Somalia: Stealing From Dead Peacekeepers



April 18, 2023: Somali soldiers and AU peacekeeper operations in 2022 drove al Shabaab out of a third of the territory the terror group occupied. This included 70 towns and villages. Other losses included killing over 3,000 al Shabaab gunmen and wounding nearly 4,000. In response, more al Shabaab forces moved towards the Kenya border or into Kenya itself. The Kenyan security forces responded but there were still 77 al Shabaab attacks in northern Kenya inflicting 116 deaths among Kenyan civilian and security personnel. That’s a 50 percent increase over 2021 and the fifth year in a row that al Shabaab violence has increased in Kenya, most of it un Mandera county and three other counties in northeast Kenya.

Part of this problem is that for years, thousands of visibly starving Somalis have been allowed to enter the country and take shelter (and regular meals) in the massive Dadaab refugee camp. Kenya has long maintained that the camps have become a menace to Kenyans and there is much popular support in Kenya for closure. Dadaab became the largest refugee camp in the world since it was established in 1991. At its peak it contained over 400,000 people but that had declined to about 330,000 in 2016 and 200,000 now. The other camp, Kakuma, holds over 160,000. An additional 24,000 Somalis fled across the border into Kenya during 2022 and this caused two smaller satellite camps to be reopened. In addition, there are as many as 100,000 or more unregistered Somali refugees. The first camp for exiled Somalis was built outside the town of Dadaab. The Kenyans living near the camp are 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. Kenya is mostly concerned about Dadaab being used as a base for Islamic terrorists who carry out attacks in Kenya and recruit young men from Dadaab for those attacks. Too often, Kenyan police point out Islamic terror attack investigations come back to Dadaab or Kakuma. Many of the Somalis who said they were returning to Somalia quietly stayed in Kenya, finding refuge in ethnic Somali communities on the Kenyan side of the Somalia border.

The Dadaab camp is near Mandera county, which is on the Somali border and long the scene of Somali violence. Counter-terror efforts have largely kept Somali al Shabaab terrorists out of the capital (Nairobi), which is a thousand kilometers from Mandera, and that is what national politicians focus on. There have been two al Shabaab attacks in Nairobi since 2013. The latest one was in 2019. Politicians have priorities and problems get more attention the closer they are.

Al Shabaab has long sought to drive all non-Moslems out of northeastern Kenya because a lot of ethnic Somalis and Moslems live there. Over 80 percent of Kenyans are Christian and only twelve percent Moslem, most of them ethnic Somalis. Despite the Kenyan ban on new arrivals at the UN operated camps, over 80,000 visibly hungry Somalis (most of them women and children) have been accepted in the last few months. Most come from areas in southern Somalia that are under al Shabaab control and not receiving much, if any foreign food aid.

The UN has been unsuccessful in obtaining needed food aid for Somalia. Foreign aid donors have convinced Somalis that the “send the aid to where it will do the most good” approach was definitely being applied to Somalia. That policy put Somalia at a disadvantage because much, if not most of its aid was stolen and never reached those who needed it. If the new government can demonstrate an ability to change the wicked ways of its predecessors, the aid will resume and increase. In 2022, the drought was blamed for at least 43,000 deaths.

Somalia and other nations in the region need this because the region is suffering from one of its periodic droughts, and a major one at that. In the past these major droughts would cause visible declines in the population. After World War II (1939-45) foreign aid by a growing number of countries and NGOs (Non-government Organizations) made it possible to prevent these starvation deaths, at least in countries that could distribute the aid effectively. Somali was one of the nations that had trouble doing that, mainly because Somalia was still a deeply divided region because of the persistence of many powerful clans that looked after their own even if it meant other Somalis suffered. The clan loyalties are still a problem and a major factor in delaying fair elections of a national parliament.

April 17, 2023: AU (African Union) officials revealed that peacekeeper deaths in Somalia were much higher (3,500) than previously made public and that there has been some problems in getting family benefits ($50,000) to the families of peacekeepers killed in Somalia over the last sixteen years. So far the EU has paid out nearly $200 million in death benefits and disabling injuries.

The peacekeeper force costs about $200 million a year. That 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 since 2007 at a cost of over three billion dollars. So far about 3,500 peacekeepers have been killed and at least as many permanently disabled from their wounds. The AU pays for medical care, including long term care for some of the wounded. The bodies of peacekeepers killed in Somalia are usually buried there. The AU pays for this and is supposed to send to families of the dead a lump sum in death benefits. The AU pays the death benefits to the country that supplied the peacekeeper, not directly to the family. Some local officials steal, or try to steal the death benefits. There are similar problems with peacekeeper payrolls and disability payments. This sort of corruption is found everywhere but is worst in Africa and Somalia is rated as the most corrupt nation on the planet. For years the AU played down the high casualty rates in Somalia, reporting less then a third of the actual deaths. The growing number of corruption scandals involving missing death benefits and other compensation led to the actual loss statistics being revealed. There are sometimes problems with soldiers not being paid during peacetime in their home countries. Too much of this sometimes sparks a rebellion or insurrection over missing pay and other grievances. Despite this there was never a problem obtaining peacekeepers for duty in Somalia, paid for by the AU (and a long list of African and Western donors).

Somalia is the most dangerous peacekeeping duty in the world. About 300,000 men served as peacekeepers in Somalia, receiving an average annual compensation of $9,100 each. Officers, NCOs and privates all receive different amounts and peacekeeping duty pays better than their regular pay when back home. In most countries, peacekeeping duty is relatively safe. This was not the case in Somalia, where about three percent of peacekeepers were killed or badly (disabled) wounded.

The first AU peacekeepers (from Uganda) 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. Uganda and Burundi supplied most of them with most of the rest coming from Kenya and Ethiopia. The peacekeeper force made a 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.

April 3, 2023: In Mogadishu, a peacekeeper armored vehicle on patrol hit a landmine, killing three civilian bystanders and wounding many others. Al Shabaab was believed responsible for this.

March 27, 2023: In the northeast (Somaliland) fighting between rival Islamic terror groups left 43 al Shabaab and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members dead.

March 26, 2023: In the south (Middle Shabelle region) al Shabaab attacked an army base but were repulsed with heavy losses. The al Shabaab force retreated, taking their dead and wounded with them.

March 22, 2023: In the north (Somaliland) a long simmering territorial dispute has led to weeks of fighting between Somaliland forces and local militias. Since February this fighting has left nearly a hundred dead and over 400 wounded. This has driven several hundred thousand civilians to cross into Ethiopia to escape the violence. This fighting was a side effect of disputes between Puntland and Somaliland. The Sool area had been quiet since mid-2108, when there was renewed violence lasting about a week that left fifty dead. Since the 1990s these two statelets that comprise northern Somalia; Puntland and Somaliland, have been squabbling, and sometimes shooting, over possession of the Sool region that lies astride their border. Both sides claim it, and both are willing to fight for it. The dispute has been going on since Puntland was formed in 1998. Back then Puntland declared they controlled the Sool because the inhabitants belonged to a Puntland tribe. Somaliland based their claim on borders drawn by the colonial governments of Italy and Britain a century ago. Years of negotiations did not achieve much. Both statelets sent additional troops to the border in anticipation of a fight for Sool. The 2018 Sool violence got started after several months of escalating demonstrations and threats. This has been the case since the last outbreak of violence in mid-2014. Before that there was brief fighting in early 2012. There was some Sool tension in 2009 and fighting in early 2008. This was a continuation of a confrontation that started in late 2007. The first real threats of violence were in 2003 and ever since the best the two statelets could do was keep things quiet. A resolution of the Sool dispute continues to be out of reach.

March 8, 2023: Somalia has massive problems with corruption, which explains why the latest annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index showed that Somalia is the most corrupt nation in the world. Somalia continued to be as corrupt as it has been during the last decade, with a corruption score of 12, which is why Somalia is stuck at the bottom of the list. Transparency International measures corruption on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The nations with the lowest scores are currently Yemen (score of 17). Syria (13), South Sudan (13) and Somalia (12). The least corrupt nation is currently Denmark, with a CPI of 90, followed by Finland and New Zealand, each with 87.

While the Middle East has a lot of corruption, there are exceptions. In the Persian Gulf the UAE (United Arab Emirates) is the least corrupt nation in the region, followed by Israel. Both Somalia and UAE’s corruption score have not changed much since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution when it was 8 for Somalia and 68 for the UAE. The UAE achieved the most favorable corruption score in the region because it has long depended on foreign trade to survive and to make money in that business you must be known as an honest trading partner. The UAE is also different in that it is a federation of formerly independent “emirates” that realized the wisdom of joining forces. Laws and customs vary somewhat among the emirates and some are more gangster than others. Overall, the UAE is a place where foreigners feel comfortable doing business. The UAE has also partnered with Turkey to provide foreign aid to Somalia. This has proved very difficult to carry out and Somalia is not a place most foreigners want to do business in. Somalia is also a federation of seven (including separatist Somaliland and Puntland in the far north) clan-dominated regions that have never achieved the degree of unity and prosperity of the UAE.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close