Somalia: The Triumph Of The Free Food Bandits


August 17, 2011: Foreign aid agencies continue to have serious problems with food aid being stolen (and sold in markets). It’s not just food convoys that are robbed (of part, or all, of their cargo). In the large refugee camp outside Mogadishu, gangs have seized food from refugees. Those who refuse to give up some of their food will be chased out of the camps by the gangs. In the Kenyan camps, police keep these gangs in check, but there is little to stop the gangs from operating in the camps located in Somalia. In response to this, some foreign aid organizations are calling for the bandits to be paid whatever they demand in order to get some food through to the starving. But experienced Somali aid operators point out that the bandits tend to keep taking more and more, and will eventually seize everything. The only solution is to get peacekeepers or other foreign troops to guard the food, and its distribution. This also means troops for the refugee camps, to halt the practice of gangs stealing food from individuals and families. These gangs do not usually have any firearms, and rely on knives, clubs and fists to enforce their will.

The pirates in northern Somalia (Puntland) continue to operate. Currently 52 large ships and 573 sailors are held captive. Even Iran, which threatened to never pay ransom, finally did, to obtain the release of a large bulk carrier seized 18 months ago.

AU (African Union) peacekeepers in Mogadishu found that al Shabaab, in their haste to leave the city last week, had left behind several truckloads of explosives, roadside bombs and rockets. Some of this stuff soon showed up in the large markets. AU troops seized stuff found in the markets, and tracked down the weapons workshops the weapons came from.

Meanwhile, al Shabaab is sliding towards civil war. The Islamic radical group is spilt between factions seeking to do something about the famine, while others (mainly foreign terrorists) want to keep fighting. The two groups have stopped cooperating, and only the efforts of a few mediators have prevented shooting. Many observers expect the two factions to eventually settle this dispute with savage fighting. In the meantime, several million Somalis in al Shabaab controlled areas are denied access to foreign food aid.

Kenya is paying Somali clan militias to keep Islamic radicals and bandits from crossing from Somalia into Kenya. The militia chiefs are given weapons, ammo, food and other items as long as the Somali troublemakers are kept out of Kenya. The militias only cover part of the border, and the terrorists and bandits can travel to an unguarded area to cross. But this slows down the bad guys, and makes it more difficult to move anything (like loot) back out of Kenya.

August 12, 2011: Uganda has pledged to send another 2,000 peacekeepers to Somalia, which would raise the largely Ugandan force to 11,000 troops. The UN has authorized a force of 12,000, and offered to pay for the additional troops. But few AU nations are willing to send troops to Somalia, even if someone (Western nations) is paying for it.


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