Somalia: Going Back To The Future Is Not Politically Correct


January 30, 2015: The African nations contributing most of the peacekeepers in Somalia are getting impatient with the Somali Army. This force was supposed to be near its ultimate strength (50,000 troops) and ready to take over from the peacekeepers by now, but it’s not. With great effort and at enormous expense the army has been expanded from 8,000 in 2007 to about 22,000 today. The Somali troops who are available are still less reliable than the peacekeepers and in no shape to take over security responsibilities for the entire country. The big problem with the new Somali Army is corruption, which results in unreliable leadership, poor discipline and indifferent loyalty. Troops will desert whenever they feel like it and will try to take their weapons with them. Al Shabaab knows that a large enough bribe can get most soldiers, even senior officers, to do just about anything. Of course, al Shabaab also has problems with corruption, but it is worse in the army because the army and Somali government are receiving a lot more foreign aid than al Shabaab and for those out to get rich, the government is the place to be. Religious fanatics are a minority in Somalia and they, naturally, gravitate to al Shabaab. Another problem is that police and soldiers sent to restore and maintain order in the newly liberated towns tend to be more interested in stealing than administering. This does not gain much support for the national government from the locals. Peacekeepers often have to be sent in to deal with the inability of the army to deal with something or to confront angry locals fed up with the corrupt soldiers sent to “help” them. Everyone in Somalia, local or foreigner, complains about the corruption but no one has a solution.

Actually there is one solution which some of the neighbors are quietly discussing with each other. Historically force is the only thing that has worked in Somalia. British 19th century colonial administrators learned that the best way to deal with Somali outlaws was to "shoot on sight, shoot first, shoot to kill, keep shooting."  Not unexpectedly, post-colonial Somalia proved unable to govern itself. The tribal rivalries kept the pot boiling, and even the rise of a "clean government" party (the Islamic Courts), based on installing a religious dictatorship, backfired and turned into al Shabaab.

Somalis know there is another solution. In the past (before the European colonialists showed up in the 1800s) a form of order was imposed by having more reasonable (and often non-Somali) powers hold the coastal cities and towns, enabling trade with the outside world. One had to accept a near constant state of war, or just the banditry, with the interior tribes. There were periods of peace, as warlords established temporary kingdoms, but there was never the notion that peace was something that would last. The Somalis were constantly at war with their neighbors, usually in the form of Somalis raiding into Kenya and Ethiopia, and sometimes getting attacked in turn by "punitive raids" (to discourage raiding, for a while anyway.) No one seriously consider just letting Somalia revert back to its even more chaotic and violent past, but many Somalis see that as an option unless some fundamental changes (like less corruption) can be made to Somali culture.

UN investigators reported more evidence of massive theft of aid money sent to Somalia. Often over 70 percent of the aid money was stolen, using false documents created in Somalia and Kenya to deceive UN officials. These incidents occurred between 2010 and 2013, the last major famine period during which over 250,000 Somalis died from hunger and related diseases. The auditors were not able to gain access to bank data so could only estimate the amount stolen. The UN is criticized for not doing more auditing inside Somalia but the UN has to deal with the fact that the people doing the stealing (local aid officials, gangsters and Islamic terrorists) have killed such auditors in the past and will do so again. As a result recruiting qualified people for this work is difficult. The persistence of this corruption is the main reason why fewer countries are willing to provide aid money for Somalia.

January 28, 2015: The prime minister put together another new government, with only 18 ministers. Parliament approved the new prime minister in late December. He succeeded a man who resigned on December 6th. The current prime minister is the one in two years. The other two resigned after losing out in factional fighting, usually over who would be allowed to steal what. The corruption in Somalia is among the worst in the world and despite threats to halt foreign aid, the plundering continues. With the appointment of a new prime minister there will be more media attention for corruption because some of the deals negotiated by the former prime minister will now be cancelled so the new prime minister can negotiate new terms that ensure his allies get paid. But not always, as the new prime minister knows that anti-corruption members of parliament are calling for appointing less corrupt men and women to run the ministries. This attitude is seen as simply being practical. The culture of corruption makes it very difficult for foreigners to do business in Somalia because once a Somali official is bought he does not stay bought, especially if there is a major shift in the national leadership. With the violence much reduced Somali politicians and entrepreneurs are seeking foreign investors. There is not much interest because of the reputation for corruption. So anti-corruption groups are gaining more supporters, especially rich and powerful Somalis seeking foreign investment.

January 27, 2015: Zakariya Ismail Hersi, former al Shabaab chief of intelligence, surrendered and renounced violence. He urged other al Shabaab men to follow his example. The U.S. offered $3 million for Hersi. Some counter-terrorism experts believe Hersi surrendered to escape the murderous factional fighting that still goes on inside the al Shabaab leadership.

January 22, 2015: In Mogadishu a suicide car bomb killed five people outside a hotel to be used by visiting Turkish officials. The bomb went off outside the main gate. The Turkish president and his entourage of officials and businessmen visited anyway, on the 25th. Turkey has been a major foreign aid donor for Somalia.

January 21, 2015: Al Shabaab praised the January 7 Islamic terror attack in Paris, France that left 19 dead. Al Shabaab encouraged Somalis and other Moslems living in Europe to carry out more attacks like this. Al Shabaab has a lot of supporters among young first or second generation Somalis living in Europe and elsewhere in the West.

January 19, 2015: In central Somalia (near the Ethiopian border) rival clan militias fought several battles outside the town of Baladwayne leaving at least 40 dead and many more wounded. These battles are often over land and water. Unlike in neighboring countries, the security forces tend to stand back for a while before intervening. These clan militias are useful in fighting al Shabaab and bandits, so killing clansmen can cause a blood feud with the government.

January 17, 2015: Parliament rejected another list of ministers submitted by the new prime minister. Members of parliament objected to the large number of ministers who had failed to perform while serving as ministers in previous governments. The prime minister was given two weeks to come up with a new list of ministers.

January 14, 2015: In the north (Puntland) al Shabaab attacked police in a port town, killing two and wounding three. This attack was believed an after effect of recent counter-terrorism operations inland (in the Galgala Hills) that has left over twenty Islamic terrorists dead so far and is continuing.

In northeast Kenya, near the Somali border, al Shabaab ambushed a Kenyan Army vehicle. The soldiers fought back and the Islamic terrorists fled after losing five dead. One soldier died.

January 13, 2015: In Ethiopia a court sentenced five men to prison for Islamic terror related activities. Two of the men had lived in Britain and became citizens there while a third was Somali. Three of the men were convicted of trying to recruit for ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant).

January 11, 2015:  In the south (Kismayo) a roadside bomb killed three soldiers in a military convoy.

January 10, 2015:  For the first time since the 1970s foreign ministers from regional countries met in Mogadishu to discuss matters of mutual interest. The city has become safe enough for regular visits by senior officials from foreign countries. To keep it that way, security forces are heavily represented on the streets.

In the north (Puntland) al Shabaab retreated from the Galgala Hills having lost nearly sixty dead in the last week or so of fighting.





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