Somalia: Let Us Starve Together

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May 26,2008: Rising world food prices, increased piracy and banditry have caused the Transitional National Government (TNG) and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) to agree on one thing. Both called for everyone to allow international food aid efforts to proceed unhindered. The TNG and ICU have also agreed to continue fighting to control of the country.

The food crises is real enough. This years crops have failed and over a million Somalis are refugees from the various little wars going on all over the country. Foreign nations are reluctant to contribute food aid, because of the pirates and bandits are increasingly stealing it. So far this year, twelve aid workers have been killed, and many more threatened. The reason is usually bandits wanting food or money. Aid worker compounds (where the foreign ones live and work) have been raided and looted. Although the aid groups hire local gunmen for security, this is often inadequate. Sometimes the security guards are attacked by men from another clan who are angry that they did not get the security contract. Drought and banditry have increased the need for food aid, which is now estimated as some 65,000 tons a month (between now and next Spring). The way things are going, there will probably be more cases of starvation in the next six months, and more calls for international action to "do something." No one, however, wants to get too close to this mess.

May 25, 2008: In the south, there were unconfirmed reports of warplanes bombing a town occupied by ICU members. The U.S. was believed responsible.

May 24, 2008: Ugandan peacekeepers have been accused of selling weapons seized from clan militias. The buyers are Somalis with cash, and representing a variety of groups. The Ugandans don't care as long as they get paid. Corrupt practices by peacekeepers is nothing new, and poorly trained and led troops from poor countries are most likely to get involved in criminal activities.

May 23, 2008: Pirates released the Jordanian ship they seized on the 17th. Some kind of deal was made, although everyone denied that a ransom was paid. It's more likely that threats from a local ICU group prompted the release. There was a shootout between ICU gunmen and the pirates, leaving at least half a dozen dead. The merchant who owned the cargo may have found it cheaper to hire the ICU than to pay a ransom.

May 22, 2008: The peace talks in Djibouti, between TNG and ICU, were officially ended. Both sides believe they can win on the ground. The TNG has more firepower and the Islamic forces cannot stand up to them in a firefight. But the ICU believes they are on a mission from God, and that their terror tactics will eventually bring victory. That may prove difficult, even with divine intervention. Ethiopia says it will keep its troops in Somalia, if only to prevent another invasion of Ethiopia by Somali groups trying to annex Ogaden province (long a point of contention between the two countries.)

May 21, 2008: Some 70 kilometers south of Mogadishu, Somali gunmen kidnapped two Italian aid workers.

May 17, 2008: Somali pirates seized a Jordanian ship (owned by a UAE company, but with an Indian crew), carrying sugar (being imported by a merchant), as the vessel approached Mogadishu. The ship was taken to a port 450 kilometers north of Mogadishu. There is increasing pirate activity in northern Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden (between Somalia and Yemen). Here, there have been at least ten attacks on ships in the last three months. These are larger ships, and all have managed to get away from the pirates.

 

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