Somalia: Let Them Starve


July 30, 2008: The Transitional National Government (TNG), a coalition of clan and warlord militias, has reached a standoff, and an agreement to try and make peace,  with a rival coalition, the Islamic  Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS).  The ARS has succeeded, after two weeks of effort, in getting about two thirds of their members (clans and religious leaders) to agree to a truce. But radical factions of the Islamic Courts Union (the ICU, which is part of the ARS) want to keep fighting. That means at least ten percent of the clan warriors in southern Somalia are still officially at war with the world, and many of the other gunmen in the region are willing to break the truce, if the payoff is large enough.

Some of the Islamic factions have decided that it is in their best interests to drive out the foreign aid workers. So far this year, at least twenty have been killed, and pamphlets are being distributed warning the foreigners to get out, or die. It's unclear if there is any logical reasoning behind this decision. No matter, the Islamic terrorism campaign against foreign aid workers is working, with many aid operations (especially the food and medical ones) in danger of shutting down.

Over three million Somalis depend on the food aid, for at least some of their nutrition. The UN estimates that ten percent or more of these people will be in danger of starving to death, by the end of the year, if food aid is further disrupted. A lot of that is the usual UN exaggeration to get the media's attention. But the hunger is real in Somalia, and adjacent nations, where bad weather has caused many of the crops to fail. What is happening is a repeat of the situation in the early 1990s, when a similar surge of violence against aid workers brought in UN peacekeepers. That led to a battle between U.S. troops and Somali militias in 1993. The media played a U.S. victory as a defeat and all the peacekeepers soon departed. This time, no one is eager to send peacekeepers, and the consensus appears to be that the Somalis can starve. Most Western donor nations are reluctant to pledge food aid for Somalia, because so much of it is getting stolen by bandits or warlords. The food is making these thugs rich, and the hungry are still starving. There are actually 14 million people in the region who are in danger of starving (most of them in Ethiopia). It's easier to deal with the starving in well policed Ethiopia, than in bandit infested Somalia.

The AU (African Union) peacekeeper force in Somalia is calling for help, from anyone. Only 2,600 of the 8,000 African peacekeepers pledged are in Somalia. All of them are in Mogadishu, where they guard their compounds and the air port and not much else. The AU needs logistical help, helicopters and intelligence collecting resources (UAVs, electronic eavesdropping). Only Western nations can provide that stuff, and no Western nation is interested in going back to Somalia.

July 29, 2008: The mayor of Mogadishu, Mohamed Dheere, was dismissed by the TNG for failure to restore order to the city. Dheere had been a local warlord and was believed able to use his contacts to settle things down in the city. But instead, Dheere inflamed bad relationships, and caused about a third of the population to be expelled from the city. This was in no one's long term interest. However, Dheere will not go quietly, so things may get even more violent for a while.

July 22, 2008: In Eritrea, where most of the Somali Islamic groups have their headquarters, Islamic leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys announced that he had taken control of the ARS. The current leaders of the ARS soon held their own press conference to deny this. Aweys is not the most radical member of the ARS, and even condemns the Islamic groups attacking foreign aid workers.

July 20, 2008: A Danish freighter, carrying a cargo of ore, was seized by pirates off the north coast of Somalia.


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