MOSCOW, September 8 (RIA Novosti) – African Union (AU) soldiers sexually assaulted Somali women when they turned to them for food, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Monday.
“Some soldiers have exploited women’s poverty and lack of food for sex,” the official HRW report read.
The report says Human Rights Watch has talked to 21 women who “described being raped or sexually exploited by Ugandan or Burundian military personnel serving with the AU forces.”
“I wanted to run but I knew that the same thing that brought me here would get me through this – my hunger. I had made a choice and I couldn’t turn back now,” Kassa D., a victim of a sexual assault by African Union soldiers was quoted by Human Rights Watch as saying.
Human Rights Watch says that after exploiting the women soldiers gave them food or money, ostensibly to protect themselves against any accusations of forcefully making women offer sex for pay.
“Somalia has many intractable problems,” Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch stated, “but the Somali and AU leadership could end sexual exploitation and abuse by pressing troop-sending countries to hold abusers responsible.”
AU forces have been assisting Somali troops fighting terrorists since the beginning of March this year. During this period, the forces have freed a number of towns from the rebels.
The Somali Republic ceased to exist as a single state in 1991 following the fall of Siad Barre’s dictatorial regime. The federal government, which has control of the capital of Mogadishu and a number of suburban areas, is the only legitimate authority in the country recognized by the international community.
The rest of Somalia is under the control of unrecognized state entities and are self-governed territories. Some areas in the southern and north-western parts of Somalia are governed by local clans and radical Islamic movements, including the militant group al-Shabaab linked with the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda.