By Zoe Alsop
Sunday, January 20, 2008
In Galkayo, Somalia, girls and women separated from their clans know little safety: An 8-year-old was raped and her mother must keep working with the man who did it. Fourth in a series on African women and the rule of law.
GALKAYO, Somalia (WOMENSENEWS)--The man who raped 8-year-old Amina still keeps his shop a few hundred meters from the stick-and-rag shelter where she lives with her mother and three baby sisters. Her friends know what to do when they see him.
"If we see him, we run and hide," said Amina, who four months ago fled Mogadishu with her family for a camp called Bulo Kontrol on the outskirts of the central Somali town of Galkayo.
Chubby-cheeked with a stubborn tilt to her chin, the child in her olive green abaya hasn't got much more than a tough front and swift feet to protect her.
Until the early 1990s Galkayo was little more than a gathering point for camel-herding nomads.
That changed in 1991 when dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was driven from power and Somalia's civil war flared up. Members of a powerful sub-group of the Darod clan left Mogadishu to build a city of their own here, bringing their militias with them.
Today this dusty town on the dividing line between restive central and southern Somalia and the relatively peaceful autonomous state of Puntland serves as a beacon of stability. Here a densely packed warren of low stone buildings is spiked with delicate minarets of mosques gleaming white and blue in the desert sun. A handful of schools, small businesses and a brand new hospital testify to a steady trickle of remittances from relatives overseas.
But in a society where the power of one's clan is the only real guarantee of safety, it can be extremely risky for girls and women such as Amina and her mother who have lost the protection of elders and their entourage of militias.
Last year the United Nations, together with dozens of local organizations, conducted a survey on rape in Galkayo's nine settlements, which hold tens of thousands of displaced people.
"Rape is rampant," said Hawa Aden, chair of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, who helped conduct the survey. "We have been saying this for quite some time. But since 2006, the more people come, the more it happens. And not only the rape; it is the camps themselves that are dangerous."
In interviews with Women's eNews, women and girls who fled Mogadishu for Galkayo in recent months and did not want their real names used--including Amina and her mother--described rape, robbery and beatings as they traveled through militia checkpoints blocking roads out of the city and as they settled in camps far from the clan connections that once might have afforded some security in the south.
Galkayo's reputation for stability nonetheless continues to draw people from all of Somalia's five main clans.
"Everybody knows of Galkayo as a peaceful place," said Madina, who arrived in Galkayo last month and is from the minority Somali Bantu group.
Madina said she left Mogadishu with three of her six children after insurgents broke into her house and forced her younger sister to carry a paper-wrapped parcel past a g