April 30, 2013:
Somalia has a population of about 11 million (including over half a million refugees in neighboring countries), but over 70 percent of those Somalis are not under the control of the new central government. The two statelets that comprise northern Somalia broke away from Somalia in the 1990s to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other half of the Somali population is in the south where the southernmost portion, containing 1.5 million people, is trying to establish itself as the independent statelet of Jubaland. Somaliland is suffering from increasing clan warfare, while Puntland has been split between those who back (and profit from) the pirates and those that don't. The pirates have become much weaker in the last year because the international pirate patrol has prevented most attempts to capture ships. Without the large ransoms, most pirate gangs have disbanded. While Somaliland has signed a deal for a foreign firm to explore for oil off the coast, all these independent minded parts of Somalia are interested in forming some kind of federation.
The Somali government has been negotiating with Puntland, Somaliland, and the clans of Jubaland to establish a federal form of government where the regions would have a lot of autonomy. In return the central government would provide muscle to help control bandits and warlords throughout the country. The central government also controls most of the foreign aid coming in. All this is not that compelling for many clan leaders, who are accustomed to having no government at all ordering them around. For nearly all the last few thousand years the clans answered to no one except for the occasional empire builder. European colonial powers arrived in the 19th century and established a central government that didn’t really take, nor did similar efforts by previous conquerors. Once all the colonial powers were gone by 1960, the newly established Somali government began to come apart, a process that was complete by 1991, and no one has been able to get all the clans to submit to a new central government since. To make matters worse, most of the educated Somalis fled in the 1990s, and few have come back. Meanwhile, public education has been absent in most of Somalia for two decades and the literacy rate is under 40 percent (and under 30 percent for women). Public health has been largely missing for two decades and life expectancy is about 52 years. Outside of Somaliland and Puntland it’s under 50 years.
Getting foreign aid for Somalia is difficult, mainly because of the corruption and banditry. It is very dangerous for foreigners to supervise aid efforts inside Somalia and local hires are often corrupt or very vulnerable to threats by warlords, corrupt clan leaders, or government officials. Because of this many donor nations will not provide cash or food for Somalia because they believe most of it will be stolen. Aid groups counter with sad tales of massive deaths from starvation and lack of medical care. But the donor nations have to cope with media stories of the huge amounts of aid that never reaches the needy once it enters Somalia. Until there is more law and order inside Somalia, getting more aid will be a tough sell.
There is a growing consensus among clan leaders that some kind of government, as a way of maintaining law and order and getting economic growth going, is essential. This is a novel concept in Somalia and obtaining the needed cooperation and compromises has not been easy. Ancient traditions die hard in this part of the world. Foreign aid donor nations are willing to help build security forces and a judicial system but only if the Somali leaders make an effort.
The new government has made a deal to restore international mail service, which has been absent for 22 years. A more ambitious effort will try to restore local mail service, which has also been gone for over twenty years. In the large cities public health services, especially vaccination of children, is being restored. Out in the countryside al Shabaab and some Islamic conservative clan leaders still oppose vaccinations. For decades many Islamic clerics have preached against vaccinations and many other aspects of Western technology (like music and video entertainment) as sinful. Young parents often figure out that the vaccination does work but the penalty for opposing the anti-vaccination groups is often death.
Low level fighting, mostly against al Shabaab remnants, continues in central Somalia. So far this year 100-150 people a month are dying because of this, most of them Islamic terrorists or the victims of terrorist violence. Al Shabaab is on the run but they are not yet done. As Islamic terrorist violence and pirate activity dwindle so does international media attention to what goes on in Somalia.
April 25, 2013: Islamic terrorists killed another senior prosecutor, and al Shabaab announced that it would continue its attacks on the newly rebuilt judicial system. The goal is to make it impossible to prosecute Islamic terrorists inside Somalia.
Britain reopened its embassy in Mogadishu. British diplomats were withdrawn in 1991, and have been gone ever since.
April 24, 2013: The newly formed Puntland Maritime Police made its first major enforcement effort against poachers by arresting 78 Iranian fishermen (and seizing their five ships). Also arrested were twelve local Somalis the Iranians hired as security. The Maritime Police were financed by foreign aid and trained by a South African security company.
April 21, 2013: Al Shabaab gunmen killed another journalist in Mogadishu, the fourth this year. The Islamic terrorists and some warlords regularly threaten any journalists who criticize them, especially by name. Somalis who can afford it hire bodyguards to protect them from these death squads but most Somalis, even those with jobs, cannot afford this degree of protection.
April 19, 2013: The Somali government has told clan leaders meeting in Kismayo to organize the new statelet of Jubaland that the government will not recognize their independence as it does Somaliland and Puntland. Two years ago Kenya told local clan leaders that, in return for their cooperation in chasing al Shabaab out of the area, Kenya would support the formation of Jubaland. Kenyan troops subsequently joined the UN recognized Somali peacekeeping force and is now technically in opposition to any independence for Jubaland. But the local clan leaders are going ahead with it anyway.
April 18, 2013: In northern Kenya, near the Somali border, a lone gunman, believed to be an al Shabaab man, entered a hotel and killed nine people. Local police believe this was retaliation for increasingly effective police and army operations against al Shabaab groups hiding out in northern Kenya.
In Mogadishu an al Shabaab man apparently died when a roadside bomb he was burying went off accidentally.