being Muslim enough. These reports have included the murder of a Bantu sheikh in a village north of Jillib after he failed to answer an “Islamic quiz” to the Shabab’s satisfaction and the killing of Bantu villagers who failed to pray in the local mosque in a village south of Jamama.
Other clan militias have persecuted and displaced Bantus, but the Shabab has sent far more to refugee camps than any others. It is no surprise that Sheikh Sharif Ahmed cares little about the fate of the Bantus, let alone Christians. When he led the Islamic Courts Union, his militia also persecuted and exploited Bantus.
Dan Van Lehman
Omar Eno
National Somalia Bantu Project
Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University
Portland, Oregon
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