Coastline Exploration, a four-year-old American oil exploration and production sharing company specializing in East Africa, announced it had signed an agreement with the Somali government for developing oil and natural gas deposits in seven locations off the coast. The Somali Minister of Petroleum and Natural resources signed for Somalia. President Farmajo declared the deal was not legal and wants it renegotiated and approved by the president. Farmajo had issued a decree that such deals could not be signed during an election campaign. The long-delayed elections are supposed to be completed by February but that is in doubt. Corruption is suspected and Farmajo is an unpopular president. Coastline Exploration already has deals with several other East African governments.
The UN complained that only two percent of the money needed for food aid in Somalia during 2022 had been pledged. With half the Somali population in need of food aid, fewer have been receiving it over the last year. This is because more donors were refusing to contribute. The donors were sending their aid elsewhere, where it was less likely to be stolen and more likely to reach the people who needed it.
Corruption in Somalia has long been epic and recognized as the worst in the world for over a decade. Corruption ratings come from the annual Transparency International survey. While the hunger and suffering in Somalia are often reported in mass media, the donor nations face more demand that aid donors can handle and are increasingly refusing to provide aid for nations where little of the aid, particularly food aid, reaches the people in need and are featured in the mass media. Foreign journalists are allowed to cover the hunger but not the corruption. Doing so will get you arrested or worse. Media that depend on local sources for details on corruption have a difficult time documenting the aid thefts but it is obvious after more than three decades of disappearing aid that is not getting through. This scam has been ongoing in Somalia for decades.
Kenya And the Somali Invasion
Kenya has suffered from Somali raiders for centuries, but relatively few Somalis settled in what is now Kenya. The violence is particularly acute in
northeast Kenya, especially Lamu country on the coast. Lamu a has a mixed Christian-Moslem population where many of the Christians recently moved in to take advantage of economic opportunities and the need for skilled workers. Al Shabaab considers any area where Moslems live as Islamic territory. That means non-Moslems should be converted, driven away or killed. Because of this attitude there is growing tension between Kenyan Christians and Somalis. About ten percent (4 million) of Kenyans, mostly along the coast, are Moslem and about half of these are ethnic Somalis. There has always been some Islamic radical activity among Kenyan Moslems, but the police have been particularly attentive to it after Kenyan Moslems were found to be involved in terrorist operations in the 1990s.
Kenyan security forces believe the violence is worst in Lamu because of the Boni Forest, which has long been a refuge for outlaws because the thinly populated woodlands are on both sides of the border. Kenya spends over $20 million a year providing security for the 360-kilometer Somalia border. Because of the continuing al Shabaab violence in Somalia there are plenty of people (refugees, smugglers) crossing illegally besides Islamic terrorists and bandits. Despite the high level of Somali violence in Lamu, the Christian majority remains because of the economic opportunities and the ability, since independence in 1962, to fight the Somalis and win. That came from the brief (1888-1962) period of British colonial rule. During this time Britain recruited and trained Kenyan volunteers to fight in the World Wars as well as serving in colonial police. This created a tradition of efficient military training and leadership in Kenya that continued after the British left. The Somalis, colonized by Britain and Italy, were less eager to accept military discipline and leadership. Somalis were more entrepreneurial and disdainful of the British and other Europeans who were Christians and enemies of Islam.
The British had no solution for the hostile attitude of the Somalis and by the late 19th century British colonial administrators concluded that the only practical approach to dealing with violent Somalis was to "shoot on sight, shoot first, shoot to kill and keep shooting." Not unexpectedly, post-colonial Somalia proved unable to govern itself because when the Somalis had no foreigners to fight and plunder, they went after each other. Kenyans, especially the Christians who dominated the government and military, were as bad as the Europeans when it came to dealing with Somali raiders and Somali violence in general.
While many ethnic Somalis living in Kenya as Moslems are eager to do so peacefully, they are more vulnerable to going old-school if threatened by Somali Islamic terrorists. This is more common along the Somali border, where there are a lot more Somali refugees, bandits and Islamic terrorists. This is particularly the case in the prosperous Lamu country.
Al Shabaab Balance Sheet
A study of al Shabaab operations in 2021 determined that the Islamic terrorist organization obtained about $180 million that year from extortion and other criminal enterprises. About 13 percent of that was spent on weapons with a smaller amount for bribing local and foreign officials. Most of the income was spent on payroll and operations. That included necessary equipment (vehicles, communications and so on) as well as fuel and bomb components.
February 22, 2022: In the south (Lower Shabelle region) soldiers and special forces spent the last week clearing at least six villages of any al Shabaab presence. These villages were used as bases for al Shabaab groups that maintained lucrative checkpoints that demanded fees from vehicles in order to pass. Returning these roads to government control made it more difficult for al Shabaab to terrorize larger towns and the population in general.
February 21, 2022: In the north (Puntland) an al Shabaab bomb attack on the Puntland president failed, but two soldiers were killed.
February 19, 2022:
In central Somalia (Beledweyne) al Shabaab took credit for a suicide bomber who attacked a popular restaurant. This killed 13 and wounded 18 civilians. One of those killed was a candidate in the parliamentary elections and may have been the target. Al Shabaab considers democracy un-Islamic.
In the north (Puntland) a similar attack occurred, killing two and wounding five. Such clusters of attacks to disrupt voting have been occurring with increasing frequency since late 2021.
In the south, across the border in Kenya, al Shabaab raided a clinic and kidnapped a doctor and two other people there. These two were released before the al Shabaab teams crossed back into Somalia where the doctor was held for ransom and probably compelled to treat injured al Shabaab members.
February 16, 2022: In Mogadishu al Shabaab carried out two attacks using car bombs and gunfire. Five people were killed and many more were wounded. This is part of the al Shabaab effort to disrupt the national elections, which end in nine days. So far only about half the 275 seats in the parliament are likely to be filled because elections could not be held for voters in many parliamentary districts.
February 8, 2022: The U.S. put restrictions on a long list of Somalis known to be corrupt or opposed to democratic government. Many of these Somalis have family, friends and followers in the United States and often come visit and raise money or recruit more Somalis in America to their cause.
February 6, 2022: In the south (Jubaland) Somali soldiers and special operations troops shut down al Shabaab four al Shabaab bases, killing seven al Shabaab gunmen in the process. Al Shabaab also uses these bases to terrorize local civilians into silence. That does not always work.
Two weeks ago, the Somali government signed an agreement with the AU (African Union) and the UN to accept the end of the AU peacekeeping force by the end of 2023. Somalia agreed that its security forces would be capable of dealing with security problems without AU peacekeepers, who are financed by foreign donors under the supervision of the UN. Although the SNA (Somali National Army) has about 15,000 trained and equipped personnel, the loyalties of these troops are still to their clan rather than “Somalia.” As long as they are paid on time, these troops will do their job and know how to do it. If the Somali government can no longer pay and supply the troops, the army will disintegrate. The only potential solution is a functioning democracy, which has yet to be achieved. This is an ancient problem, not a new one and for Somalia the failure to find a solution is why Somalia is considered one of the few existing “failed states”.