Somalia: Itchy Sticky Trigger Fingers


May 27, 2010: The shipping industry is calling for a blockade of the Somali coast, to deal with the piracy problem. For over a year, the UN has been under pressure to authorize a naval blockade of Somalia. That has not happened. A blockade would be difficult and expensive to carry out, what with a 3,000 kilometer coastline, and lots of determined pirates. The blockade would have to be maintained (and paid for) "indefinitely", or until someone went in and imposed peace on the country. NATO has flat out refused to consider helping out with a blockade.  Everyone wants something done about the pirates, but too many nations are holding back because of potentially embarrassing consequences (dead pirates or dead civilians).  

Somalia continues to be a hodgepodge of armed factions. The Islamic factions get the most media attention, because they are the most outrageous (and thus newsworthy), but they are still outnumbered by independents. It's this sense of independence that keeps Somalia in anarchy. Foreign attempts to provide aid to train security forces and establish government are stymied by the massive corruption among Somali leaders (who inevitably steal most of the cash they are given to, for example, pay troops and other government employees or to buy supplies.) The UN keeps calling for "new ideas," but no one has come up with anything that works. The only thing that has united Somalis lately is opposition to the Russian practice of abandoning pirates at sea, in small boats, far from the coast. This is a death sentence, and Somalis consider it unfair. Somalis will fight to death over what they consider unfair.

Pirates and Islamic radicals (al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam) are increasingly recruiting teenage boys, as these kids are easier to control, and more willing to commit atrocities. This is a worrisome procedure, as it tends to enable these violent organizations to go on for a long time.

EU (European Union) personnel are training some 2,000 soldiers and police in Uganda, who will work for the Transitional Government. But there are doubts that this will work, for most Somali government officials cannot be trusted to pay the new troops with the foreign aid money provided. These Somalis get very angry if the foreign aid donors try to pay the troops directly.

Catch and release continues to be the standard procedure for captured pirates off the Somali coast. In March and April, U.S. and European warships captured 314 pirates, but released 81 percent of them. Those who were held for prosecution, are stuck in a judicial process that goes on and on without much effect.

Western nations continue to pressure Moslem countries to get more involved in dealing with Somali piracy and anarchy. But Moslems, especially the local Arabs, consider Somalis to be black Africans (and thus rather low on the respect scale). Somalis consider themselves Arabs, and these conflicting attitudes translate into Arab apathy about what goes on in Somalia. One thing Arabs are not apathetic about is forcing illegal migrants from Somalia to return to Somalia. Saudi Arabia has returned 4,000 Somalis in the last year, and the UN has criticized them for this.

Smugglers have recognized a new opportunity, and are offering guarded convoys of trucks and minibuses to transport people from all over Somalia to the Kenyan border, where people can seek entry, or sneak across the border, and head for the growing refugee camps there.

May 25, 2010:  The U.S. announced that it had authorized its special operations forces to conduct more missions in places like Somalia, Yemen and Iran. There have already been such operations in Somalia, and have been largely kept out of the news.

May 23, 2010: Al Shabaab gunmen attacked the presidential compound in Mogadishu, an action that failed, but caused over 60 casualties (including about 20 dead.) The Transitional Government remains paralyzed with internal feuds.  The UN is urging world nations to support the Transitional Government, creating a situation where the Transitional Government has more support outside Somalia, than it has inside.

May 22, 2010:  In Somaliland, 13 people died when a dispute broke out at a border checkpoint on the Ethiopian frontier.






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