Somalia: Plundering The Starving


September 15, 2011: In the south, the Sufi Ahlu Suna Waljama militias continue to dismantle al Shabaab control. A lot of this effort consists of keeping roads clear of al Shabaab roadblocks. These are a form of control, and major source of income (commercial traffic or foreign aid is “taxed”). Several towns and villages on the Kenyan border are also being fought over. Kenya is alarmed at the growing number of famine refugees crossing the border. That number is increasing as al Shabaab losses control in southern Somalia. But with the refugees come young men who are apt to engage in criminal behavior (including terrorism, but usually just banditry.)

Former officials of the TNG (Transitional National Government) accuse the organization of doing little to curb corruption. The growing famine aid effort is being plundered according to these insiders, and many current aid officials. Aid workers are being arrested, or threatened with arrest, if they don’t pay. Some aid is being seized and sold. A lot of the aid is never reaching the starving Somalis is was intended for.

Delivery of aid is also being slowed down by the pirate risk. It used to be that you could make arrangements with clan leaders or major merchants at a port to insure that ships carrying aid were not attacked. But there are too many pirate gangs for that now, and an armed escort (on the ship, or a warship) is often needed, and aid ships are increasingly refusing to approach the coast without protection. Thus a lot more aid is being flown in. But this is a lot more expensive, and capacity is much lower than sea transport.  TNG officials complain about the ineffective measures to deal with the famine, but don’t want to discuss corruption, which is the major obstacle to famine relief.

The "secret" CIA base in Mogadishu is becoming more of a factor in the defeat of al Shabaab. The walled compound has been there since earlier this year, guarded by armed Somalis, but used most frequently by armed foreigners (mostly Americans.) The CIA denies it has anything to do with the place. TNG officials simply confirm that the compound is part of an American effort to help Somalia fight Islamic radicals. But American agents operate out of the base, recruiting and training Somalis to collect information, while also fighting off attempts by al Shabaab to halt this activity. The Americans are monitoring al Shabaab, other Islamic radical groups and armed organizations in general. There are accusations of kidnapping and assassination being planned from the compound. The Americans are believed to be providing locations of targets (usually key Islamic terrorist leaders) for American air strikes (UAVs, usually, operating out of Djibouti in the north, long home for a large Franco-American special operations base). Small aircraft, apparently from the Djibouti base, bring people in and out. Supplies come in by air and sea. Anyone approaching the place is kept away by the armed guards. TNG officials have apparently been paid well, and perhaps intimidated a bit, to keep quiet about what it happening at the base.

Al Shabaab has ordered schools in areas it controls to do all teaching in Arabic. Currently, many schools, especially those preparing students for college, teach in English (spoken at the most popular universities). Islamic conservatives consider Arabic special, because it is the language the Koran (the Moslem bible) is written in.

The major world shipping organizations have called on the UN to do something about the growing Somali pirate problem in the Indian Ocean. The shippers want UN permission to place armed guards on ships willing to pay for it, and for UN sanctioned blockades of known pirate ports. Ideally, the shippers want the pirate ports attacked and shut down. But the reluctance of the UN to get involved in another Somali war has taken that proposal off the table.

September 11, 2011: In the south, al Shabaab battled Sufi militia and TNG soldiers for control of the town of Elwak. There were nearly a hundred casualties, but after the Sufi and TNG forces withdrew, the al Shabaab forces did some looting and left as well.

The Puntland announced that the province of Karkaar (occupying about half the central part of the east coast) was now semi-autonomous. This was the result of years of unrest in the region, and negotiations to resolve the violence. Karkaar contains about ten percent of Puntland’s four million people.

September 10, 2011: AU (African Union) peacekeepers found and disabled a remotely controlled bomb at a food distribution site.

September 9, 2011: In Mogadishu, children searching for scrap metal in a fought over area, found an explosive item, which went off, killing twelve kids and wounding at least fifteen.  

September 8, 2011: At a food distribution center in Mogadishu, people rushed to grab food, and the armed guards fired on them, killing at least six.





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