Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drifter Media/IRIN/NYT: Somalia's chaos deepens


[Picture credit: Provided anonymously to Drifter Media's 'Intelligence Unit' by a source in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Photo of al-Shabaab rebels taken several weeks ago.]

The New York Times brings us a story about how the U.S. is delaying Somali-bound food aid to the United Nations' World Food Program, who handles the logistics and distribution of the aid on the ground in Somalia.  The U.N.'s humanitarian news agency, IRIN, stands the Times story on its head with regard to relief-worker alarm over donor caution on aid to Somalia here.

The U.N. has been hamstrung by surly Somali contractors the U.S. says are channeling some food aid to the Islamist terrorist group, al Shabaab, (Al Jazeera English video piece here from Mohammed Adow about Kenyan recruitment to fight al Shabaab), who have been fighting to take over Somalia from the weak, U.N.-backed transitional government in Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, millions of Somalis in urgent need are suffering and are being left in the lurch.  And on top of that, Somalia is the most dangerous place to work in the world for aid workers like U.N. staff.  An estimated 40 percent of aid workers killed in the world last year died in Somalia while trying to help the needy (2009; 2008).

Jeffrey Gettleman's story from Friday can be read here, but Drifter Media's 'Intelligence Unit' has gained some more knowledge on the fiasco via a UN source working in East Africa.

According to the Drifter Media source in Kenya, who works in Somalia and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak officially, current food rations are only sustainable to December, and that's when the aid tap for WFP will run dry without U.S./donor help.

"Right now the pipeline of food will break off in early December if the Americans don't release the food," the source told Drifter Media by email. "That said, current rations have been cut in half in many places within Somalia to make the current food stocks stretch as far as possible."

According to Mr. Gettleman of the Times: "The United States has played a huge role in saving lives by supplying about 40 percent of the $850 million annual aid budget for Somalia. But that aid is often only loosely monitored at best once it enters the country because of the dangers of working in Somalia and the fact that so much of it is a no-go zone for foreigners."

Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the World Food Program's effort in East Africa and Somalia, said the U.S. "is traditionally W.F.P.’s largest single donor," according to Mr. Gettleman's piece.

Separately, as for the splintering leadership within al Shabaab, according to the D.M. source:  "There is some infighting within Shabaab ... moderate Muktar Robow is coming out with more hard-line talk.  Robow has not previously advocated the kind of hard-line Islam the hardliners want and have been implementing -- i.e., stoning people, attacking aid groups and their workers, killing barbers for shaving beards, or whipping bra-wearing women for 'deceiving men.' He says al Shabaab will support the fight against Israel, etc, which is earning him some of the support of the extremists within the Shabaab leadership.  This is helping him to have his way in Shabaab's decision making without really committing himself to insane tactics in Somalia."

As for al Shabaab's rivalries, says the source:  "Fighting between Hezbul Islam and al Shabaab continues. Part of the reason for the rivalry between the two terrorist groups is that Shabaab and Hezbul are both broke, so the stealing and pilfering of U.N. food aid, and hostage taking, are likely to continue."

So, overall, the U.S. needs to either pull al Shabaab off their list of terror groups, as the State Department has labeled them and which legally prevents the U.S. from releasing the food stocks sitting in Mombasa, Kenya, or the U.S. government needs to overlook that technicality in order to prevent a catastrophe from worsening in the only anarchic nation on the planet -- Somalia.

2 comments:

  1. So what's next, "Drifter Media?"

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  2. Been there done thatNovember 7, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    Well all the extremist nutter talk of a holy war, this is where they are doomed. The first things extermists do is destroy schools as idology does not stand up to questions, and although any idiot can fire an AK 47 the good countries have stealth bombers.

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