Somalia: Deals With The Devil


April 18, 2006: Dozens of aid groups continue to operate in Somalia, under the protection of one warlord or another. The aid groups pay for this protection by hiring gunmen from the warlord for $100-$200 a month per man. The warlord keeps most of that, giving the rest to the gunman in question. The aid groups can hire a local doctor for $300 a month, so the dozen or so people hired from a warlord are a major expense. Sometimes another warlord tries to take over, and the aid workers are caught in the middle of a brief war over who gets their business. Sometimes the warlord will turn against his employer, and demand large "past due" payments. Reinterpreting the contract (which is often verbal) to solve a cash flow problem, is seen as perfectly normal by warlords. Since there are no peacekeepers in Somalia, the aid groups have to talk, or bribe, their way out of all these problems. The bribes and other payments are just considered a cost of doing business in Somalia. For the warlords, the aid groups are a major source of income.

April 17, 2006: The transitional government, after negotiations with American diplomats in Kenya, have granted the U.S. permission to patrol Somali waters, along a 19,000 kilometer long coast, to search for pirates, and keep commercial shipping safe. The pirate attacks have interfered with food aid shipments. There is a drought in the region, and over a million Somalis are in danger of starving to death if food cannot be delivered. The U.S. Navy already has over a dozen ships operating to the north, off Yemen, and Djibouti. Other NATO ships are involved as well. The Indian navy is also getting involved in patrols, as many Indian ships ply the waters off East Africa.


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