Disaster in Somalia

Wed, 2008-07-02 09:31 by admin

Newsweek

The situation in the troubled East African nation hardly seemed like it could get any worse. But it has.

By Rod Nordland | Newsweek Web Exclusive
May 18, 2007

Topics: Somalia; Mogadishu; TFG; United Nations World Food Programme; Peter Goossens

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How bad is it in Somalia? Bad enough that people fleeing the capital have been reduced to renting trees for shelter. It's the sort of thing that happens when drug-addled warlords roam the countryside, imposing taxes of 50 percent on aid recipients. And the sort of thing to be expected of a government whose prime minister, Ali Mohamad Gedi, has publicly accused the United Nations agency feeding the country of spreading cholera along with food deliveries. And that's the internationally recognized government, which enjoys U.S. support, although it is widely unpopular in southern Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu. That's not surprising, since the prime minister is from a clan that's hostile to the clan that dominates the capital, and the president, Abdulahi Yusuf, is from Puntland, in northern Somalia, a breakaway region that is best known as the homeland of Somalia's pirates, who once again are on the prowl, bedeviling aid shipments even further. "Is there actually any hope for the future in Somalia?" said the World Food Program's Somalia country director, Peter Goossens. "I don't know."

Sixteen years after the established government fell in Somalia, the East African nation just lurches from one disaster to another, some man-made, some natural, each one deepening the humanitarian crisis. Last year marked more than six years of a record-breaking drought, followed by renewed fighting as the Islamic Courts Union sought to oust feuding clan warlords, which they did, establishing a semblance of order in the unruly capital and most of the country for the first time in a decade and a half. Then the drought ended—only to be replaced by devastating floods, cutting off much of the population from aid deliveries. And by the end of 2006, warfare resumed, with Ethiopia, encouraged by the United States, invading Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts, which were a little too pro-Al Qaeda for U.S. tastes, and prop up the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), an amalgamation of former warlords with little popular support in Somalia, but recognized internationally. Faced with Ethiopian tanks and warplanes, the ICU quickly collapsed and for the first time, the TFG took up office in the capital.

This year promises to be no better, and probably still worse. The Courts fought back, particularly in Mogadishu, and the Ethiopians cracked down, killing 2,000 people in the capital (population about 1 million), and sending 365,000 residents fleeing into the countryside; 190,000 of them fled in April alone. It was the biggest exodus from the city in 16 years of conflict, and many thousands more were displaced within, unable to flee or get to their homes. For the first time, residents in Mogadishu had to turn to aid agencies for food aid—something previously only needed in the countryside. There it's even worse, with renewed flooding in this year's rainy season; presently World Food Program food supplies are only reaching 40 to 50 percent of people, and a fifth of those who fled the capital are completely without aid, …

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