Somaliland: Street Child is a victim of the state

A group of young men in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, take a break from an informal football match. Youth unemployment in Somaliland is among the highest in the world at between 60 and 70 per cent. Photo: Adrian Leversby/IRIN

According to the study of Save the Children, the meaning of “Street Child” was defined as any child who lives or roamsthe streets begging for food or money, looking for casual work such as washing cars, shoesshinning, sweeping food kiosks for pay in cash or kind, or stay on the street to fend for him/herself using all methods including selling of drugs and/or stealing from the public. It also refers to child vendors who sell sweets, waste plastic papers, vegetables, fruits, Khat, water another small goods. This study therefore looked at children who in one way or another spend time on the streetslooking for means of survival whether through work or begging or trading.

The number of street child in Somaliland increased in each year for the six big regions for reasons of family breakdown, orphanagechildren, poverty, lack of fee based on primary education and lack of community centers this children can live, according to the Somaliland National Human Right commission’s annual report of 2018. However, it is right to state that nobodyseemed to know the actual number of street children in Somaliland, nor the actual population ofchildren and youth. The figures tabulated in the table 2 below are based on a researchconducted by SCI-Finland and ANPPCAN12 in 2008. This same data was found in UNICEFstudy on Child Protection in Somalia Chapter IV: Children on the Street, 2003. No new data istherefore available.

Table 2: Prevalence of children on the streets

Prevalence of children on the streets

Frequency Higher figure




Total (%)

Full time street children





Working street children





Children living and/or working on the streets with families




Children living in the work place










Source: Violence against Children in Somaliland Situational Analysis Report 2008

But now I believe this number has increasedfor the last year for reasons of droughts and forced eviction happened and number of refugee crossed the borders from Ethiopia and Yemen to Somaliland.

These children face so many challenges we cannot count, but if I have to mention some of that challenges—especially in Somaliland—they turn to narcotics. They are glue suckers, inhale the drugs into their nostrils to get the relaxation that can help them escape from the responsibilities of life. The life of a street child begins when the child takes an interest in outdoor activities than the house or inside activities. When the signs sending them to schools like the other normal children of the society or the community, they don’t see their future in what problems do street children face any more in their house and decide to go out to the streets and their guardian let them go too as they don’t want their children to stay at home due to the poverty.

  1. A) Child Labor

  2. b) Health problems

  3. c) Lack of protection

d)illegal detention and clan based discrimination for those who come from Ethiopia and south Somalia and also the Gabooye clan society .

But the Somaliland Constitution adopted in referendum of 2001 guaranteed the marginalized community to be protected by the state

According to the Somaliland Constitution Article 19, “The state shall be responsible for
providing health care, development and education of the mother, the child, and the disabled
who have no one to care for them, including the mentally handicapped persons who are not
able and have no one to care for them.” Street children fall within this category of the
vulnerable groups, hence the Constitution protects them.Further to this provision in the Constitution, the National Development Plan recognizes the
need to:


Strengthen existing institutions such as orphanages, and community based support
services,Institutionalize child protection services,Establish family centers,

Somaliland National development plan phase two.

And also the international bill of rights guaranteed the right to protect the children.According to the Somaliland Constitution Article 10, the government should respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and adopt the international agreementssigned by Somalia when the two states were united and the bill of rights of the Constitution should be interpreted through international bill of rights according to Article 21 of Somaliland Constitution

At present, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is ratified by all of the world’s nations.There are total of 182 countries, as of 2018, that endorse the bill However Somaliland is not a part the international convention on the rights of the child CRC 1989 for the obvious reason of lacking recognition from the international community for the past 28 years.

In Somaliland,in 2007 the Parliament approved the juvenile justice Act into Law No/36/2007. This proclamation is established the child police unit, Child Court,especial prosecutors and judges trained the high judicial committee only for the criminal cases committed by the children and especial prisons detained the children when the court found them a guilty or convicted.

In general rule, Article 27 ofthe Somaliland Constitution states the prison is not for punishment but it’s rehabilitation center for the convicted prisoners.Unfortunately this act is not implemented.The judiciary sector failed to follow the criminal cases prosecuted the children in this code for challenges related the capacity building of the judiciary sector,lack of police stations and officers of the children,lack of children courts and lack of children prisons and community centers .

The convicted children are detained to the Mandhera prison located at the west of Berbera district and is not appropriate living place for the children .

I very condemn the judgment sentenced by the MarodiJeh regional court on 20 street children arrested in 31/01/19at the main office of the Somaliland Ministry of Social Affairs (MESFA) when they come to the office to complain to their government to offer jackets and coats for them to survive in cold season.

Unfortunately the Somaliland government accused these 23 children in two counts: one of the counts is Article 267 of Somalia’s penal code binding in Somaliland according to Article 130(5) of Somaliland Constitution

Interruption of a public office or services or a service of public necessity, this article applies only if no other provision of law covers such a disturbance or interruption it deals with  the effect of the illegal action not the person whom it’s directed.

And article 3(1) of Somaliland Drug Abusers act law No 21/2002.

According to the judge of the regional court Hon Judge Yahye Hussein Yusuf, when announced his verdict in 02 Feb 2019, they found the count two related the use of drug alcohol and sentenced in six months of the jail started the date of arrest 31 Jan 2019. According to the judgment of the court, three of them were underage—which translates into they are below the age of the child who can be sentenced in prison, according to Article 10 of Somaliland Juveniles Justice Law (No 36/2007), which reads that each person who is under the age of 15, if commit an act, s/he haven’t a criminal responsibility.

Mohamed Ali Awil,Suhayb Abdi Mohamed and Ridwaan khadar Mohamed all were under 15 years old and the court sentenced them for six months in jail.

And the court released another three child,namely Guleid Abdi Sadiq,AbdiasisMahamedIbrahin, NimcanAbdirahmanSaed for reasons of underage according to the judgment of the regional court.

On the other hand,  the judge have to find a medical expert testimony approved the age of the children according to the juveniles justice Act, but he didn’t have, according to the interview the judge gave to GoobjoogTV on 4th Feb. 2019.

Finally, that 20children sentenced have not been offered to fair trial rights guaranteed by Article 27 of the Somaliland Constitution and Juvenile justice law (No 36/2007). The children didn’tget a defense counsel.

They didn’t get an adequate time to defense themselves. It was rush: only the attorney general office submitted in to the court the charge sheet and their evidences and also only the deputy of the attorney general has concluded the case rather than submitting to defense statements,or eye witnesses. The hearing of the trial prosecution and the verdict was done in the same day (02 Feb 2019), according to the judge of the court—and that was miscarriage of Justice.

On 22 Feb 2019, the opposition WADDANI party  proposed me to work as a defense counsel to defend and represent that 20 street children and submit their case on appeal court.

On 23 Feb 2019, me as a lawyer and three youth members of the opposition party WADDANI paid a visit to the Mandhera prison to interview my clients and get their authorization to defend the appeal court and sign for me the attorney letter—and luckily they did it.

I highly appreciate the Mandhera prison administration for their warmly welcoming and facilitating me to do my job as a lawyer and as a human rights defender.


To the government

  1. To initiate the Somaliland street child policy

  2. To initiate Child Rights Act

  3. To establishcommunity centers nationwide, all aroundthe six regions of the state, that can host those who are vulnerable children

  4. And to protect the rights of the children enshrinedby the Somaliland Constitution and UDHR 1948.

To the parliament

  1. To approve the child rights Act

  2. To approve the legal Aid Act

  3. And hold the executive organ accountable.

To the Appeal court

  1. Immediately Release for the 20 convicted children


Somaliland Constitution, Article 19

Somaliland Juvenile Justice Law, N/36/2007

Somaliland National Human Right commission’s annual report 2018

Save the Children national study of street child, March 2013.

The MarodiJeh Regional court judgment MGH/DDL/147/2019, Dated 02 Feb 2019.

Video clips related the judgment of the court and the day I visited the Mandhera prison

Mubarik Abdi Ismail
Mubarik Abdi Ismail

About Author

Mubarik Abdi Ismail Lawyer and Human Right Defender,who works with the Lead expert local organization HRC based in Hargeisa, Somaliland

063 4248352

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

Horndiplomat will only consider articles sent exclusively. If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to

© Horn Diplomat 2019

Leave a Reply