Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Somalia was created on 01 July 1960 following the independence of Italian Somaliland from Italy, which then immediately united with British Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. British Somaliland had gained its independence just five days earlier on 26 June 1960. The British established a protectorate in 1886 over what became known as British Somaliland and the Italians colonized the south in 1889, which became known as Italian Somaliland.
Currently Somalia is regarded as a "failed state" with a weak, but recognised central government authority, which is known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG only controls the central region of the country.
De facto control of the north of the country resides in local authorities, of which Puntland, Maakhir and Galmudug acknowledge the authority of the TFG, and maintain their declaration of autonomy within a federated Somalia. Southwestern Somalia and Jubaland, in the south, have largely abandoned the idea of autonomy. Somaliland in the north has declared itself independent from Somalia and does not recognize the authority of the TFG. Somaliland's self-declared independence is not recognized.
In 1970 Mr Barre proclaimed a socialist state, paving the way for close relations with the USSR. In 1977, with the help of Soviet arms, Somalia attempted to seize the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, but was defeated thanks to Soviet and Cuban backing for Ethiopia, which had turned Marxist.
In 1991 President Barre was overthrown by opposing clans. But they failed to agree on a replacement and plunged the country into lawlessness and clan warfare.
In 2000 clan elders and other senior figures appointed Abdulkassim Salat Hassan president at a conference in Djibouti. A transitional government was set up, with the aim of reconciling warring militias. But as its mandate drew to a close, the administration had made little progress in uniting the country.
In 2004, after protracted talks in Kenya, the main warlords and politicians signed a deal to set up a new parliament, which later appointed a president.
Since 2006, the country has faced an insurgency led by Al Shabab, one of Africa's most fearsome militant Islamist groups. Al Shabab controls much of southern Somalia and has claimed affiliation with Al Qaeda since 2007.
For the first time in years, the Shabab is receding from several areas at once, handing the Transitional Federal Government an enormous opportunity to finally step outside the capital and begin uniting this fractious country after two decades of war. Instead, a messy, violent, clannish scramble is emerging over who will take control.
The government is too weak, corrupt, divided and disorganized to mount a claim beyond Mogadishu, the capital, leaving clan warlords, Islamist militias and proxy forces armed by foreign governments to battle it out for the regions the Shabab are losing.

Operation Provide Relief, Somalia, 2008

The big difference between Somalia and the rest of East Africa is war. Somalis have been fighting one another and have lived without a central government for 20 years. Perhaps a million people have died. One symptom of this lawlessness is piracy. Another is the rise of Islamists. What began as a fight between clan warlords became, in its second decade, a struggle between warlords and militants demanding the imposition of strict Shari'a. The more extreme Islamists then formed Al Shabab, or "the Youth." For four years, Al Shabab has battled the official Transitional Federal Government. .
Humanitarian aid often fails to reach those who need it because of conflict, high inflation, corruption, pirate attacks on sea deliveries, roadblocks and armed attacks on aid convoys.
Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work so aid agencies do not base personnel there. 80% of Somalia’s security forces; soldiers, officers and police have deserted, taking with them weapons, uniforms and vehicles.
Piracy is a multi-million dollar industry employing between 1000-1500 pirates and using over 60 small boats and mother ships. Pirates invoke legitimate Somali grievances regarding foreign exploitation of marine resources such as illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping in Somali waters, thus gaining community support. In September, 2008, the pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks and off Kenya in November they seized a Saudi supertanker carrying $100m worth of crude oil. So far they have attacked 100 ships and raked in an estimated $30m in ransoms for ships and crews.
The current Transitional Federal Government is the seventeenth attempt to create a formal state, the most recent of which brought the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia into the government in February 2009. The country is currently controlled by various political and regional factions as well as local warlords in the south and in two "republics" in the north.
The president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, seemed to be continuing with his preference for Western-educated technocrats by naming Abdiweli Mohamed Ali as prime minister. Mr. Ali’s résumé reads like the itinerary on a tour of prominent American universities: it says he holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard, a master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt and a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. In recent years, he has been teaching economics at Niagara University in upstate New York.
He is Somali-American, and his profile is similar to that of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the previous prime minister, who also is an American citizen. He was abruptly pushed out of Somalia’s transitional government this month as part of a United Nations-backed deal to resolve an internal political dispute. Mr. Ali was a deputy prime minister and had been the acting prime minister since Mr. Mohamed resigned.
The U.S. is the key international player. Since the 1993 battle known as Black Hawk Down, when 18 U.S. troops died during an intervention to support a U.N. mission in an earlier famine and the bodies of two were dragged through the streets, few Americans have set foot in Mogadishu. But Washington pays close attention. Osama bin Laden first shot to the top of the CIA's danger list not on 9/11 but on Aug. 7, 1998, when his Somalia-based unit blew up U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 230 people. When al-Shabab allied with al-Qaeda, it too found itself in American crosshairs.
The U.S. strikes when it can. When Ethiopia invaded Somalia in late 2006 to topple the Islamist government, U.S. Special Operations troops went with them and detained about 20 al-Qaeda suspects. Washington has also assassinated several Islamist leaders in Somalia, using Predator drones, cruise missiles launched from warships in the Indian Ocean and, once, a helicopter gunship. Those efforts are assisted by a CIA station in Mogadishu and U.S.-funded mercenary operations. Also, Washington bankrolls the unelected TFG, which is perhaps best understood as a U.S. attempt to create a Somali leadership whose authority does not depend solely on firepower.
In 2008 the U.S. State Department listed Al Shabab as a foreign terrorist organization, making aiding or abetting it a serious crime. Al-Shabab was stealing aid to feed itself and to sell. Theft of aid is a routine occurrence, but when Al Shabab was designated as a terrorist group, it meant that U.S. officials and foreign aid workers whose actions benefited al-Shabab, even unwittingly, would be penalized. By late 2009 the U.S. was withholding about $50 million in food aid from al-Shabab's territory in southern Somalia, saying it had no legal alternative.
Al Shabab appears to have consolidated its position as the most powerful insurgent group by driving its main rival, Hizbul Islam, out of the southern port city of Kismayo in October 2009. Since then they have openly declared their alliance with al-Qaeda and have been steadily moving forces up towards Mogadishu.
The long-standing absence of authority in the country has led to Somali pirates becoming a major threat to international shipping in the area, and has prompted Nato to take the lead in an anti-piracy operation.
By early 2010 the U.S. was in a standoff with aid workers, requiring them to refuse to pay the tolls al-Shabab demanded if they wanted U.S. funding. For its part, al-Shabab expelled the World Food Programme (WFP) in January 2010, saying food aid created dependence and that the organization was an American proxy: 60% of the WFP's food is from the U.S. Al Shabab also claimed WFP contractors were corrupt; a Western investigator tasked with probing the WFP's operations in southern Somalia tells TIME many contractors were indeed skimming anywhere from 25% to 65% of aid to sell in the market.

Refugees fleeing Somalia, 2010
Photo A Fazinna/UNHCR
From genevalunch.com

In 2011, the plight of the Somali people was exacerbated by the worst drought in six decades, which left millions of people on the verge of starvation and caused tens of thousands to flee to Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food.

Mother and child
From Disasters Emergency Committee at dec.org.uk

Mother and child
From cdn.lightgalleries.net

Mother and child 3
From timeglobalspin.files.wordpress.com

Mother and child 4
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP
From media.sacbee.com

As 13 million in the Horn of Africa seek food assistance, aid workers are facing unique political and logistical challenges in helping an estimated 3.7 Somalis facing the threat of malnutrition and starvation.
While international organizations such as UNICEF and UNHCR, the U.N.'s refugee agency, work with local governments to provide aid in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, Somalia — large tracts of which are lawless, ruled over by warlords and Islamist factions — presents difficulties for distribution and for adequately reaching those in need.
In Mogadishu alone, the World Food Programme feeds over 300,000 people each day, but many of the areas in the southern part of the country may never be reachable for aid workers as the Islamist group Al-Shabaab has largely barred humanitarian efforts for the past year and a half.
Anti-Western sentiment doesn't simply threaten aid distribution in Al-Shabaab controlled areas, but in the capital Mogadishu as well. The WFP has had to adjust its standard program of providing month-long rations in favor of daily soup kitchen-style "wet feeding centers," Challiss McDonough, the World Food Programme's senior spokesperson for east, central and southern Africa, said . "Sometimes it would be dangerous for people to take food home: someone may try to steal it, or they may even be punished for getting it." But with these feeding centers and more specialized "targeted supplementary feeding" centers (which provide nutrition supplements intended for malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers) the WFP is able to reach much of the needy.
(Famine in Somalia: How Do You Feed Four Million Hungry People? Posted by Everett Rosenfeld, a TIME contributor Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 2:00 am at gobalspin.blogs.time.com)

Somali child from southern Somalia holds his brother
Making their way to the internally displaced camps
Mogadishu, Somalia
Friday, July 08, 2011
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP
From blogs.sacbee.com

Women and children from southern Somalia
A malnourished child from southern Somalia
Shelter in a destroyed building in Mogadishu, Somalia
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP
From blogs.sacbee.com

Somali refugees lead their herds of goats home for the night
Outside Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Rebecca Blackwell / AP
From blogs.sacbee.com

The frame for a makeshift shelter
Thorny acacia tree
On the outskirts of Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Rebecca Blackwell / AP
From blogs.sacbee.com

A family from southern Somali
Making their way to the internally displaced camps
Mogadishu, Somalia
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Farah Abdi Warsameh / AP
From blogs.sacbee.com

The head of the U.N. refugee agency said Sunday, July 10, 2011 that drought-ridden Somalia is the "worst humanitarian disaster" in the world after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world's largest refugee camp.
The Kenyan camp, Dadaab, is overflowing with tens of thousands of newly arrived refugees forced into the camp by the parched landscape in the region where Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya meet. The World Food Program estimates that 10 million people already need humanitarian aid. The U.N. Children's Fund estimates that more than 2 million children are malnourished and in need of lifesaving action.
Antonio Guterres, the head of UNHCR who visited Dadaab on Sunday, appealed to the world to supply the "massive support" needed by thousands of refugees showing up at this camp every week. More than 380,000 refugees now live there.
( blogs.sacbee.com)
The fragmented country of Somalia is no stranger to conflict and the last two years of fighting has increasingly taken a toll on the lives of everyone in the country, especially the children. Somalia is quite literally a raging battle ground, as fighting in the country continues, as insurgents exchange fire with the Somali government, Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers.
Not only is Somalia a lawless land of conflict, but it is one of the worlds harshest places to live environmentally, and the countries strong culture of pastoralism (nomadic way of life) on increases the impact on a child’s chances of survival. A Somali child has less chance of living to adulthood than a child in any other part of the world. The high child mortality rates are rooted in a number of causes, mainly due to primarily preventable diseases, dehydration, malnutrition, lack of safe water, and poor sanitation. Not only is a child’s future hindered by health, but only one in five children actually receive any form of education. Many children are left the primary or sole caretakers, and with low literacy rates the future is far from hopeful for most. (UNICEF)
(Will we remember by SomaliaCassandra Clifford at children.foreignpolicyblogs.com)

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