Somalia: A Waste Of Resources

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March 4, 2009: Some 40,000 refugees, who have been camped along roads leading inland from Mogadishu for the last year, have returned to the city. The people were driven out by Ethiopian troops, because the civilians lived in areas providing cover for gunmen fighting the Ethiopians. But now the AU peacekeepers are using the same tactics, to deal with attacks by al Shabaab gunmen. The AU fire has killed at least fifty civilians in the past week.

Some more extreme al Shabaab factions have refused to abide by the recently agreed to ceasefire. This was sort of expected, as al Shabaab is the kind of organization that encourages members to play "more radical than thou" games. Meanwhile, the foreign aid groups, which keep about a third of the population from starving, and supply a fifth of Somalia's GDP, has told the tribal leaders, warlords and other faction heads, that if the violence does not decrease, the foreign aid will disappear. The UN is having a harder time raising money for Somalia relief, as most donor nations see it as a waste of resources.

In the last two months, only one merchant ship has been captured by pirates up north. Part of this is due to the twenty foreign warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden. But there's also the Winter weather, namely the higher winds, and waves, which limit the activity of the  speedboats the pirates use to stalk and attack merchant ships. Since the anti-piracy patrol is prohibited, by their own, and international, law from hurting the pirates, the pirates have every incentive to keep trying to take ships. When foreign warships catch pirates in the act, which they often do, the most they usually do is arrest, disarm, and then release the pirates. Catch and Release.

February 28, 2009:  Al Shabaab and the government (which is controlled by more moderate Islamic Courts Union groups) have agreed to a ceasefire, and the introduction of Sharia law throughout the country. This is what the Islamic Courts have been doing for the past few years, since there is otherwise no law in the country. Before the post-colonial government collapsed in 1991, there was a mix of civil and Sharia law. This pattern had been established when the colonial powers showed up in the 19th century and took control of the area. Before that, there was Sharia law, if there was any law at all. Somalia has long been a relatively lawless place. Al Shabaab wants to impose a strict interpretation of Sharia (no school for girls, no music, videos or dancing), but the moderates, the government, and most Somalis, oppose this.

February 24, 2009: Fighting continued in Mogadishu, leaving at least 23 dead. Northwest of Mogadishu, al Shabaab gunmen took control of the town of Hudur, leaving at least 17 dead.

February 23, 2009: Al Shabaab attacked the African Union (AU) peacekeeper base in Mogadishu with mortar shells and a suicide truck bomb, killing eleven Burundi soldiers.  The government in Burundi responded by saying it would send more troops to Somali.

 

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