Somalia: Thugs R Us

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March 30, 2008:  Somalia has become too dangerous for aid agencies. The clan militias have gotten greedy, and been stealing so much of the aid, and plundering the aid organizations as well, that the flow of foreign food and medical help is stopping. About a third of the population is safe in the relatively calm north (independent Puntland and Somaliland). But in the south, a third of the population (some two million people) there are refugees, or in areas suffering severe doubt. In pre-colonial times, this would have caused a massive famine, killed off about 20 percent of the population, and brought  peace. But these days, aid groups keep everyone fed, and fighting. No one has a fix for this conundrum, or a technique for achieving peace. Note that, last year, some 7,000 Somalis died in the religious, clan and crime based violence, compared to Afghanistan, where 6,000 died (in a nation with four times the population of southern Somalia).

 

The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) gives the appearance of making a comeback, but this is a media illusion. The ICU has an ally (Eritrea) and ICU publicists in Eritrea are able to issue dramatic reports (of Islamic militant activities) to foreign journalists based in Eritrea. The ICU puts a positive spin on the anarchy in Somalia, giving the illusion that someone (the ICU) is winning. But the  Transitional National Government (TNG) and Ethiopian troops still have the most firepower, and control the most territory. The problem is that the ICU and TNG fighters are largely undisciplined bandits, who steal from anyone who is unarmed. The world is unwilling to supply troops to protect the foreign aid providers. So the nations is facing a foreign aid crises when food can no longer reach starving refugees and drought victims.

 

The pro ICU clan population in Mogadishu have largely been driven out of the city, and some 250,000 of them are living along 15 kilometers of the main road west of the city. This impromptu refugee camp is the base for ICU fighters who go into Mogadishu, and another group or two that drive around central Somalia, raiding pro-government towns for food, guns, fuel and whatever can be carried away in a pick-up truck.

 

On a positive note, the UN announced that a ten year effort to eradicate polio (by vaccinating nearly every child under five) has succeeded, and the country is free of the paralyzing (and often fatal) disease (which can only survive in humans). Polio should have been eliminated world-wide by now, but there has been resistance from Islamic clergy in some countries, who insist the vaccinations are a Western plot to sterilize Moslem children. This has enabled polio to survive in some Moslem countries (Nigeria, Pakistan). The disease also survives in some very poor nations because of the difficulty in getting vaccine to remote areas.

 

 

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