Somalia: The Pros And Cons Of Recklessness

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August 18, 2015:   In the north Puntland has about 3,000 of its troops operating in the mountainous Galgala district (50 kilometers south of the Gulf of Aden) to deal with the growing number of al Shabaab gunmen who are fleeing Somalia. This a continuation of an operation that began in late 2014 and the Islamic terrorists appear to be contained but not gone. In order to eliminate the al Shabaab presence near the Somalia border Puntland wants some of the military aid going to the Somali armed forces. While this seems fair and a good use of military aid it is stalled because of continuing negotiations to get Puntland and Somaliland to rejoin Somalia as federal states. In theory this is a good idea but the people of the north feel Somali is still too corrupt and poorly governed for that. Eventually but not yet. All is not perfect in the north. Since the 1990s the two statelets that comprise northern Somalia (Puntland and Somaliland) have been having some internal problems but much less so than in Somalia. Northern Somalia has been better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990 to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south, has been in perpetual chaos since 1990 and the new government is still a work-in-progress. The two statelets also have a festering border dispute that periodically flares into armed clashes. What helps keep the peace up there is the sorry state of the Somalia government down south.

Puntland has had al Shabaab groups camping out near the southern border for several years. One al Shabaab group moved north to the Gulf of Aden but they never became a major security problem. The number of al Shabaab men in Puntland increased to several hundred during 2014 as more of the Islamic terrorists fled the continuing government offensive in the south. In late 2014 Puntland decided to forget about trying to tolerate the al Shabaab presence and went on the offensive. The al Shabaab men in Puntland have few resources and were vulnerable. A growing number of them are returning south and surrendering to the government some are determined to remain free and threatening. More al Shabaab men kept fleeing into Puntland. This continued into 2015 and it is expensive to deal with this al Shabaab violence, thus the call for some foreign aid.

American UAVs continue operating out of Djibouti and working with Kenyan manned reconnaissance aircraft to scour southern Somalia, especially the area near the Kenyan border, for al Shabaab activity. The Kenyans are bombing anything they suspect is al Shabaab even if it often turns out not to be. The Kenyans don’t care about dead Somali civilians and would be content to clear all Somalis from both sides of the border. That may not be official policy but that is what a growing number of Kenyans are thinking. The U.S. fires missiles from UAVs a few times a month, although July was particularly active with six such attacks. The Americans rarely publicize these UAV attacks, nor does al Shabaab. Apparently these attacks have been successful at finding and killing al Shabaab men without causing many civilian casualties. Reporters and foreign aid workers will report civilian complaints of casualties from air attacks and there have been very few such reports about UAV attacks, but many that basically said that missiles from above killed the Islamic terrorists and good riddance. There are few parts of the south that aid workers or journalists cannot reach, although some areas are more dangerous than others. The aid is welcome and the recipients like to discuss their ordeal under al Shabaab threat.

So far this year some 3,000 Somalis have returned from Kenya as part of a Kenyan program to persuade Somali refugees to voluntarily return home. Kenya is offering inducements it hopes will persuade at least 100,000 to go back by the end of 2015. That is not going to happen. This is a big step back from the original plan to expel all (over 600,000) legal and illegal Somali refugees in the country. The expulsion threat came in response to ever more horrendous al Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, including an April 2nd massacre of 148 Christian students at a university campus. The UN promised to help with refugee camp security and moving more of the refugees back to Somalia but strongly opposed expulsion. In Somalia politicians and al Shabaab agree that Kenya must stop mistreating Somalis in Kenya and this attitude is used by al Shabaab for recruiting. The Kenyan government recognizes this problem and talks about curbing violence against Somalis in Kenya but controlling popular hatred of and hostility towards Somalis is difficult. This is particularly true because of the recent al Shabaab terror attacks in Kenya and the centuries of Somalis raiding into Kenya. It’s an old problem that does not lend itself to quick or easy solutions. Meanwhile the UN has to cut food supplies (30 percent to 1,520 calories a day) to all the refugees in Kenya (mostly Somali but some from Sudan) because not enough donors could be found. There is only so much donor money out there and many donors seek areas where they believe their money will do the most good. Long term refugees (as with the Somalis in Kenya) are not seen as the best use of donor funds. Currently the UN spends about $115 million a year to feed the refugees in northern Kenya. Nearly half that money comes from the United States. Refugee officials continue having problems maintaining security in the Somali refugee camps and a growing number of foreign aid organizations are withdrawing from some camps because of the chronic violence.

August 17, 2015: In Mogadishu a tip from concerned neighbors led police to an al Shabaab safe house, where eleven Islamic terrorists were arrested and a large supply of weapons and ammo was seized.

August 15, 2015: In the south, just across the border some fifty al Shabaab drove into a Kenyan village at dawn and spent two hours telling the people al Shabaab would not harm them as long as they had nothing to do with the police. Most people in this area (northeastern Kenyan coast) are Moslem but mixed (black Africa, Somali and Arab) ethnically. Since 2012 al Shabaab has carried out several bloody raids in this area but this incident, which the locals reported to police, indicates that al Shabaab is trying to develop a base of support.

August 12, 2015: China has donated more military equipment to Uganda for peacekeeping operations in Somalia. This donation, worth over $5 million, included three 50 ton capacity cranes, a dozen armored personnel carriers, four 10,000 liter (2,600 gallon) water tank trucks and 16 smaller capacity water trailers. Equipment like this is particularly useful because one of the major, yet least publicized, problems with African peacekeepers is logistics. Donations like this make supplying the peacekeepers easier.

August 11, 2015: It has been a year since a case of polio was reported in Africa. That one was in Nigeria but Somalia was not far behind. If there are no reported polio cases for two more years Africa will be declared free of polio. Polio is a viral disease that can only exist in a human host and if no humans have it the virus dies out in a population. Smallpox was eliminated in the 1970s using this approach but polio has been more difficult to eradicate because a growing number of Moslem clerics came to believe that the vaccination program was actually a Western plot to poison Moslems (despite the fact that many of those being vaccinated were not Moslem).

August 10, 2015: In central Somalia (Hiran) al Shabaab attacked a prison in Baladwayne and were repulsed with at least one of the attackers killed. Peacekeepers had recently driven al Shabaab men out of several towns in the area and while doing that had captured some of the Islamic terrorists and imprisoned them in the Baladwayne prison.

August 4, 2015: In the southeast (lower Shabelle region) peacekeepers and Somali soldiers raided three villages and destroyed al Shabaab hideouts. The locations were provided by locals in other villages. Elsewhere in the area peacekeepers have still not been able to push al Shabaab out of the town of Awdheegle, which al Shabaab seized in early July. The peacekeepers and Somali soldiers cannot afford to be as reckless (and suffer the resulting heavy casualties) as the Islamic terrorists and as a result there are not enough troops in the south to get everything done right away.

July 31, 2015: Peacekeepers raided a location 109 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu (the port town of Merka) seeking al Shabaab men responsible for recent ambushes of army and peacekeeper convoys. This was one of several recent raids in Merka and this one left eleven dead. Some locals are accusing the peacekeepers of misbehavior and calling for an investigations. The peacekeepers say this is a common Somali, and al Shabaab, tactics. 

 

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