May 11, 2013 by Velani Dibba
In 2011, the actions of a young street vendor in Tunisia initiated a movement that reverberated throughout the Arab world. Bouazizi’s startling act of self-immolation highlighted the subdued political dissatisfaction brewing within the modern Arab state. Within weeks, the leadership of Tunisia had fallen to dissident forces, and one by one other nations followed suit. Hundreds of people were left dead in what many considered political martyrdom while US policymakers struggled to react to the sudden change in this Arab state.
As the Center for Strategic and International Studies observed, “the fact that no one had even appeared to entertain the possibility of events unfolding in the way they did raises troubling questions about the assumptions made about countries and the strength of the contingency plans put in place to deal with unexpected events.”
With Africa’s increasingly potent ties to the Middle East under the southern spread of Islam, the extension of Arab Spring’s effects into its sub-continental region could threaten US influence in what has historically been a region of Westernized colonialism, a growing example of globalization, and a testimony to the effects of aid on influence. Should the events of Arab Spring cause a significant impact on Sub-Saharan Africa, the US would be faced with either setting a precedent for other Western nations, or remaining silent in what could be a massive allegiance sector for the Middle East.
May 8, 2013 by David H. Shinn
A new study estimates that famine and severe food insecurity in Somalia claimed the lives of about 258,000 people between October 2010 and April 2012, including 133,000 children under five. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) commissioned the study.
A two page summary of the study said a combination of events triggered the famine. First, the eastern Horn of Africa experienced the driest period in 60 years. Second, donors delivered a low amount of humanitarian aid in southern Somalia in 2010 and much of 2011. In many areas, conflict and insecurity impeded humanitarian aid and access. You can access the complete 87 page report titled “Mortality among populations of southern and central Somalia affected by severe food insecurity and famine during 2010-2012″ by following the link in the summary.
May 7, 2013 by Mahamoud A. Jimale
Somalis do not need to focus on topics that are fundamentally weakening their society. Somalis are at a crossroads of putting together a society that has been in disarray for more than two decades; mired by a long civil war and social fragmentation prompted by tribalism.
Tribalism is ugly and was rejected by the ancient Greeks and developed societies. The failure to recognize the adverse consequences of tribalism in Somalia especially in the areas of social and economic development was hindered by political opportunists who pushed for political and economic spoils by appealing to false nationalism.
May 2, 2013 by William Thomson
One of the most pressing issues currently facing Afghanistan is the difficult economic transition set to occur at the end of 2014. Although security is the concern that grabs headlines, it’s the economy, and the ability of the Afghan government to afford itself, that will determine the long-term success of the Afghan state. Sadly, it is highly unlikely that the Afghan government will be able to domestically source revenue to cover the military and security expenses it faces, let alone finance development and the social safety net, thus far provided largely by NGOs and donors nations, that the population has come to expect.
Although significant funding has been committed by donor nations it falls well short of the $10 billion a year through 2025 that President Hamid Karzai asked for. The $10 billion request represents significant figure for foreign donors, between 61% and 78% of GDP depending on which GDP estimates are used. The $4 billion committed by the international community at the 2012 Tokyo Donors Conference is not even a sure thing, as donor fatigue and historic failures to live up to development aid commitments are likely. This means, in the best-case scenario, that the government of Afghanistan would face a budget shortfall of at least $6 billion a year starting in 2014, but odds are it will be far greater.
May 2, 2013 by John Price
The world’s most famous prehistoric art is in caverns in Europe, but the most recently discovered ancient cave paintings are in a country no other nation recognizes in a region of Africa associated mostly with terrorism, pirates and famine. The Laas Geel cave paintings in Somaliland in the Horn of Africa are not as old or famous as the art in France’s Lascaux or Spain’s Altamira caves, but the quality is just as good, archaeologists say.
Unlike the European caves, however, Laas Geel has no chance of international protection as a site on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of the region’s complicated diplomatic situation. Somaliland declared its independence more than 20 years ago and has been building a democracy ever since. But the world still recognizes the region as part of Somalia, which has spent the past two decades in chaos without a functioning government.
April 29, 2013 by David H. Shinn
Laura Hammond, School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, published an article titled “Somalia Rising: Things Are Starting to Change for the World’s Longest Failed State” in volume 7, issue 1 (2013) of the Journal of Eastern African Studies.
The article examines some of the challenges facing the new Somali government and assesses the dynamics which allowed the emergence of relative newcomers into important roles, especially President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. She wonders if the recent optimism is justified and will it be sustained?
April 27, 2013 by David H. Shinn
American jihadi Omar Hammami, who left Daphne, Alabama, years ago and eventually joined al-Shabaab said on 26 April 2013 that he was the subject of an assassination attempt at a tea shop somewhere in Somalia after falling out with al-Shabaab. Associated Press journalist Jason Straziuso reported the story in an article titled “American Jihadi in Somalia Tweets on Kill Attempt.”
April 26, 2013 by David H. Shinn
The International Peace Institute (IPI) published a paper in April 2013 titled “Peace Operations, the African Union and the United Nations: Toward More Effective Partnerships.” The authors are Arthur Boutellis, research fellow at IPI, and Paul D. Williams, associate professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
The paper analyzes the evolution of collaboration between the UN and AU on peace operations and asks how they can cooperate more effectively. It looks at the AU mission in Somalia as a case study that exemplifies some of the positive and negative aspects of the UN-AU relationship. The paper then summarizes some of the challenges that will need to be overcome if the two organizations are to optimize their collaboration and deploy legitimate and effective peace operations. It concludes by offering some practical recommendations for enhancing UN-AU relations.
April 18, 2013 by John Price
Nearly taken for granted by the West, education is a noble struggle in Somalia, requiring generous contributions from citizens and foreign donors to help ensure a future of stability and prosperity for Somali children.
Devastated by drought, famine and conflict in recent years, Somalia offers an arid, hardscrabble existence in which much of the populace subsists on just $1 per day. It has one of the lowest primary-school enrollment rates in Africa, and education is available to less than 20 percent of the country’s children. Only one-third of the students are girls.
But “with basic reading skills, a child has the opportunity to be lifted out of poverty,” says Hodan Guled, founder of the nonprofit Somali and American Fund for Education (SAFE).
April 16, 2013 by David H. Shinn
The World Bank has just published a massive study titled “The Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat, Rebuilding a Nation.” The study notes there has been a sharp decrease in the number of Somali attempted and successful pirate attacks. It attributes this decrease to heavily-armed naval patrols and better security on-board commercial shipping. It emphasizes, however, that a sustained solution to ending piracy will only come with the recreation of a viable Somali state that can deliver essential services throughout the entire country to reduce poverty and create opportunity.
The study estimates that piracy costs the global economy about $18 billion annually in increased trade costs–an amount that dwarfs the estimated $53 million annual ransom paid since 2005. Piracy has significantly harmed tourism and exports of fish products from the region.
The fact that pirates can anchor their hijacked vessels along the Somali shoreline reflects their ability to win support from government officials, business people, clan elders, militias, and local communities. The pirate bosses split an estimated 70 to 86 percent of piracy proceeds with these stakeholders, without whose support anchoring hijacked ships would not be possible.
On-shore interventions such as local economic development or law enforcement will help discourage young Somalis from becoming pirates by increasing the attractiveness of alternative jobs or by promising long prison terms in the case of capture. At the same time, pirate bosses may simply offer higher pay to poor, unemployed Somali young men to take the risk of capture or death at sea.
April 11, 2013 by John Price
President Obama’s plan to renew sanctions against Somalia to weaken Islamist militants would wrack the war-torn country’s economy just as an elected government is restoring stability for the first time in 22 years and as thousands of refugees are returning to their homeland. The sanctions, imposed in 2010, are scheduled to be lifted Friday. They prohibit charcoal exports a key source of funding for al-Shabab terrorists, whose grip on parts of Somalia has been loosened by U.N.-backed African Union forces.
Charcoal exports are also a basic economic resource that affects thousands of Somali villagers. In announcing to Congress his intention to extend sanctions for one year, Mr. Obama last week noted that his administration in January formally recognized Somalia’s new government, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The U.S. action allows the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Somalia, as well as civilian and defensive military aid.
March 13, 2013 by Mohamud Uluso
Resolution 2093 adopted by the UN Security Council on March 6, 2013 endorses a long overdue partnership mission between the Federal Government of Somalia and the international community in the pursuit of peace and state-building. It is somewhat more significant than previous resolutions for a number of reasons. For one, it ends more than two decades of avoidance on the part of the international community in addressing the problem of statelessness of Somalia in comparison to other African failed states.
It reaffirms the commitment of the US government towards stability and peace in Somalia. It merges the conflicting strategies pursued by the individual or group members of the international community for their self-interests while moving supervision of Somalia’s peace-building agenda from the regional level to the global through the United Nations. When one looks closely at the Resolution, it addresses five key issues: the African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM), the human rights and protection of civilians, the lifting of an arms embargo imposed on Somalia from 1992, the role of the United Nations in Somalia, and the violations of the ban on the charcoal export.
While the Resolution is ambitious in scope and provides concrete endorsement on the part of the international community in stabilizing the country, some of the principal challenges may actually come from the international community itself. The Federal Government must also a take a more active role and hold itself accountable if Somalia is to become successful in state-building.
February 28, 2013 by Thomas Hauschildt
Known for topping the list of failed states, Somalia seems to be rising from the ashes of war and all its connotations. Its capital Mogadishu, infamously known for Black Hawk Down and often described as one of the most dangerous cities on earth, has seen a revival since August 2011 when AMISOM ousted Al-Shabaab fighters from the city after four years of intense battle. Just a few days ago, AMISOM reported to have secured further cities in Middle and Lower Shabelle in the surrounding region of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab announced a temporal tactical withdrawal – they have not yet returned.
A parliament has been elected, a constitution has been written, and refugees and UN workers return to Mogadishu. Turkey among some other states opened an embassy and Turkish Airlines, as the first European Airline in twenty years to do so, added the city to the list of its destinations. Further, and to the delight of the international community, piracy decreases. Construction material is being shipped into Mogadishu’s port on an increasing level and property prices rise. Art and sport has returned and restaurants can be found on the beach-side. A multitude of good news not heard for a long time form this corner of the planet.
February 11, 2013 by Abukar Sanei
Due to the civil war and chaotic conditions in Somalia over the last two decades, the UN imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in order to mitigate the conflict. Somalis need to appreciate the reasons for the embargo and while progress has been made in security wide swaths of the country more needs to be done.
The warlords who are vying for power have been the main source of the conflict. And as a result, the embargo, though it was intentionally violated by some frontier countries in the past, was intact in Somalia. Now is the time to consider removing the two decades old UN arms embargo on Somalia for a variety of reasons.
Free from Warlords
If the main reason for the arms embargo in Somalia was to minimize the misuse of weapons and civilian casualties by the hands of warlords, Somalia is now free from warlords. Warlords cannot claim popularity in the new political dynamics of Somalia as their power was severely diminished in 2006 by what was then known as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).
February 6, 2013 by Liban Ahmad
Former Somali prime minister, Omar Arteh Qalib, had a habit of saying “Somalis will sort out their differences under a tree”, in reference to the traditional shir (meeting) to which disputes are referred for adjudication by elders of two clans.
When he made the now-famous “under the tree” speech Somalia had not fully slipped into anarchy. What is striking about Omar Arteh Qalib’s prescription for conflict resolution is that he viewed the war to have been not between government loyalists and armed opposition groups but among clans. He instructed remnants of Somalia army to surrender to armed opposition groups— in the north to the Somali National Movement; in the south to United Somali Congress, Somali Salvation Democratic Front and Somali Patriotic Movement.
Omar Arteh was a member of The Reconciliation Committee (Guddiga Suluxa) appointed by the military dictatorship before it has been overthrown by the opposition, and foresaw the impending power struggle between United Somali Congress’s Rome and Ethiopia wings as well as possible armed opposition response to United Somali Congress’s unilateral decision to form a government in Mogadishu without consultation with other armed opposition groups.