Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Somalia has a population of
about 11 million (including over half a million refugees in neighboring
countries) but over 70 percent of those Somalis are not under the
control of the new central government.
The two statelets that comprise
northern Somalia broke away from Somalia in the 1990s to form Puntland
(2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other half of the
Somali population is in the south where the southernmost portion,
containing 1.5 million people, is trying to establish itself as the
independent statelet of Jubaland. Somaliland is suffering from
increasing clan warfare while Puntland has been split between those who
back (and profit from) the pirates, and those that don't. The pirates
have become much weaker in the last year because the international
pirate patrol has prevented most attempts to capture ships. Without the
large ransoms, most pirate gangs have disbanded. While Somaliland has
signed a deal for a foreign firm to explore for oil off the coast, all
these independent minded parts of Somalia are interested in forming some
kind of federation.
The Somali government has been negotiating with Puntland,
Somaliland and the clans of Jubaland to establish a federal form of
government where the regions would have a lot of autonomy. In return the
central government would provide muscle to help control bandits and
warlords throughout the country. The central government also controls
most of the foreign aid coming in. All this is not that compelling for
many clan leaders, who are accustomed to having no government at all
ordering them around. For nearly all the last few thousand years the
clans answered to no one except for the occasional empire builder.
European colonial powers arrived in the 19th century and
established central government that didn’t really take; nor did similar
efforts by previous conquerors. Once all the colonial powers were gone
by 1960, the newly established Somali government began to come apart, a
process that was complete by 1991 and no one has been able to get all
the clans to submit to a new central government since. To make matters
worse most of the educated Somalis fled in the 1990s and few have come
back. Meanwhile public education has been absent in most of Somalia for
two decades and the literacy rate is under 40 percent (and under 30
percent for women). Public health has been largely missing for two
decades and life expectancy is about 52 years. Outside of Somaliland and
Puntland it’s under 50 years.
Getting foreign aid for Somalia is difficult, mainly because
of the corruption and banditry. It is very dangerous for foreigners to
supervise aid efforts inside Somalia and local hires are often corrupt
or very vulnerable to threats by warlords, corrupt clan leaders or
government officials. Because of this many donor nations will not
provide cash or food for Somalia because they believe most of it will be
stolen. Aid groups counter with sad tales of massive deaths from
starvation and lack of medical care. But the donor nations have to cope
with media stories of the huge amounts of aid that never reaches the
needy once it enters Somalia. Until there is more law and order inside
Somalia, getting more aid will be a tough sell.
There is a growing consensus among clan leaders that some kind
of government, as a way of maintaining law and order and getting
economic growth going, is essential. This is a novel concept in Somalia
and obtaining the needed cooperation and compromises has not been easy.
Ancient traditions die hard in this part of the world. Foreign aid donor
nations are willing to help build security forces and a judicial
system, but only if the Somali leaders make an effort.
The new government has made a deal to restore international
mail service, which has been absent for 22 years. A more ambitious
effort will try to restore local mail service, which has also been gone
for over twenty years. In the large cities public health services,
especially vaccination of children, is being restored. Out in the
countryside al Shabaab and some Islamic conservative clan leaders still
oppose vaccinations. For decades many Islamic clerics have preached
against vaccinations, and many other aspects of Western technology (like
music and video entertainment) as sinful. Young parents often figure
out that the vaccination does work, but the penalty for opposing the
anti-vaccination groups is often death.
Low level fighting, mostly against al Shabaab remnants,
continues in central Somalia. So far this year 100-150 people a month
are dying because of this, most of them Islamic terrorists or the
victims of terrorist violence. Al Shabaab is on the run but they are not
yet done. As Islamic terrorist violence and pirate activity dwindle so
does international media attention to what goes on in Somalia.
April 25, 2013: Islamic terrorists killed another senior
prosecutor and al Shabaab announced that it would continue its attacks
on the newly rebuilt judicial system. The goal is to make it impossible
to prosecute Islamic terrorists inside Somalia.
Britain reopened its embassy in Mogadishu. British diplomats were withdrawn in 1991 and have been gone ever since.
April 24, 2013: The newly formed Puntland Maritime Police made
its first major enforcement effort against poachers by arresting 78
Iranian fishermen (and seizing their five ships). Also arrested were
twelve local Somalis the Iranians hired as security. The Maritime Police
were financed by foreign aid and trained by a South African security
April 21, 2013: Al Shabaab gunmen killed another journalist in
Mogadishu, the fourth this year. The Islamic terrorists and some
warlords regularly threaten any journalists who criticize them,
especially by name. Somalis who can afford it hire bodyguards to protect
them from these death squads but most Somalis, even those with jobs,
cannot afford this degree of protection.
April 19, 2013: The Somali government has told clan leaders
meeting in Kismayo to organize the new statelet of Jubaland that the
government will not recognize their independence as it does Somaliland
and Puntland. Two years ago Kenya told local clan leaders that, in
return for their cooperation in chasing al Shabaab out of the area,
Kenya would support the formation of Jubaland. Kenyan troops
subsequently joined the UN recognized Somali peacekeeping force and is
now technically in opposition to any independence for Jubaland. But the
local clan leaders are going ahead with it anyway.
April 18, 2013: In northern Kenya, near the Somali border, a
lone gunman, believed to be an al Shabaab man, entered a hotel and
killed nine people. Local police believe this was retaliation for
increasingly effective police and army operations against al Shabaab
groups hiding out in northern Kenya.
In Mogadishu an al Shabaab man apparently died when a roadside bomb he was burying went off accidentally.