Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991. The territory of the Somali state is fragmented into regions led in whole or in part by three distinct entities: the Transitional Federal Institutions, including the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP); the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the northwest; and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in the northeast. A political process to establish security, stability, and representative governing institutions continued as the TFG and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) reached the Djibouti Agreement in the fall of 2008. The Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) withdrew from Somalia in January 2009. Fighting between TFG/ENDF forces and their militias against antigovernment forces and extremist elements continued and resulted in widespread human rights abuses, including the killing of thousands of civilians and the displacement of over one million individuals. Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control of the security forces in any area of the country. The country's poor human rights situation deteriorated further in the past year, exacerbated by the absence of effective governance institutions or the rule of law, the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons, and ongoing conflicts. Despite the overall deterioration, small yet incremental improvements in human rights awareness occurred in some areas and the peace process began to address impunity, transitional justice, and human rights.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The overall U.S. human rights and democracy strategy in the country centered on promoting an inclusive political dialogue and training for local authorities, particularly the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI). The goal is to foster transparency and responsiveness to local needs in order to build the TFG's capacity and establish its credibility. To achieve this, the mission focused its efforts on the Djibouti Process, promoting reconciliation between the TFG and ARS and encouraging others outside the process to engage in constructive dialogue. The United States remained committed to promoting human rights through diplomatic efforts and support of NGOs and "democracy defenders." The U.S. strategy also included leveraging public diplomacy resources to promote democratic ideals. The United States targeted building the capacity of the TFG to maintain stability, govern more effectively, deliver services, and take the lead on tasks to ensure a political transition. Promoting and strengthening good governance and political competition and consensus-building remains a key objective for the United States to help the country become a more inclusive democratic state. Continued engagement with Somaliland remains important to consolidate democratic achievements there. U.S. priorities in Somaliland are to support stability, democracy, and a transparent presidential and local electoral process in 2009. The United States also considers a free, professional, and robust media and civil society as essential to the country's democratic progress. To support a more representative democratic process, the United States' strategy to promote democratic ideals targeted the better incorporation of women and minorities into the process.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States provided equipment, training, and capacity building assistance to 23 Transitional Federal Institutions that included the Office of the President, Prime Minister, Central Bank, Office of the Auditor General and Accountant General, independent commissions and 18 ministries. By providing offices, equipment, and transport, the United States contributed to the formation of local councils in Bay, Bakool, Gedo, and Middle Shabelle regions. Activities ranged from community mobilization and sensitization to consensus building by local leaders, and finally to agreement on the list of nominees for councillorships. U.S. support empowered the TFG Ministry of Interior's Local Governance Department to spearhead the capacity development process of the local governments. Approximately 500 councilors and members of civil society participated in a 21-day comprehensive local governance training program. The United States provided training and equipment to the TFP to enable it to focus on the critical tasks of discharging the transitional legislative agenda and contributing to reconciliation and the peace process. The United States continues to provide technical and financial assistance to key federal institutions to better administer and manage core government functions. The United States provides capacity training to enable the Transitional Federal Institutions to further political dialogue and reconciliation with opposition groups and to undertake the drafting of a new constitution. For example, U.S. diplomatic engagement and financial assistance was critical to the signing of the Djibouti Peace Agreement between the TFG and the ARS in August 2008, and to the October 2008 agreement calling for a ceasefire and unity government. 

Public diplomacy efforts focused on engaging with Somalis living both in the country and overseas. The mission sponsored press events, including interviews, Web chats, press releases, and cultural programs in the country and in Somali areas of Kenya, to engage the media about U.S. policy on democratic principles and human rights issues. The mission's public diplomacy unit dedicated to Somalia was established in late 2007. It has aggressively utilized contacts with Somali radio, TV, and print outlets to facilitate interviews with the ambassador, the then-special envoy, and the public affairs officer. The mission has also conducted multiple press conferences highlighting democratic principles and human rights issues, which were covered by local and international media outlets. The mission maintains a Virtual Presence Post (VPP) Web site, which is used to highlight U.S. human rights policy. The mission directly engaged with Somalis in Eastleigh, Nairobi's Somali enclave, as well as with Somalis in northeast Kenya, and those who were present in Djibouti for the peace talks. Taking advantage of Internet and other technologies, senior U.S. officials engaged directly with Somali audiences. Web chats hosted by the special envoy received positive feedback from participants worldwide. The public diplomacy unit offers small grants to local partners within the country to conduct programs focused on the themes of peace and reconciliation and renunciation of violence.

To promote media freedom, the mission engaged with the TFG, journalist organizations, and media outlets after incidents threatening freedom of the press. The mission publicly condemned the deaths of journalists. It also expressed concern to the TFG, authorities in Puntland, and Somaliland when journalists were arrested, threatened, or otherwise harassed. The United States supported radio programs that addressed political topics and expanded the reach and quality of radio programs in the country through developing the capacity of media houses, journalist associations, and journalists. Through training, including a three-month seminar for 19 journalists in and another workshop for 40 journalists temporarily based in Nairobi's Somali enclave, the United States strengthened the organizations' professionalism and financial management. The provision of equipment enhanced their media production capacity. Upon completion of the three-month seminar, each of the 19 journalists, nine of whom were women, received a laptop to enable them to work more effectively. As an outcome of the training, representatives of four major media houses from different parts of the country agreed to collaborate, sharing news and information. Together, they organized media trainings for other journalists in the country, thus facilitating networking. Special training sessions encouraged women to join the journalism profession. Finally, support was provided for the dissemination of a draft media law to stakeholders.

The United States contributed to the instrumental role played by civil society in promoting peace, social and economic development, and democratic governance. During the past year, the United States strengthened more than 25 civil society organizations (CSOs) and media groups. Activities included quick impact projects to strengthen CSOs' ability to advocate for peace and good governance; supporting media sector development; engaging the Somali diaspora; and supporting advocacy for improving the operating environment for media and civil society in the country. The organizations designed and implemented advocacy campaigns that addressed women's rights and participation in decision making, media freedom, good governance, and conflict mitigation. Twelve CSOs were able to perform oversight functions whereby they identified cases of human rights abuse and engaged local authorities to address the abuses. Other U.S.-sponsored CSO advocacy campaigns focused on  issues such as: peaceful coexistence between the different clan groups living in the contested border area between Somaliland and Puntland; improved transparency, accountability, and organizational management systems in a local municipality in Somaliland; the right of Somaliland squatters to be permitted access to basic necessities such as schools, water, and sanitation.

The United States supported efforts by almost 2,000 men and women from minority groups to improve their circumstances via conflict management training to enable them to engage with their more powerful neighbors. U.S. support aided women's political participation in the TFP, resulting in an official women's caucus and the development of civil society advocacy campaigns that addressed women's rights. The mission celebrated Women's History Month by focusing on local women. The mission hosted the second annual celebration of Somali women with a variety of activities highlighting their contributions, including a speech by the women's activist, Asha Hagi Elmi, winner of the 2008 Right to Livelihood Award. In 2008 the celebration honoring Somali women featured the Africa region winner of the Secretary of State's Women of Courage Award, Farhiyo Ibrahim. In partnership with advocates for women's rights, the mission hosted programs to highlight human rights and women's political empowerment. In Somaliland, the United States offered workshops to 64 national legislators and staff to enable constituency outreach and collaboration with civil society and marginalized groups. A constituency outreach manual was compiled and distributed to every parliamentarian and parliamentary staff member.