World must back stability in Somalia
September 24th, 2013
11:51 AM ET

World must back stability in Somalia

By President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is the president of Somalia. The views expressed are his own.

The deadly attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi has reminded the world that terrorists don’t respect national borders, and people everywhere have a stake in stability and security in East Africa.

As my government marks its one-year anniversary as Somalia’s first democratically-elected administration in more than 20 years, we have made considerable progress, including driving the terrorist al-Shabaab network out of our capital, Mogadishu, and major cities and towns all around the country, as well as reforming our public financial management systems.

But the terrible assault in Nairobi underscores why the international community must continue to support state-building in Somalia. This is the message that I am bringing during my visit to the United States, including meetings with senior administration officials and members of Congress, as well as an address to the United Nations General Assembly.

In many important ways, our nation is pulling itself together after two decades of civil war. With the assistance of the African Union’s brave peacekeeping troops, we have weakened al-Shabaab while making great strides toward resolving inter-clan disputes and sharply reducing offshore piracy.

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Topics: Africa • Aid • Somalia • State-building
We are losing fight against al-Shabaab
September 23rd, 2013
11:23 AM ET

We are losing fight against al-Shabaab

By Katherine Zimmerman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, and the author of the recently released report The Al Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy. The views expressed are her own.

The Obama administration counts Somalia as a success story, but the rising death toll from al-Shabaab’s bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall is a tragic reminder that U.S. strategy against al Qaeda, claims of success notwithstanding, is not working.

Al-Shabaab no longer controls vast expanses of territory as it once did, but reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. Dismissed too often as a Somali nuisance, al-Shabaab is more than a local militia; it is part of the growing al Qaeda global network.

The Westgate mall attack is the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since al Qaeda’s 1998 truck bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Reminiscent of the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 164, the militants reportedly conducted a two-pronged assault with grenades and small arms, attacking separate floors. As of this writing, they continue to hold an unknown number of hostages. Among the scores of dead are Canadians, Britons, and Frenchmen. Four Americans have been listed as among the wounded.

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Topics: Foreign Policy • Somalia • Terrorism
Why we should keep out of Somalia’s affairs
August 2nd, 2013
11:46 AM ET

Why we should keep out of Somalia’s affairs

By Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Shank is director of foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an advocacy group based in Washington, DC. The views expressed are his own.

Last weekend, in response to a deadly attack on the Turkish embassy in Somalia that killed three and wounded nine, the U.S. government responded by saying that, “this cowardly act will not shake our commitment to continue working for the brighter, more democratic and prosperous future the people of Somalia deserve.”

The statement followed not one bombing in Somalia, but two. This past Saturday’s bombing was the second in under a week; a few days prior, a bomb blew up in a lawmaker’s car, killing one.

But while such a positive American response is assuredly better than The Economist’s this summer, which described Somalia as “a byword for conflict, poverty and ungovernability,” it is still riddled with problems. Indeed, ironically, it is exactly this kind of U.S. government-issued statement that fuels the sort of resentment that ultimately leads to more bombings. The U.S. State Department, and the Defense Department for that matter, have never been in the business of working effectively for a brighter, more democratic and prosperous future for the people of Somalia. Their legacy heralds quite the opposite, in fact.

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Topics: Africa • Security • Somalia • United States
Is Somali piracy over?
April 10th, 2013
09:34 AM ET

Is Somali piracy over?

By Urmila Venugopalan, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia manager at Oceans Beyond Piracy, a U.S.-based non-profit. You can follow her on Twitter @Urmila_V. The views expressed are her own.

Difficult economic conditions have pushed many a business leader into early retirement. But Mohamed Abdi Hassan – the Somali pirate kingpin nicknamed “Afweyne” or “Big Mouth” – surely never expected to be among them. The notorious crime boss made a splash at the beginning of this year when he announced his decision to “quit” piracy after eight lucrative years in the business. Coinciding with news reports that pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean have plunged to a five-year low, Hassan’s “retirement” raises an unexpected question: is Somali piracy over?

Certainly, the statistics paint an optimistic picture of fewer attacks and fewer successful hijackings. The International Maritime Bureau’s 2012 annual report noted that the number of recorded pirate attacks fell dramatically, from 237 in 2011 to just 75 last year. Attempted attacks also dropped sharply, from 189 in 2011 to 59 in 2012, although this figure is likely complicated by increased in the underreporting of such incidents. Pirates were also less successful at hijacking commercial vessels, capturing only 14 last year, down 50 percent from 2011. These statistics have encouraged some to claim that the Somali piracy bubble has burst.

But is it too soon to write off this business?

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Topics: Somalia
How to fight piracy (and how not to)
September 27th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

How to fight piracy (and how not to)

By Urmila Venugopalan, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia manager at Oceans Beyond Piracy. You can follow her on Twitter @Urmila_V and @OBPiracySAsia. The views expressed are her own.

Maritime piracy has long been considered the scourge of commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean. Recently, however, a combination of government- and private sector-led action has seen the number of pirate attacks in the region plunge to their lowest levels in almost five years.

This year’s statistics are unusually encouraging: the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in July that Somali piracy activity fell by almost 60 percent, down from 163 incidents in the first half of 2011 to just 69 in the same period of this year. Somali pirates also hijacked only 13 ships, down from 21, according to the IMB.

Robust cooperation among international navies has certainly played a key role in driving this trend. Regular naval patrols – led by NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, the EU’s Operation Atlanta, and Combined Task Force 151 – have undoubtedly disrupted several pirate attacks. China, India and Japan have also independently contributed to this effort – in a significant move at the start of this year, the three countries agreed to set aside their rivalries and coordinate their escort convoys in the Gulf of Aden.

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Topics: Conflict • Global • Military • NATO • Somalia
Why did Kenya invade Somalia?
Kenyan soldiers climb into a truck as they prepare to advance near Liboi in Somalia, on October 18, 2011, near Kenya's border town with Somalia. Kenyan jets struck in Somalia on October 18 in a bid to rid the border area of Islamist rebels blamed for a spate of abductions, including that of a French woman who died in captivity, officials said. (Getty Images)
November 5th, 2011
10:53 AM ET

Why did Kenya invade Somalia?

Editor's Note: Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Richard Downie is a fellow and deputy director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this piece are solely those of Richard Downie. 

Kenya is in the third week of a major military offensive inside neighboring Somalia. Called “Operation Protect the Nation,” it is Kenya’s largest military operation since independence in 1963. Around 1,600 troops are sweeping through areas of Southern Somalia controlled by the extremist Islamist group, al Shabaab. The Kenyan air force has also been in action, launching bombing raids on insurgent bases. Kenya’s military spokesman has even used his twitter account to warn residents living near al Shabaab camps in 10 towns to take shelter against imminent attacks.

Q: Why did Kenya invade?

Richard Downie: Kenyans have gotten increasingly alarmed about Somalia’s chronic instability, which has spilled over its borders. One manifestation of this instability is Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, which receives Somalis fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their own country. Numbers at this camp have swelled to almost 450,000 because of the famine conditions in parts of Southern Somalia.

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Topics: Africa • Military • Somalia
September 26th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Using economic levers to hurt Al-Shabaab

Editor’s Note: Avi Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury official, is president of the Red Cell Intelligence Group and the author of Tainted Money: Are We Losing the War on Money Laundering and Terrorism Finance?

By Avi Jorisch - Special to CNN

In recent weeks, the United Nations has sponsored meetings in Mogadishu to help Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) improve security, promote reconciliation and draw up a new constitution for the war-ravaged country. One of the biggest obstacles to ensuring peace in Somalia, however, is Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization, which controls large swaths of the country and siphons off aid meant to help the country’s destitute. While the international community focuses its attention on the best ways to help Somalia, much more can be done to curtail Al-Shabaab’s influence.

Founded in 2004, Al-Shabaab has been designated a terrorist organization by AustraliaCanada, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  The group is a recognized al Qaeda affiliate that is determined to institute its own brand of Salafi Islamic rule in Somalia. Two years ago, the group consolidated control over the southern and central part of the country, and, until recently, it also controlled most of the capital. Governments around the globe now fear that Somalia is becoming another al Qaeda safe haven that will require international intervention. FULL POST

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Topics: Somalia • Terrorism
Lion smugglers plague Somalia
Two lion cubs, nicknamed Grumpy and Scar, were discovered aboard a ship at Mogadishu port. The cubs were taken in and cared for by foreign contractors at Bancroft Global Development in the war-torn city since February.
September 22nd, 2011
02:00 PM ET

Lion smugglers plague Somalia

By , GlobalPost

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Behind a fortified compound encircled with sandbags near Mogadishu’s airport is a large fenced enclosure that was the unlikely home to a pair of lion cubs rescued from smugglers earlier this year.

The two cubs were discovered aboard a ship at Mogadishu port. They were taken in and cared for by foreign contractors in the war-torn city until last week, when they were finally flown out to an animal sanctuary in South Africa.

Grumpy and Scar, as they were nicknamed, (the former has a bad temper and is prone to nipping overfriendly visitors; the latter has a blemish on her forehead) were found and confiscated by port authorities in late February.

Officials believe they were to be shipped to the home of a wealthy exotic-pet owner in the Arabian Gulf, and their discovery sheds light on the hidden plunder of Somalia’s wildlife and natural resources from the country’s anarchic hinterland. FULL POST

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Topics: Animals • Somalia
Desperation in Somalia
September 7th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

U.N.: 750,000 people in Somalia face 'imminent starvation'

A record 4 million people in Somalia need humanitarian aid and 750,000 people are in danger of "imminent starvation," the United Nations said on Monday.

Famine in the African nation has spread to the Bay region, which is now the sixth area in Somalia suffering from an acute shortage of food, according to the the U.N.'s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Officials are calling for a surge in response efforts as the crisis is predicted to get worse. FULL POST

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Topics: Famine • Food • Somalia
August 23rd, 2011
10:00 AM ET

How to end Somalia's famine and weaken the insurgents

Editor's Note: Ken Menkhaus is Professor of Political Science at Davidson College.

By Ken Menkaus, Foreign Affairs

The ongoing famine in Somalia has placed millions of Somalis at risk. On August 5, the U.S. government estimated that the famine had taken the lives of more than 29,000 children under the age of five. A total of 3.7 million Somalis - almost half the country's population - are in need of emergency relief, and more than 750,000 are now in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

For several weeks, it appeared that the international community would be unable to aid those suffering from starvation. But developments over the past two weeks offer at least modest hope that key obstacles to food aid delivery may be overcome. FULL POST

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Topics: Famine • Somalia
By the time we declare famine, it's too late
Nearly half a million children in the Horn of Africa are at risk of dying from malnutrition and disease.
August 23rd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

By the time we declare famine, it's too late

Editor's Note: Andrew Blejwas is the Humanitarian Media Manager at Oxfam America.

By Andrew Blejwas, Special to CNN

There is nowhere to begin a conversation about aid delivery and famine in Somalia that doesn’t wind up in a labyrinth of blame and risk. But at the end of the maze, ultimately, are people like Mohamed Dahir, a local Somali aid worker helping to deliver aid to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) throughout Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle. FULL POST

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Topics: Famine • Somalia
Somalia: A very man-made disaster
An emaciated child is among the displaced Somalis at the Dadaab refugee complex last month in eastern Kenya.
August 18th, 2011
11:05 AM ET

Somalia: A very man-made disaster

By Alex Perry, TIME

The difference between a drought and a famine is down to man. Texas is in the middle of its worst drought on record right now but cowboys aren't starving – because Texas, and the US, have government and economy enough to ensure they don't. Somalia doesn't have any government worthy of the name and that's one reason why persistent drought has pushed around 3 million Somalis in the south of the country close to starvation.

The difference between ungoverned Somalia and its better-governed neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya, is starkly visible on a map: on one side of the border, famine; on the other hunger, and a refugee crisis, but no mass starvation. As Nancy Lindborg, co-ordinating the U.S. response to the famine, says: "If you ever needed a strong case for the need for democratic inclusive government..."

But Somalia's famine is also about the lack of something else: a decent aid operation. There are three reasons the emergency effort to save starving Somalis is falling tragically short. FULL POST

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Topics: Aid • Famine • Somalia
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