Last updated: June 2022
Somali society comprises both majority groups and minority groups. Minority groups include occupational minorities, ethnic minorities, groups specialised in religious services and clans that can be considered minority groups in local contexts. Many members of minority groups speak their own language (e.g. Af-Maay which is spoken, among others, by most Somali Bantu and Rahanweyn) or (local) dialect/languages, different from ‘standard’ Somali, which is known as Af-Maxaa. Groups that belong to majority clans can be in a local minority situation where they face specific vulnerabilities.
Most Somalis still rely on support from patrilineal clan relatives for protection, gaining access to resources, jobs or justice, hence group (clan) belonging remains important in Somalia (for more information, see The role of clans in Somalia). In this context, minority groups remain underprivileged.
Minority groups in Somalia used to be systematically targeted, especially in the early 1990’s. During the past years, minority groups were not as such directly and systematically targeted. However, often lacking (strong) armed militias of their own, they continued to be disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, kidnapping for ransom, and looting of land and property with impunity by faction militias and majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities.
Furthermore, members of minority groups continue to experience marginalisation in many regards, such as access to education and justice. Many minority communities still face deep poverty and poverty has led IDP and non-IDP individuals to residing in informal IDP settlements [Socio-economic 2021, 18.104.22.168]. IDPs from minority clans and ethnic groups face also stronger discrimination and a higher risk of evictions [Socio-economic 2021, 1.2.3]. Further, they hardly have any representation in the security forces and they may participate in the political scene of Somalia but they are not represented as a group.
In addition, minority group members lack protection by state or non-state authorities [Targeting, 4.1]. Women belonging to minority groups are particularly extremely vulnerable.
Resentment over abuses made minority clans more vulnerable to recruitment by Al-Shabaab. For more information see profile 2.2 Individuals fearing recruitment by Al-Shabaab and deserters from Al-Shabaab.