Friday, 26 August 2011

Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter

Issue 1, Volume 15 Dear Readers,
Mogadishu (Sunatimes) As the humanitarian aid response slowly ramps up in Somalia, with Iran getting in on the act and UNICEF continuing to reach areas outside the capital, the Transitional Federal Government is showing no sign of being able to keep a lid on the looting that is adding to the woes of internally displaced squatting forlornly in makeshift camps.

There were are least two incidents this week, as men in TFG uniforms grabbed food aid and opened fire on unarmed civilians, with six people reported killed.

Government officials say that militia in disguise are to blame rather than their own forces. Even if that is true, it is still the responsibility of the government to secure the camps - something they have so far failed to despite promises to the contrary.

The African Union hasn't exactly covered itself in glory this week either. While the organization is fond of the phrase "African solutions to African problems", it once again showed that its reputation as an inept body fond of releasing weak communiques and setting up ineffectual bodies that fail to resolve various crises on the continent is in no danger of changing. Only four heads of government turned up in Addis Ababa for Thursday's fundraising summit for the East Africa's regional drought, and out of the almost $350 million pledged, $300 million came from the African Development Bank, not member states.
The response from Muslim nations easily outstrips the donations from AU members, with $350 million recently pledged for Somalia alone by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (which does admittedly have 21 African nations as members).
Campaigning groups have blasted the AU response, with one even comparing its performance unfavorably to that of an eleven-year-old boy from Ghana. Perhaps he should replace Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang as AU chairman. Even if the kid is the school bully and prone to stealing lunch money, he is bound to have a better human rights' record.
Conflict

While some government soldiers were apparently busy looting, others were equally engaged killing each other over how to divvy up the loot from checkpoints taken over from militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. Two seperate incidents saw warring factions in the TFG exchange fire as they figured out how best to slice the cake - just another indication that the government has a lot of issues to resolve before it can claim to be running a tight ship in Mogadishu.

The looting is an open goal for al-Shabaab's increasingly sophisticated media machine, which has already been making noises about the rowdy and unruly government forces picking on civilians.

The government did at least manage to get Mogadishu's second-largest market reopened this week (Bakara remains closed), but residents will be displeased to note that food prices have risen significantly in the short few weeks since the insurgents ceded control.

The TFG forces' energies would probably be better expended in battling al-Shabaab, which despite its withdrawal from its bases in Mogadishu is still causing havoc in the city.

A full campaign of suicide bombs and assassinations has yet to kick off, but a top insurgent leader this week promised that was exactly what was coming. This is bad news for the large delegations of foreign dignitaries and aid workers piling into Mogadishu now that it is "safe", although most of them are safely experiencing the delights of the capital from within the confines of the heavily defended airport compound.

In the border region of Gedo, there are also concerns that al-Shabaab could retake key towns pro-government forces seized earlier this year. The insurgents have been redploying the troops who left the capital to the area, and mid-week said they were planning to launch a major offensive.

Given that the forces operating under the umbrella of the TFG in the regions bordering Kenya and Ethiopia have displayed an increasing tendency to fight amongst themselves along clan lines, a sustained fierce attack by the insurgents could see a reversal of what many saw early this year as promising signs the government could gain a permanent foothold outside Mogadishu.

That isn't to say it is all smiles and satisfied beard stroking in the world of al-Shabaab. The group saw its own deadly infighting this week, while the growing number of executions of young men accused of spying and other transgressions displays just how jumpy and paranoid the militant group is at the moment.

Toe-to-toe

The fallout over the arrest of a posse of Somaliland officials by Puntland in the disputed Sool region grew this week, with Puntland sentencing four of the arrested men to hefty jail sentences. Somaliland has deployed military forces to Taleh in Sool, and there are concerns that the two breakaway regions could once again start taking potshots at each other along the border - although fears of a full-scale conflict are muted.

Piracy

Pirates this week seized their first high value vessel in many months with a daring raid on the MT Fairchem Bogey while the vessel was in anchorage within the Salalah port limit, waiting for berthing instructions from the port authorities after discharging at Al Jubail. They want a cool $10 million for the vessel, although as usual they will likely be talked down.

The monsoon season is almost over, so before long such hijackings should start hitting the headlines again - unless the onboard security teams that have become more common continue their successes and ward off most attacks.

We are still awaiting the release of the MV Dover and Danish hostages, although we continue to be told a deal has been agreed and it is only a matter of sorting out logistics before they are free.

For more details, please see our piracy report.

Special features

This week, we took a look at how the lust for charcoal - which is one of al-Shabaab's key sources of funds - has seen southern Somalia stripped of trees, something ecologists say is a major contributing factor to the drought.

That's it on the story front.

We will shortly be creating a jobs section, so if you have any Somalia-related vacancies ('Jihadists Wanted' excepted) you wish to advertise, please send them to editor@somaliareport.com. As usual, you can always randomly send us an email to the same address.
Take care and have a good weekend.
Regards,
The Editor
While some government soldiers were apparently busy looting, others were equally engaged killing each other over how to divvy up the loot from checkpoints taken over from militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. Two seperate incidents saw as they figured out how best to slice the cake - just another indication that the government has a lot of issues to resolve before it can claim to be running a tight ship in Mogadishu.

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