Somalia, Sudan rank most dangerous for minorities

Nairobi, April 30: Somalia and Sudan are ranked first and second respectively among countries where minority communities face the greatest risk of violence from armed conflict, political violence, displacement and absence of the rule of law, according to a new analysis.

Other countries listed in Peoples under Threat 2010 by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), a London-based NGO, are Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Chad.

“With the absence of an effective state authority or an accepted rule of law in Somalia, marginalized minorities outside the clan system, like both the Bantu and Gaboye, are at particular risk of persecution,” Marusca Perazzi, spokeswoman for MRG, told IRIN at the launch of the report in Nairobi on 27 April.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Bantu minority are Somalia’s “forgotten people”, and together with other communities, such as the Gaboye and other caste groups like the Tumal, they experience discrimination and lack effective security.

The minorities at risk in southern Sudan include the Murle, Kachipo, Anyuak, Jie and Longarim, Didinga and Boya. They face the risk of attacks from the dominant Dinka, MRG said, clashes between groups, land and cattle-related conflicts, poor or no government representation and climate change.

Also at risk, says MRG, are the Fur, Zaghawa, Massalit in Darfur.

“We believe that when minorities are not protected or do not have a voice in the government, sooner or later it will lead to violence,” said Perazzi. “Thus, the massacres in the country were supported by the fact that foreign countries failed to address these nuanced details when preparing for negotiations and during their aid interventions.”

Early warning

The MRG analysis is based on indicators of good governance from the World Bank, conflict indicators from the Center for Systemic Peace, as well as credit risk classifications published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

MRG says the three states that have risen most prominently in the table in 2010 are Sudan, the Russian Federation and the Philippines.

Countries that have risen sharply up the table have later proved to be the scene of gross human rights violations, Perazzi told IRIN.

Prior to Kenya’s election-related violence MRG had signalled that Kenya was on the brink of ethnic conflict if the government failed to demonstrate a commitment to addressing deeply ingrained historical social injustices shaping Kenya’s ethnic landscape.

In the latest rankings, Kenya has dropped from 14th to 41st, a significant improvement, according to Mohamed Matovu, MRG’s Regional Information Officer, because of recent political reforms and the possibility of International Criminal Court indictments for perpetrators of violence.

According to MRG, some Kenyan minorities (including Somalis, Ogieks, Endorois, etc) face risks because of forced land grabbing and displacement, leaving them voiceless within national political and decision-making processes.

“The difference between our statistical analysis tool and other products is that ours is an early warning system, not an assessment done in the aftermath of events. Minorities are not defined by numbers but by the lack of participation and exclusion from the decision-making process. This creates political instability and for us, is an indicator and clear warning that the future of the country is at stake,” Matovu told IRIN.