Country report and updates: Somalia

Last revision: 15 Sep 1998
15 Sep 1998

In 1991 president Barre's government was overthrown by the United Somali Congress (USC) and the Somali National Movement (SNM). Since then there has been no central government in Somali and therefore no national armed forces. [5]

1 Conscription

conscription not enforced

It is believed that since there is no central government in Somalia, the national service programme of president Barre's government is no longer in existence. [4]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

3 Draft evasion and desertion

No information available.

4 (Forced) recruitment by armed groups

According to various sources there is no tradition of forced recruitment in the various armed Somali clan militias. The militias apparently recruit their members on a voluntary basis. [6] [7]

Other sources state that there is no systematic forced recruitment and that refusing to join clan militias would not have any negative consequences. [8]

Nevertheless, there have been many reports of young boys, some of whom had deserted from the government forces, who were fighting for the clan militias. Some were as young as six. [3]

5 History

Conscription was introduced in Somalia in 1963. [1]

During president Barre's government, all men between 18 and 40, and all women between 18 and 30 were liable for a two years' national service. Graduates of higher education institutes were allowed to serve for 18 months. Conscription was not implemented until 1986. It is unclear whether the law was systematically enforced and whether women were conscripted as well. There have been many reports of forced recruitment under Barre's regime, and many under-eighteens were recruited. [2] [3] [7]

Some cases of COs have been reported. There was no provision for conscientious objection; COs were considered to be deserters and were forced into the armed forces, or were imprisoned. [2]


[1] Prasad, D., T. Smythe 1968. Conscription: a world survey, compulsory military service and resistance to it. War Resisters' International, London. [2] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [3] Woods, D.E. 1993. Child Soldiers, the recruitment of children into the armed forces and their participation in hostilities. Quaker Peace and Service, London, UK. [4] DIRB, 16 February 1994. [5] Amnesty International Dutch Section 1995. Letter to the State Secretary of Justice, Amsterdam, 10 November 1995. [6] Human Rights Watch 1995. Somalia faces the future: Human rights in a fragmented society. Africa report, vol. 7, no. 2. HRW, New York. [7] DIRB, 18 August 1995. [8] DIRB, 17 November 1995.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Somalia

01 Jan 2007

According to various NGOs and United Nations agencies, the use of child soldiers in Somalia has increased since fighting between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) escalated in December.