5+ – No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The Somali population has been suffering from serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law combined with impunity and lack of accountability for more than 20 years. Judges and journalists have become the target of violence and extrajudicial killings.
Clan disputes, protests, the weakness of the national forces, the gradual withdrawal of the African Union Mission in Somalia, Islamic State and continuing Al Shabaab attacks cause insecurity and instability across Somalia. The collapse of government institutions and the humanitarian crisis have resulted in massive displacement and migration of Somalis to other countries. Internally displaced persons still lack access to humanitarian assistance and face human rights abuses such as evictions from settlements, rape and sexual violence.
It is impossible for workers to enjoy their rights in a country where governmental institutions have fundamentally failed to hold those who are responsible for systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law accountable. Respect for the rule of law is essential when it comes to the protection of the rights of workers. It is estimated that there are 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

The ITUC affiliate in Somalia is the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU).

Somalia ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 2014 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 2014.

In practice

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Threats issued against union general secretary (FESTU)05-10-2020

Unionists have strongly condemned threats and police interference used against the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) at Favori LLC company. On 26 September 2020, workers at Favori LLC, working at the Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu, embarked on a peaceful protest against the illegal dismissal of one of their colleges by company management. The protesting workers were all members of FESTU.
Union representatives, including the general secretary, Mr Omar Faruk Osman, attended the protest to assist workers and management in resolving the dispute. Union representatives also attended an afternoon meeting at Decale Hotel organised by the minister of transport and civil aviation, the Honourable Mohamed Abdullahi Salad, accompanied by the minister of labour and social affairs, and the commander general of the Banadir Regional Police, Mr Sadaq Omar Mohamed.
During the afternoon meeting, the police commander used threatening language against FESTU leadership and their worker representatives. Among other things, he questioned the legitimacy of FESTU and announced that he would personally summon Mr Osman, the general secretary, to his office for criminal investigation. He claimed to have been sent by the president with such a mandate. Furthermore, the police commander is alleged to be involved in a campaign of intimidation against workers at Favori LLC, pressuring them into leaving the union.
Unionists have strongly condemned the threats issued against the general secretary and workers’ representatives during the commission of their lawful duties to protect the rights and interest of workers.

Leader of journalist union prosecuted for criticising the government31-05-2017

Omar Faruk Osman, General Secretary of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), was made a subject of criminal prosecution for speaking out against government policies on press freedom and journalists’ rights. On 3 May 2017, NUSOJ held a demonstration to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. On 6 May 2017, NUSOJ published a related statement on its website in which it criticised government policies on press freedom and journalists’ rights. Following these actions, on 31 May 2017 Omar was summoned to appear before the Attorney General’s Office for organising “the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day without approval of the Ministry of Information” and “issuing an abusive statement, as NUSOJ, which offended and defamed the minister of information of the federal government of Somalia, and was widely disseminated”, according to a letter from the Attorney General’s Office. In June 2017 UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the right to freedom of assembly and of association and on the situation of human rights defenders issued a joint appeal to the government of Somalia to discontinue criminal proceedings. According to the Somalia Trade Union and Human Rights Report for 2016, issued by Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU), the rights of journalists are systematically under attack, with 30 journalists having been arrested in 2016.

Trade union leader arrested 15-10-2016

On 15 October, the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) raided the premises of Xog-Ogaal, the oldest and leading daily newspaper in Mogadishu and arrested Abdi Adan Guled, Vice-President of NUSOJ. During the raid, NISA confiscated all the materials for publication of the newspapers, as well as computers, archives and cameras.

Trade unionist shot dead 27-09-2016

On 27 September, two unidentified men on a motorbike shot dead Abdiasis Mohamed Ali, a member and activist of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). Ali was on the way to visit relatives in the Jiiro-garoob neighbourhood of Yaqshid district and was walking the street when he was shot five times in the chest and neck. In May 2015, Ali was among the journalists who received training organised by the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (VIKES) in partnership with NUSOJ. On 5 October, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) informed the ILO that the Government had not started any investigation of the matter. Such inaction illustrated a lack of respect for the ILO’s previous recommendations to ensure the protection and security of union leaders and members, and to establish independent judicial inquiries in cases of assassinations, death threats and other acts of violence.

Government attempts to set up own trade union 20-07-2016

On 20 July 2016, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs initiated a committee led by the Director of the Labour and Human Resources Department of the Ministry. The Committee was tasked with launching a “trade union” for public sector workers. The initiative caused the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) to inform the ILO about this interference by the Government with the right of workers to organise themselves freely and independently.

Government controls trade union meetings under security reasons 09-07-2016

On 9 July, the Ministry of Internal Security of the Federal Government of Somalia issued an order banning all meetings held at hotels in Mogadishu. This order forbade any assembly without written permission obtained from the Ministry, allegedly for security reasons, and required all hotels in Mogadishu to notify the Ministry about any organisations, including trade unions, wishing to hire a meeting place. Although the new regulation was made because of the severe security situation in the country, it has the effect of restricting trade union officials and members from legitimate union activities.

President dismisses Chief Justice who recognized trade union rights 04-05-2016

On 4 May 2016, the President issued a decree through which he dismissed the Chief Justice, Aidid Ilkahanaf, who, on 4 February 2016, ruled in favour of the leadership of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). By the same decree, the chairperson of the Regional Appeals Court was also dismissed. According to the Constitution, the appointment, transfer or disciplinary measures against judges are subject to a decision by the Judicial Service Commission. In July 2016, the newly appointed Chief Justice wrote a letter supporting an attempt to de-legitimise the leadership of NUSOJ and propel individuals tacitly imposed by the Ministry to lead the union.

Trade union leader under threat of criminal charges for “becoming a threat to peace and security” 23-04-2016

Osman Farouk, General Secretary of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) was threatened with criminal charges for submitting a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association. The FESTU General Secretary was informed that the Attorney-General’s Office has started an investigation against him with the intention to lay criminal charges. He was informed about the accusations against him in a letter dated 29 February 2016 and in person after being summoned to the Attorney-General’s Office on 23 April 2016. Allegedly, he has become a “threat to peace and security ... aggravating the relations between the government and international institutions” by submitting a complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Interference into the affairs of NUSOJ continues04-02-2016

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) had been struggling for years against an attempt by the Ministry of Information to install a parallel, pro-government leadership, replacing that of Secretary General, Omar Faruk Osman. NUSOJ appeared to have secured victory in a court case it brought to have its legitimate leadership recognised when the Supreme Court ruled on 4 February 2016 that the NUSOJ general assembly of 28-29 May 2011 was illegal and that the election of Mohammed Ibrahim as Secretary General of NUSOJ was null and void.

Some bizarre twists and turns followed. Further to the court ruling, the NUSOJ planned to hold a General Assembly on 13 and 14 February 2016, but on the night before the Ministry of Information called on the Ministry of Internal Security and the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) to intervene and prevent the meeting from going ahead. The Ministry then invited the union to come to a meeting on 13 February to discuss the way forward. The NUSOJ leaders agreed to attend, saying they were open to negotiation provided that their legitimate trade union rights were respected. However, the Ministry of Information threatened to use State Security to disband the union’s meetings.

In a further twist, on 20 March 2016, the Banadir Appeals Court issued a letter in which it said the Ministry of Information had formed a committee of media employers who would set the date “to hold the elective General Assembly of NUSOJ”. The letter was addressed to government institutions and officials, and not to the union and its members. As the NUSOJ pointed out, the so-called media employers’ committee did not represent union members and had no mandate from the union.

Attempted assassination of union leader29-12-2015

Omar Faruk, General Secretary of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on 29 December 2015 in Mogadishu. The FETSU General Secretary was entering the union’s office when three armed men sprayed his car with bullets on Taleex Street. Omar Faruk’s bodyguards exchanged fire with the attackers until they were overpowered and ran away. Mr. Faruk fortunately escaped death, but one of his bodyguards and two pedestrians were seriously wounded.

Omar Faruk had been threatened many times by some radical groups and other members of the Somalian government because of his commitment to build a strong and independent union in his country. This assassination attempt came a day after Omar Faruk denounced a controversial media law passed by the Somali parliament on Monday, describing it as a threat to media freedom in Somalia. He called on the Somali president not to sign it.

ILO upholds complaint against Somali government for trade union rights violations01-11-2015

In November 2015 the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association examined a complaint against the Government of Somalia for serious violations of trade union rights, submitted by the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), supported by the ITUC.

In their complaint, submitted in December 2014, FESTU and NUSOJ detailed systematic gross abuses and violations of freedom of association and trade union rights by the government. They explained that government authorities had been undermining the independence and legitimacy of the trade union movement. Somali union members and leaders, in particular those of FESTU and the NUSOJ, had suffered varying degrees of harassment and intimidation by government agencies, including frequent arbitrary arrests and interrogations of trade unionists.

The unions also noted that the country’s labour legislation was clearly inadequate to protect trade union rights, with a Labour Code that was adopted in 1972 during the military dictatorship of President Siad Barre. Legal obstacles to freedom of association included excessive requirements for the establishment of trade unions.

In its conclusions the Committee upheld the complaint and urged the government to refrain from any further interference in the unions, particularly the NUSOJ and FESTU; observe the right of unions to administer their own affairs and activities without hindrance; and ensure that the elected leaders were free to exercise their mandate, enjoy the recognition of government as a social partner, and enjoy the right to freedom of movement.

The government was asked to appear before the Committee at its session in March 2016 to provide detailed information on the steps taken by the government to follow up on the Committee’s recommendations.

Government prevents FESTU from attending ILO conference01-06-2015

The government unilaterally revoked the Federation of Somali Trade Unions’ (FESTU) representation on its delegation to the June 2015 International Labour Conference (ILC). The ILC Credentials Committee observed that “modifications in the credentials of the tripartite delegation emanated from various public authorities, which demonstrates that there was a lack of consultation”. It went on to say that this move “amounts to interference, in breach of the requirements set out in article 3(5) of the ILO Constitution, as the Government decided to unilaterally replace the nominated Worker representatives”.

Interference by Minister of Labour in trade union affairs05-04-2015

Labour Minister Abdiweli Ibrahim Sheikh Mudey repeatedly interfered in the affairs of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU). In early April 2015 Minister Mudey intervened in the selection of trade union delegates to represent Somalia at the 42nd session of the Arab Labour Conference (ALO), to be held that month in Kuwait City.
The Minister also sent a letter dated 14 April 2015 in which he informed ITUC affiliates that Omar Farouk Osman was no longer the general secretary of FESTU. The Ministry of Information has consistently refused to recognise the democratically elected leadership of the NUSOJ with Mr Omar Faruk Osman as its General Secretary, and had created its own alternative leadership.
The Minister also attempted to take over May Day. In a letter dated 15 April 2015 he informed FESTU that he had appointed an organising committee of 12 members for the country’s May Day celebrations, headed by Deputy Minister of Labour, Osman Libah. The letter also told FESTU that the federation would not be allowed to organise the commemoration of international labour day but that its affiliated unions could make a financial contribution to the cost of the event. The union movement was informed that there were plans to use security forces in order to disband any FESTU-organised May Day commemorations, under the pretext that the Ministry of Labour had not given the green-light for the event to happen – even though there is no legal requirement for workers to get prior permission from the Minister of Labour to celebrate May Day.
In a positive development, the FESTU Congress held on 6 – 7 April in Mogadishu, successfully re-elected Ahmed Osman Said as President and OmarFaruk Osman as General Secretary.

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