Monday, 29 December 2008

About Somalia - A Third Attempt

Somalia is perhaps the poorest country in the world. Over the past two entries I have tried to establish well-known measurements of a country's success, this is going to be a new one: Somalia has been ranked highest (or, since the Index lists backwards, lowest) on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index for the past five years. On the Failed State Index, published by The Fund for Peace and the Foreign Policy magazine, the country has skipped two places in the past year and left behind Iraq and Sudan in 2008, now leading the list. The situation is so bad that it has missed from the latest HDI. Its Internet TLD .so is currently non-operational because there is no recognized central government. As of 2004, only 89 000 of the estimated 9,6 million citizens had access to internet.
Somalia is located at the Horn of Africa, bordered by Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia. It gained independence from Great Britain and Italy in 1960. In 1969, the democratically elected President was assassinated in a coup d´etat. What followed was a military government that, in its first years, helped to raise literacy, but also started awar with Ehtiopia (the "Ogaden War", about a region in Somalia occupied by Ethiopia. Somalia was first backed by the Russians and Egypt who later turned their support to Ethiopia, leading to the US backing Somalia against an emerging Marxist Ethiopia). This conflict later lead to the outbreak of the Somali Civil War, that lead to the ousting of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. Later that year, a region of Somalia declared independence (the "Republic of Somaliland" is not recognized internationally but has a multi-party democracy and an independent government. The capital city is Hargeisa). In 1992, The UN decided on a humanitarian relief operation to Somalia (UNOSOM 1, later UNOSOM 2 which was involved in the Battle of Mogadishu as portrayed in "Black Hawk Down", which led to the death of several Pakistani and US troops.) The UN employment ended in 1995 because of the rising number of casualties. The Civil War continued as several different regions became autonomous states and the Central government failed to regain control. Some of the currently employed parties in the conflict are the Transitional Federal Government, formed in 2004 in Kenya and backed by the UN, the US and Ethiopia and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, a group of mostly secular warlords opposing the Islamic Courts Union which managed to take over Mogadishu in 2006 (and were later droven out by Ethiopian Troops in support of the ARPCT). Since 2007, the ICU (backed by Eritrea) has fought a guerilla war against both the ARPCT and neighbouring Ethiopia. Currently, the African Union has authorized the deployment of several thousands of peace-keeping troops.

Die Zeit: Schleichender Kriegsbeginn, 8. Dezember 2006
Die Zeit: Rückkehr der Warlords, 8. Juli 2008

Today, the President of the Transitional Federal Government, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, stepped back, claiming that lack of international support for his country made governing it impossible - while tensions broke out between different sections of the Radical Islamist forces in Somalia, threatening a new level of conflict. There is no consencus within the UN to send troops to Somalia, although the US government tries to lobby for it.
"The group issued a statement calling on its followers to “prepare themselves for jihad against these heretic groups,” referring to some of the other, more hard-line Islamist factions, and “to restore stability and harmony in Somalia and achieve a genuine government of national unity.”
Many Somalia analysts had been predicting that this would happen: that as Somalia’s transitional government headed toward collapse — it now controls just a few city blocks in a country almost as big as Texas — the Islamist insurgents of varying agendas would begin to slug it out themselves. This weekend’s violence is a strong sign that the infighting is under way."

NY Times: Islamist Militants in Somalia Begin to Fight One Another, December 28, 2008
NY Times: Somalia’s President Resigns, December 29, 2008
BBC News: Somalia's president quits office, December 29, 2008
NY Times: U.N. Force for Somalia Unlikely, December 17, 2008

Somalia as a country has only been present in Western news because of the off-shore pirating threatening international trade in the waters between Somalia and Yemen. While countries are unwilling to employ troops in Somalia, several (among them China, Germany, Russia, France and Pakistan) have sent their troops to fight piracy around Somalia. This is in accordance with a Security Resolution adopted in October 2008. The European Union decided "Operation Atalanta" in November 2008 - the mission is to protect humanitarian transports and trade ships. The core of Somali pirates consists of former fishermen (for their skill and knowledge), soldiers and technical experts. The Wikipedia-article on the topic argues that piracy has positive effects on local towns along the shore, among other things providing the resources to re-build infrastructure otherwise not available. Here is a very interesting article arguing that some of the ships attacked by pirates actually illegally fished in Somali waters or disposed waste there, with nobody to stop them since there is no central government (but note that the source is a Somali one).
"Since 2000, commercial ships have illegally fished in Somali waters and dumped nuclear waste materials and urban refuse from EU countries (in particular European based Mafiosi companies that have a long history of illegal dumping of radioactive and waste materials) with impunity. By some accounts, Somalia’s rare corral ecosystem has been damaged beyond repair, thus risking the loss of fish and marine resources for good. This is a fact that both Western countries, their one-track minded journalists and the United Nations Organization are well aware of, yet chose to remain silent and oblivious to the complaints registered by Somalis
Piracy is not that uncommon in societies where the national state is either weak or non-existent. For example, during the revolutionary war of America, George Washington and the founding fathers strategically commissioned pirates to protect the nation’s waters. "

WardheerNews, December 7, 2008

NY Times: Pirates Outmaneuver Warships Off Somalia, December 15, 2008
Die Zeit: Deutsches Kriegsschiff schlägt Piraten in die Flucht, 25. Dezember 2007


? said...

Africa's problem is that they are tied to laws and religions that may be restraining. Thanks for the metrics and one can see why nothing good will ever see the light of the day in this country. This country needs to take many steps back. I really have learnt something from this post.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

Well, the common theory ist that Africa's problem is artificially created borders that don't correspond with ethnic or religious groups that might have formed countries if they were left to themselves and not brutally colonized by outside forces. While I agree that there seems to be a lack of willingness and responsibility on the side of most countries' governments, I think that the West's involvement in the current situation should not be forgotten. My point in writing about those countries, apart from learning for myself about a subject matter I have little to no knowledge about, is to show both how the crisis affects countries outside the usual focus and how, potentially, the citizens of the countries might come up with creative solutions to stay alive.

I hope you made it savely to the new year!!!

? said...

Thanks for the posts. There is a lot to learn from you.
Happy new year
With love