August 17, 2013:
With the reduction in al Shabaab activity in the last year, there has come an increase in corruption by government officials, clan leaders, and even the AU (African Union) peacekeepers. The main victims of all this corruption are foreign aid organizations (who are increasingly giving up and leaving) and Somali women (who are more likely to be raped). The most notable aid group departure is Doctors Without Borders, which has been in Somalia for 22 years and treats over 50,000 patients a month. This outfit is the main source of medical care in many parts of the country but the medical staff have become popular kidnapping and robbery victims. The ransom is shared with clan leaders and government officials, and thus the kidnappers are rarely caught and and therefore are encouraged to do it again and again. Aid groups also have a lot of valuable stuff to steal (equipment as well as the aid itself), and now that it is more peaceful the economy is thriving and it’s easier to sell your stolen goods. Hospitals have been attacked and looted, even though wounded terrorists are also brought in and medical care demanded, or else. Armed robbery has always been a popular activity in Somalia, and with less fighting between each other, gunmen can now concentrate on economic gain.
The departure of Doctors Without Borders comes at a particularly bad time because of a recent polio outbreak. Al Shabaab opposition to polio vaccinations led to this new outbreak of the disease. Some 600,000 children in southern Somalia and refugee camps in northern Kenya have not been vaccinated, mainly because of al Shabaab opposition and general chaos. The first case was detected in Kenya three months ago when a Somali child in a refugee camp came down with it. Five years ago the UN announced that a ten year effort to eradicate polio (by vaccinating nearly every child under five) had succeeded and that Somalia was free of the paralyzing (and often fatal) disease (which can only survive in humans). But to make that eradication permanent follow-up vaccinations had to be given and al Shabaab interfered with that. So in the last three months over a hundred kids in Somalia and Kenyan refugee camps have come down with polio. Last year there were only 223 cases worldwide.
Polio should have been eliminated entirely by now, but there has been resistance from Islamic clergy in some countries, who insist the vaccinations are a Western plot to harm Moslem children. This has enabled polio to survive in some Moslem countries (especially Nigeria and Pakistan). The disease also survives in some very corrupt nations, like Kenya and India, because of the difficulty in getting vaccine to remote areas and tracking down nomad groups. In response to this latest outbreak, Kenya will carry out more vaccinations in Kenya and help do the same in dangerous parts of Somalia.
Al Shabaab is still around and keeps trying to make a comeback. That has been limited because the terrorist organization has splintered under the government and peacekeeper pressure. Various factions are fighting each other for overall leadership or simply to settle personal or ideological disputes. One al Shabaab leader (Ahmed Godane) appears to be dominant and has been responsible for several recent attacks. Godane believes in al Qaeda and its goal of global domination and using maximum violence to achieve victory. His supporters are hard core and often foreigners. Godane is accused of receiving aid from Eritrea, which seeks to keep the violence going in Somalia as a way to hurt their arch-enemy Ethiopia. Godane and his foreign terrorists are not popular in Somalia and are generally regarded as very violent bandits. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of equally violent and rapacious warlords and clan leaders in Somalia to compete with the terrorists for popular dislike.
August 14, 2013: Doctors Without Borders announced its departure from Somalia, which has become too expensive and dangerous to operate in. Doctors Without Borders has about 1,500 personnel operating in Somalia, many of them local hires.
August 13, 2013: The government said that a recent major sweep of Mogadishu had resulted in the arrest of 39 suspected al Shabaab members and the destruction or crippling of 17 al Shabaab terror cells operating in the city. Cooperation from the public, who are the main victims of al Shabaab attacks, was the main reason the soldiers and police rounded up so many al Shabaab men. Weapons, bomb making materials, and documents were also seized.
August 11, 2013: Officials in Puntland refused to let a Turkish cargo ship unload its cargo of foreign aid and forced the ship to leave. This was the result of a feud with the Somali government which is trying to assert control over Puntland and Somaliland. The Puntland government is resisting and declaring the Turkish aid ship, which had permission from the Somali government to unload in Puntland, was part of this plot.
In Britain details of British aid losses in Somalia made it into the news. In general, these losses are no secret but specific details are rarely released. Foreign aid groups have a better record (compared to government officials) of getting aid to those who need it. Aid given to local leaders or governments (in Somalia, Puntland, or Somaliland) are more likely to disappear into private bank accounts. Thus, aid groups get a lot of the government aid and are increasingly the target of corrupt local officials.
August 9, 2013: In Mogadishu an Ethiopian Air Force An-24 transport crash landed and burned. Two of the six man crew survived. The aircraft was carrying weapons and ammo for AU peacekeepers.
August 7, 2013: Somali troops raided an al Shabaab camp near the southern city of Afmadow and killed 24 Islamic terrorists, including three who were definitely foreigners. Over fifty terrorists had been in the camp and prisoner interrogations and captured documents indicated that the group was planning some attacks on army checkpoints and bases. Many weapons and a lot of ammo was captured as well. Two soldiers were killed in the night attack, which was made possible by information provided by local civilians. The surviving terrorists are being pursued.
August 6, 2013: In Mogadishu a group of gunmen, believed to be al Shabaab, attacked the home of a local official and fatally wounded him. One of the security guards was also wounded and the attackers were driven off. Al Shabaab does this sort of thing to encourage officials to cooperate when asked (especially when the request is sweetened with a bribe).
August 5, 2013: In Mogadishu some al Shabaab men fired five mortar shells into a residential neighborhood and threw several grenades in another area. The terrorists fled police and soldiers responding to the explosions and later boasted (via the Internet) that this was the first of many attacks. This prompted the government to plan a large sweep of the city to find the terrorists. The al Shabaab activity had been generating a lot of tips from civilians.
Puntland declared that it had cut all diplomatic ties with Somalia because of Somali efforts to force Puntland to give up its independence and once more become part of Somalia. The Puntland government is representative of the local clans and the locals consider itself less corrupt and more efficient than the national “Somalia” government down south.
August 4, 2013: In the central Somalia town of Baidoa a group of al Shabaab fired on a bus station, wounding ten people, and then fled the soldiers who responded.