MRG calls for linguistic inclusivity and minority rights in Somalia
This statement was delivered on 10 October 2023 by Shukri Abbas during the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council on item 10
Mister Chair, Madam Independent Expert,
My name is Shukri Abbas from Somalia. I speak on behalf of Minority Rights Group (MRG) and of my own organisation Save Minority Women and Children.
We welcome the report of the Independent Expert which continues to draw attention to discrimination against Somalia’s minorities and call for actions to improve equality of access and inclusion of all in the country.
We note that a dozen or so languages are spoken in Somalia but humanitarian actors often operate in one language only when providing information or engaging with communities. The two official languages or dialects are sometimes considered to be mutually intelligible, but research recently carried out by MRG working with Clear Global, and local partners has established that this is not the case. Mai speakers who did not also speak Mahitiri, were unable to understand basic health concepts and key messages about vaccination conveyed in that language.
Recent media reports suggest a high level of aid diversion in Somalia. Inappropriate behaviours cannot be reported and dealt with if teams are not able to speak and understand the multiple languages of beneficiaries. Only when rights holders can communicate directly with providers will improved delivery, transparency and accountability be possible. We are also calling for inclusion of a question on language in the forthcoming census and demographic surveys.
We welcome the announcement by the Government of adoption of a system of one person one vote in Somalia. We note concerns relating to a lower number of minority candidates and low access of minority communities to voting boxes raised by local minority activists during recent elections in Puntland and we urge all concerned to ensure that as the plans for one person one vote crystalise in the coming period efforts are made to ensure universal access to voting facilities. We also call on Somalia to consider adopting special measures to address the long-term historical marginalization of minorities in Somalia’s political sphere.
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Image: Screen shot from the advocacy statement video.
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