Somalia: Welcome To Hell

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May 20, 2010:  The major foreign aid organizations (like the Red Cross and UN food programs) are being shut down in Somalia, leaving over three million people starving and in desperate need of medical care and development (water and other infrastructure projects). Over the last decade, foreign officials of these organizations have been forced out of Somalia by the violence, and had to depend on local Somalis to manage the programs. Many of these Somali officials have become corrupt (either voluntarily, or because of threats from warlords or Islamic radicals). Not content just to steal from the aid organizations, Islamic radicals like al Shabaab are now trying to shut down these operations as "un-Islamic." There's no logic (in the Western sense) to all this. Somalis are factious and violent, always have been, and continue to be.

While the shipping industry (ship owners and crew unions) are demanding more action against the piracy (killing or prosecuting all pirates encountered), no nation is willing to lead forces going ashore and shutting down the pirate bases. That's the only way to stop the pirates, but no one wants to be constantly killing unruly Somalis under the relentless glare of a headline hungry mass media.

Meanwhile, these bad habits hurt Somalis as well. The violence and factionalism leave many Somalis living in fear and extreme poverty. Most Somalis manage to join up with a tribal or warlord faction, which provides some security. But these are medieval conditions. There is no social safety net, and bad things (death, mutilation, illness, starvation) are always just a misstep away. It's nearly as dangerous for the ruling class (ambitious and ruthless men with family money, or just a lot of talent and ambition). These guys park their families in foreign countries or fortified compounds in Somalia, and constantly battle other faction leaders. One constant is hatred and distrust of outsiders (those not from your tribe or clan, and especially non-Somalis). Thus even the Islamic radical groups are fragmenting, and turning on the growing number of foreign al Qaeda people fleeing to Somalia. This is not the kind of place you flee to. Refugees coming to Somalia are unusual, and despite the admiration Somalis show these foreign al Qaeda men, they are still foreigners, and most Somalis quickly grow to hate them, and want to kill them. But for many Somalis, the Islamic radicals, and their less corrupt attitudes, are preferable to the traditional rapacious, greedy, cruel (and so on) warlord. That said, the Islamic radicals are a pretty nasty lot. They will kill or mutilate those they see as "un-Islamic" and battle each other for the status of the most Islamic of all. Some Islamic radical factions are lining up with the "warlord alliance" (the Transitional Government) because of all those al Qaeda foreigners seeking to join Islamic radical groups in Somalia. Welcome to hell.

The situation is dire, but not hopeless. The northern Somalis (the unofficial statelets of Puntland and Somaliland, and the recognized nation of Djibouti) have formed working (if ramshackle) governments and are, compared to the south, at peace. The southerners have always been more troublesome, for a host of historical and cultural reasons. No one has ever found a lasting solution to the southern violence, and temporary cures generally involve a lot of violence and killing.

May 17, 2010: A Yemen court sentenced six Somali pirates to death for seizing a Somali tanker a year ago. A Yemeni sailor was killed during the attack.

May 16, 2010: The government opened parliament in Mogadishu, and al Shabaab fired mortar shells at the parliament building. Peacekeepers and Somali government troops fired back. By the time the day was over, there were nearly a hundred casualties, including twenty dead.

 

 

 

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