Somalia: Another Round Of Redemption And Extension

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January 21, 2022: The government insists that they will have al Shabaab and other unrest under control by the end of 2023 and are asking the UN to keep the military aid coming until then. Despite relative peace and prosperity, so far Somalia was unable to turn that into a more permanent condition by holding national elections. The elections are supposed to finally be completed by February 25th.

Somalia has long been a failed state and fifteen years of peacekeeping, massive foreign aid and visible progress, corruption and tribalism are still blocking the creation of a stable and effective national government. Al Shabaab, a local Islamic radical group, was defeated and driven from cities and towns in 2011 but is still around. So is the traditional clan (tribal) violence, organized crime and banditry. All these are ancient Somali traditions and al Shabaab survives by reverting to that and becoming the major criminal organizations in some parts of the country. Extortion, smuggling, ransoms and so on have sustained the Islamic terror group. One of the most lucrative sources of plunder is the elected Somali government, propped up by foreign aid, most of which gets stolen. The foreign aid became a major issue after 2012 when it increased to enable Somalis to form a stable government. That has not happened yet. Somalia is still a failed state that defies every attempt at nation building. The situation is worse than it appears because Somalia was never a country, but a collection of clans and tribes that fight each other constantly over economic issues (land and water). The country remains an economic and political mess, a black hole on the map. Not a lot of hope in sight. There is not a lot of enthusiasm among local leaders for a national government, but all that foreign aid is welcome because it can be taken without risking another clan feud. Somalis are running out of excuses and end of foreign support is now in sight at the end of 2023

The ongoing corruption in Somalia continues to threaten foreign aid in general and support for the peacekeeper force. UN and AU (African Union) officials are unable to agree on whether the peacekeeping effort has been a success. Discussions continue to determine if it has been worth the effort and how it should continue. The local (Somali neighbors) AU officials point out that the fifteen-year peacekeeping effort has made a difference as al Shabaab and ISIL personnel and areas they controlled have been steadily reduced. Both groups have started taking refuge in neighboring countries, where local security forces can deal with the Islamic terrorists even more effectively than the peacekeepers in Somalia. Once all, or over 90 percent, of Somalia is pacified it will be practical to revive foreign aid efforts that were crippled, and plundered, in the past. The AU points out that the UN keeps sending in the foreign aid before it is safe, or even possible, to distribute the aid to the intended recipients. One reason for this continued disagreement is that AU members have grown up with and continue to live with the Somali threat. Many UN officials are new to peacekeeping and aid delivery, and out of ignorance and optimism underestimate the unique problems found in Somalia.

January 18, 2022: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide bomber attacked a tea shop near an army base, killing four and wounding nine. The bomber attacked the wrong target, which was the nearby army base, which is a training facility for Somali soldiers that is operated by Turkey, with Turkish troops providing the training. The Turks were the target but all the casualties were Somali civilians.

Later in the day there was another bombing, which caused no casualties.

The government officially backed the UAE after an Iranian sponsored bombing in the UAE capital. Iran says the attack was carried out by Shia rebels in Yemen, which is 1,400 kilometers away while Iran is 300 kilometers away. For nearly a decade Somalia has been in the middle of the Gulf Arab dispute with Iran and its allies Turkey and Qatar. The UAE has been the most active Arab state in Somalia and now appears to be overtaking Iran and its allies. The Arabs supply more aid than Iran and its allies.

January 17, 2022: Britain agreed to send $10 million in emergency aid to Somalia, to support about half a million people suffering from a drought. The UK will supervise the distribution of the aid, which will only take place in government-controlled areas and without any interference (stealing) by government officials.

January 16, 2022: In Mogadishu an al Shabaab suicide bomber attacked a convoy carrying the chief government spokesman, who was slightly injured by the attack. The bomber was the only fatality.

January 15, 2022: In the southwest al Shabaab still has useful sanctuaries because neighboring Ethiopia has been preoccupied with domestic problems for the last eight years. Ethiopian peacekeepers are not going to return any time soon, even though the Ethiopian government appears to be suppressing domestic disputes and violence. The Ethiopians pulled out in 2016 when there was some political unrest in neighboring Ethiopia which led to the withdrawal of the Ethiopian peacekeepers who were keeping the peace in several areas in western Somalia. Those political and ethnic disputes escalated in 2021 and threatened to turn into another civil war between the major ethnic groups. That is still a possibility but the government forces have been able to defeat the rebels from Tigray and a few other areas but have not achieved a peace deal. The current fighting has been going on for about 14 months.

January 12, 2022: Outside Mogadishu an al Shabaab car bomb left next to a road leading to the airport exploded, killing eight and wounding many more.

January 9, 2022: In Mogadishu, the various government factions have finally agreed that the parliamentary elections would be concluded by February 25th. Disagreements over who can be a candidate and how the elections will be run were also settled. There is some doubt that the election commission can make the arrangements for operating enough polling places to allow all eligible voters to vote. So far only 24 of 275 lower house members have been elected. The election process began on November 16 2021 and was supposed to end by December 24, Disagreements over who could run and who could vote prevented the December deadline from being met. Foreign donors are withholding aid until specific goals are met in holding elections for parliament and the presidency and the new agreement is supposed to do, if the new deadline can be met.

January 7, 2022: In central Somalia (Galmadug) al Shabaab used a roadside bomb to attack an army convoy, killing several soldiers and wounding nine more. Elsewhere in Galmadug, local militia repulsed an al Shabaab attack on the town of Bahdo and then counterattacked, leaving 17 al Shabaab men dead. North of Mogadishu (Middle Shabelle) Somali army commandos killed five al Shabaab gunmen.

January 6, 2022: The government has worked out a new deal with the UN to keep the AU (African Union) peacekeeping force in Somalia longer. This requires continued financial support from the UN to extend the Somalia peacekeeping operation until the end of 2023.

In 2021 The UN and AU had agreed to greatly reduce or eliminate the current 19,400 strong peacekeeper force. This process was supposed to start by the end of 2021 and be completed by March 2022. A year ago, the United States completed moving most of its 700 troops out of Somalia to other parts of East Africa. Two months later the AU announced plans to do the same or at least greatly reduce the number of peacekeepers in Somalia. Soldiers from five AU countries (Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti) comprise the current force that costs about $200 million a year. That money is provided by the UN via contributions by the U.S. and EU (European Union). The UN approves the size and duration of the peacekeeper force annually.

The peacekeepers have been in Somalia for fifteen years at a cost of over three billion dollars. So far nearly a thousand peacekeepers have been killed and at least 4,000 wounded or injured. About a quarter of those were so badly wounded that they received disability payments while families of the dead received a lump sum in death benefits. Somalia is the most dangerous peacekeeping duty in the world.

The first AU peacekeepers arrived in March 2007 and these 8,000 troops were supposed to be gone within six months. That force did not disappear by the end of 2007 but kept growing and quickly reached 22,000, most of them soldiers plus a few thousand police, trainers and administrators. The peacekeeper force made some difference, but in the face of massive corruption in the Somali government and various Somali communities that demanded help, the operation proved far more expensive and time-consuming than expected. Peacekeepers are due to leave because the best they can do is reduce the violence and disunity, while UN donors are not willing to waste money on that when there are other disaster zones that can make better use of the limited foreign aid.

Because of the threat of peacekeeper reductions or elimination, the Somali army, which is about the same size as the peacekeeper force, has been particularly active and effective in 2021. If the peacekeepers go the army will have to face all the fighting alone and current assessments conclude that the army might not survive that for long, and instead fall apart because of casualties, desertions and a lack of new recruits. The Somalis have been saying this for nearly a decade but the AU and UN are fed up and the major donors needed to support the peacekeeper force have warned that they will reduce or eliminate contributions because of the continued corruption and ineffectiveness of the Somali government. The increased army effort against al Shabaab has apparently paid off with more surrenders of veteran al Shabaab members including prominent leaders. Somalia has been in a state of war for three decades and it has become an endurance contest with everyone ready to give up. Now Somalia has another extension for the peacekeepers, which has not yet been voted on by UN members.

 

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