Somalia: Feudal Magnates Gone Wild


November 29, 2009:  In the last year, over 340 Somali pirates have been captured and released. Most Western nations no longer have laws on the books that deal with piracy. Taking captured pirates back home for prosecution risks the pirates demanding (and getting) asylum under new laws (that came into effect about the same time the anti-piracy laws were eliminated.) The captured pirates are usually disarmed, but are also fed and have their medical needs tended to. They are then put back in their boats, or put ashore, and allowed to return to their pirate activities.

AU (African Union) officials have stolen millions of dollars of foreign aid money they received. As a result, many of the peacekeepers in Mogadishu have not been paid for six months. Morale is suffering. The troops are, in theory, paid about $550 a month. The discovery of the theft has led to donor nations to halt further contributions until something was done about the corruption. AU officials are noncommittal, as they try and come up with convincing excuses for the situation (that do not include giving back the stolen funds). There is a similar situation with the money paid to the Somali Transitional Government for their security forces (or anything else.)

The U.S. and Western nations in general, are cracking down on support for Somali Islamic radicals among Somali migrants they have accepted as refugees. The U.S. has recently arrested and indicted 14 men for recruiting twenty young men, and raising money to send them to Somalia to fight for al Qaeda or al Shabaab. The Islamic radical groups quickly realized that Western nations that the children of refugees to the West could be radicalized in mosques, and their parents extorted to provide the money to pay for it, and threatened to keep quiet about the process.   But the U.S. FBI and local police penetrated this scheme and broke it up. Similar arrests were made in Europe, although Europeans continue to be less inquisitive in such matters.

Al Shabaab is now searching for Somalis who have secretly converted to Christianity, and killing them. Islamic radicals believe that a Moslem converting to another religion must be executed for such offensive behavior.

November 28, 2009: The continuing power struggle between al Shabaab and their Islamic radical rivals, Hizbul Islam, has led to a battle in the town of Dhobley, on the Kenyan border. Hizbul Islam gunmen were driven out, and hundreds of residents fled across the border, rather than live under al Shabaab rule.

November 25, 2009: Two freelance journalists (from Canada and Australia) were freed by their Somali captors after a million dollars in ransom was paid. The two were held for fifteen months. The Canadian and Australian governments refused to pay any ransom, pointing out that this just encouraged the Somalis to kidnap more Canadians and Australians. The families of the two captives organized a campaign to raise the money to negotiate and pay a ransom. For years, it's been considered too dangerous for Western journalists to operate in Somalia, but some go there anyway.

Al Shabaab has ordered the UN to stop importing food for nearly four million starving Somalis. The Islamic radicals say that all the free food makes it difficult for Somali farmers to stay in business. This is often the case, although there is a major drought going on in Somalia, and many farmers are unable to produce food locally, and are too broke to buy food locally. Historically, a portion of the population would die of starvation during these droughts (or other natural disasters), and the survivors would prosper. But free food from international aid organizations has upset this cycle, often keeping populations dependent on the food aid indefinitely.  

November 24, 2009: A cargo ship from the Persian Gulf, carrying goods belonging to Mogadishu merchants (and protected by payments made to local warlords) was freed after $15,000 was paid to pirates who had seized the ship anyway (for their "expenses"). This sort of thing has happened before, and demonstrates the form of "government" that does exist in Somalia. Basically, it's a patchwork of feudal magnates (warlords, clan chiefs, terrorist organizations) that exercise control of territory via weapons, custom and negotiation. Everything is subject to negotiation, including who is allowed to import consumer goods and necessities.




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