Somalia: Fear And Sympathy

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October 21, 2016: The national elections are apparently going to happen after all. There have been seemingly endless difficulties encountered while preparing for the scheduled national elections. These were supposed to have taken place by now but have not because too many of the current politicians regard elections as a threat to their income (from corruption). Some foreign donors correctly see this as a ploy so the interim government can stay in power longer and steal more aid money. This led to threats to halt aid if elections were not held. That worked, sort of, and the electoral process lurches forward, if only to keep the free money coming. Part of the problem is political with many of the clans (tribes) maintaining armed militias and refusing to abide by a “one man, one vote” system. That is, some clans demand more (foreign aid and other resources) than their numbers justify. A compromise had been achieved to accommodate that. In effect there will be more of a “selection” than an election. The national parliament will have 275 members who will be elected by 14,025 “voters” selected by 135 clan elders. The 54 members of the upper house of parliament are selected by local (state or regional) assemblies. A Western style election (in which all adult citizens can vote) is not expected until the early 2020s, if ever. Meanwhile al Shabaab insists that any form of democracy is un-Islamic and threatens to kill those who participate. Al Shabaab represents ancient, pre-Islamic, customs and traditions that have long defined Somali culture. Thus someone with greater power, especially if some of it is supernatural, should be in charge. That’s a tradition that is not unique to Somalia but many Somalis have remained enthusiastic and loyal practitioners of this sort of thing. That’s why the corruption and disunity continue to flourish. There is no easy or quick solution.

The Kenyan Solution

Somali politicians, UN officials and aid group executives are accusing Kenya of heartlessly expelling several hundred thousand Somali refugees. Most Kenyans are more concerned with their own personal safety and see that as reason enough for getting the Somalis out of Kenya as soon as possible. Kenya wants to expel all Somali refugees by the as soon as possible even though UN and peacekeeper officials insist that this would not be practical because of security problems in Somalia that will not be solved soon enough to satisfy the Kenyans. That (and several hundred million dollars in additional foreign aid) convinced Kenya to delay their early 2016 decision to close two major refugee camps and send all the Somali refugees back home by the end of the year. That decision only delays the expulsion. So far this year over 20,000 refugees have returned to Somalia. The Dadaab Refugee Camp in northeast Kenya has become the largest refugee camp in the world since it was established in 1991. Containing over 330,000 Somalis it was built outside the town of Dadaab. The population in the area is largely ethnic Somali but the camp is unpopular because it disrupts more than benefits the locals and has become a base for criminal gangs and Islamic terrorists. The other camp, Kakuma, is in the northwest and has some 150,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia. Like Dadaab it has become unpopular with nearby Kenyans and for the same reasons. The UN also has to deal with accusations of repeated broken promises and tolerating bad behavior by refugees. For example Kenya had previously sought to expel all legal and illegal Somali refugees by the end of 2015. That expulsion threat came in response to ever more horrific al Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, including an April 2015 massacre of 148 Christian students at a university near the Somali border. The UN halted the 2015 expulsion order by making a lot of promises it did not keep. Now the UN says it will help with refugee camp security and moving more of the refugees back to Somalia. The UN offers this as an alternative to closure of the camps and expulsion of all the Somalis back to Somalia. These assurances are not very convincing because they have been made before and the UN quietly failed to deliver every time. In Somalia politicians and al Shabaab agree that Kenya should stop mistreating Somalis in Kenya if only because this mistreatment is used by al Shabaab for recruiting. The Kenyan government recognizes this problem and talks about curbing violence against Somalis in Kenya. Yet controlling popular hatred of and hostility towards murderous Somalis is even more difficult. The local Kenyans vote while the Somali refugees don’t. Thus the continuing al Shabaab activity in Kenya reminds all concerned of the centuries of Somali violence against Kenya. It’s an old problem that does not lend itself to quick or easy solutions.

The problems caused by Islamic terrorism and the resulting refugees are not unique to Somalia but are part of a larger trend. Since the 1990s, and particularly since Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of refugees. By the end of 2016 a record 65 million people will be refugees, forced from their homes largely because of civil war or Islamic terrorism. More than half these refugees come from just three countries; Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. In all these of these nations Islamic terrorism is the key cause of violence, in addition to corruption, bad government or no government at all. There are growing problems caring for all these refugees, especially in obtaining the money needed to pay for it. Despite increases in spending on humanitarian aid worldwide (more than doubling since 2012) it is never enough. That aid is running at over $50 billion a year now with about 75 percent contributed by governments while the rest comes from foundations, corporations and individuals. The problems in Somalia often get ignored because of higher profile disasters in the Middle East. But the Islamic terrorist violence in Somalia, and the inability of the Somalis to govern themselves or get along with their neighbors is certainly noticed by neighboring countries. The neighbors are not sympathetic and they feel threatened. Even the people hired to provide aid for the refugees feel that. In the first nine months of 2016 there over a hundred attacks on aid workers in Somalia, resulting in nine aid workers killed, eleven badly injured and three kidnapped. The situation is worse in northern Kenya where local Kenyans are attacked along with aid workers.

October 18, 2016: In Afgoye (30 kilometers west of Mogadishu) al Shabaab used a suicide car bomb and gunmen to attack a military base. The attack was repulsed but 19 people died, including eight Islamic terrorists, seven soldiers and four civilians.

October 17, 2016: In the south, across the border in Kenya (Mandera) police encountered three al Shabaab gunmen disguised as women. After a brief gun battle that left one policeman dead the Islamic terrorists fled back into Somalia.

October 13, 2016: In the south (Jilib) al Shabaab gunmen forced hundreds of civilians watch as they murdered two men (one of them a Kenyan) accused of being spies and providing information that made possible air strikes that killed al Shabaab leaders.

October 12, 2016: In central Somalia (Hiran, 300 kilometers north of Mogadishu) al Shabaab gunmen took control of the town of El Ali after Ethiopian peacekeepers suddenly left. Al Shabaab quickly seized and beheaded five local leaders they accused of cooperating with the peacekeepers. This is the second time in the last month Ethiopian troops have unexpectedly left a town in the Hiran region. In September Ethiopian peacekeepers left the town of Moqokori. The Ethiopian peacekeepers are being recalled to Ethiopia because of growing civil unrest there but don’t want to publicize that.

October 8, 2016: Outside Mogadishu al Shabaab fired at least five mortar shells into a residential neighborhood near the airport and wounded five civilians. The real target may have been the nearby compound containing the headquarters for peacekeepers in Somalia.

October 7, 2016: In the north Galmudug clan militiamen in the statelet of Puntland resumed fighting, killing at least 11 people, despite efforts by local leaders to negotiate a ceasefire. This violence has been going on since November 2015 and the current outbreak has caused over 50,000 people to flee their homes. People in Galmudug also accuse Puntland officials of deliberately providing American intelligence with false information about the presence of al Shabaab gunmen in Galmudug which led to an American air strike on September 28th that killed 12 Galmudug soldiers. Puntland denies this but that has not helped much. Galmudug is an autonomous region of Somalia just south of the self-declared state of Puntland. Galmudug was formed in 2006 and has a population of about 1.8 million. Northern Somalia broke away from Somalia in the 1990s to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The current violence has been building up for years because of territorial disputes. In 2014 Puntland cut diplomatic relations with Somalia over a Somali plan to reunite the northern province of Mudug at the expense of Puntland. Back in the 1990s clan wars in Mudug caused the province to be divided. The northern part joined Puntland while the southern half did not. Now Somalia wants to reunite Mudug and Puntland sees that as aggression. Somalia says it will work with the UN to do it peacefully but Puntland still sees it as a land grab. Meanwhile some of the Mudug clans in the Puntland want to join with the Mudug clans in Somalia to form a separate state and are willing to fight Puntland over the issue.

October 6, 2016: In the south, across the border in Kenya (Mandera) al Shabaab gunmen attacked a Christian neighborhood and killed six Christians in what they claimed was part of their continuing effort to drive all non-Moslems out northeastern Kenya because a lot of ethnic Somalis and Moslems live there. Most Kenyans (over 80 percent) are Christian and only twelve percent are Moslem (most of them ethnic Somalis). The area around Mandera is near the Somali border and has long been the scene of fighting between the Kenyan Murule (ethnic Somali Moslems) and the Marhan from across the border in Somalia. In 2015 about a hundred armed Marhan crossed the border and raided Murule territory and despite Kenya sending more soldiers and police to Mandera the violence continues. The Marhan have long been accused of supporting al Shabaab while the Murule oppose Islamic terrorism and al Shabaab efforts to chase Christians from the Mandera region.

October 1, 2016: In Mogadishu al Shabaab used a car bomb to try and assassinate a Somali intelligence official. Five people were wounded by the explosion.

September 26, 2016: In the south, outside the port city of Kismayo, peacekeepers battled al Shabaab gunmen killing two of them.

September 25, 2016: In central Somalia (the Bay region) soldiers and peacekeepers fought al Shabaab gunmen while occupying a village outside Baidoa. The Islamic terrorists fled after at least eight of them were killed. Two soldiers were also killed.

September 22, 2016: In the south, across the border in northeastern Kenya (Garissa) fifty al Shabaab gunmen rode into town at night and attacked a police base and were repulsed. Before dawn some of the Islamic terrorists retuned to attack again and managed to steal a police vehicle, a machine-gun, some ammo and kidnap two police officers.

 

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