[Dehai-WN] keesings.com: Call for Donations to Alleviate Famine in Somalia

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Aug 31 2011 - 18:57:53 EDT

Call for Donations to Alleviate Famine in Somalia

31 August 2011

A recent emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
ended with a statement calling on all 57 members to donate funds to
alleviate the ongoing famine in Somalia. There is concern however that aid
will not reach those who need it most.

By Keesing's World News Archive staff for Keesing's Worldwide


Representatives of 40 OIC member states had attended the meeting, held in
the Turkish city of Istanbul, pledging support totalling US$350 million; OIC
Secretary-General Ekemeleddin Ihsanoglu called on other members to increase
the total pledged to US$500 million. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdošan, meanwhile, on August 18 embarked with his family on a visit to
Mogadishu (the capital of Somalia), becoming the first world leader to do so
since the fall of Somalia's last national government in 1991.

Immediate context

The OIC meeting came almost a month after the United Nations had on July 22
declared a state of famine in two of Somalia's central and southern regions,
Lower Shabelle and Bokool. The famine followed drought conditions that had
persisted in many regions of north-eastern Africa for over two years,
triggering food crises in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.
The UN had reported on July 13 that around 11 million people throughout the
region faced starvation unless aid was urgently received; these included 3.5
million in, or around half the total population of, conflict-ridden Somalia.
One quarter of all Somalis were reported to have been displaced by the
drought and famine, with over 800,000 crossing national borders and sparking
a refugee crisis in poor regions of neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Many refugees were pastoralists and nomads from the worst-hit Somali
regions, both of which were controlled by the militant Islamist Shabab
organization. Columns of families, left destitute by the starvation of their
herds, had entered Mogadishu, reversing a pattern common in recent years
whereby Mogadishu residents had fled into the countryside to escape fighting
between the Shabab and the peacekeeping forces of the African Union (AU).
The refugees' arrival followed the early August departure of Shabab fighters
from several suburbs in the north of the city. Representatives of the Shabab
described the pullback, which the organization preceded with a short display
of intense and coordinated force, as a strategic withdrawal.

A UN campaign to raise US$1.6bn in aid for victims of the famine and drought
had, by mid-August, raised only half its target, despite a promise from UN
secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that he would contact member states personally
to secure the funds. The United States had been the biggest donor to date
with US$570 million raised, followed by $205m of donations from the United
Kingdom, $55m from China, and almost $75m from Middle Eastern and Arab
countries. The latter region had been criticized by MPs in Muslim Somalia
for its relatively slow response to the crisis, which continued throughout
the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Somali politician Mohamed Omar Talha had
called on Arab countries in particular to pledge more support, saying "We
think our Arab brothers have neglected their duties in this respect."

Reaction and outlook

Many donors remained skeptical that aid would reach those who needed it, or
that it could be distributed effectively if it did. Access for aid agencies
to the worst-hit areas of Somalia remained scant, as the Shabab banned
Western aid workers from the regions it controlled. Even where cooperation
with the Shabab seemed possible, agencies described the conditions the
militants imposed as unworkable, with accounts emerging of supplies being
confiscated, exorbitant operational fees levied, and restrictions placed on
the activity of female staff. Prior to the ban's original imposition in late
2009, the Shabab was estimated by Somali journalist Abdirahman Aynte to have
derived up to 15 per cent of its income from international aid agencies;
nonetheless, the militants remained intensely suspicious of foreign
agencies, whom they often accused of spying or trying to undermine their
control of Somalia. In mid-July a brief relaxation of the all-out ban on
foreign workers had been reversed, after the UN escalated its description of
the food situation from emergency to famine, a label senior Shabab figures

Nonetheless, some reports suggested that the crisis had intensified division
among key Shabab militants. One prominent figure, Muktar Ali Robow, who
hailed from the famine-hit regions, was reported to favour accepting foreign
aid and to have an ally in senior leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. Rumours
even emerged, as reported in The Guardian of Aug 16, that overall leader
Ahmed Abdi Godane, a staunch al-Qaeda ally and trenchant opponent of
cooperation with the West, had been replaced by Ibrahim Haji Mead (also
known as Ibrahim Afghani). The Shabab comprised a heterogenous coalition of
interests, with members ranging from committed jihadists to local
businessmen and nationalists: some were thought to place local interests
above the leadership's commitment to advancing global Islamism, and to
oppose actions that seemed to prolong the food crisis. The famine, and the
withdrawal from Mogadishu, were both expected also to affect the Shabab's
finances: the starving regions included an area once considered the
"breadbasket of Somalia", but devastated by the departure of local farmers
fleeing both violence and taxation under the Shabab. The lost ability to tax
businesses in Mogadishu also cut off an important income stream for the
organization. Nonetheless, its control of Somalia's major ports, and the
lack of any effective opposition, left the Shabab's dominance unlikely to
decline despite the food crisis.

Grainne Moloney, of the UN's technical analysis unit for famines (FSNAU),
warned that the famine was likely to spread elsewhere in Somalia, and to
persist until at least December 2011. Though rains were expected in October
and November, experts warned that 2011's harvests would likely be inadequate
to end the crisis. The World Food Programme characterized recent droughts as
the product of climate change, saying that where once dry years had been
interspersed with fertile ones, in recent decades droughts had struck as
frequently as every other year. With less time for crops and livestock herds
to recover, the Programme warned that food insecurity could become the
region's constant state. Experts pointed also to the Shabab's neglect of
agriculture, and its promotion of deforestation to support the profitable
charcoal industry, as causing food shortages and intensifying the effects of

Turkish Prime Minister Erdošan used his speech to the OIC to call the crisis
a "litmus test" for humanity, and announced a range of measures to assist
Somalia: these included the reopening of Turkey's embassy in Mogadishu,
closed since the
cle> collapse of the last functioning national government in 1991 . Turkey
would also, Erdošan said, open six field hospitals in affected regions of
Somalia. A trust fund, intended to coordinate donations, and a task force,
comprising the OIC's secretariat-general and member states Turkey,
Kazakhstan, Senegal, and Saudi Arabia, were announced at the Istanbul
meeting, and pledged to target food security in the longer term for
countries including Somalia. Nevertheless, commentators expressed fears that
without attention to the underlying causes, a swift end to the crisis was

Historical context

Somalia had lacked a central government since the overthrow of President
Mohammed Siyad Barre by a
cle> coalition of rebel groups in 1991. Repeated efforts to build a
government had failed until the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)
cle> took control of much of the country by force in 2006. The Islamist UIC
was unacceptable to neighbouring Ethiopia, which sent in troops to support
the internationally-backed transitional government. Ethiopian and
transitional government troops
cle> rapidly drove the UIC militia from Mogadishu and much of the rest of
the country.

From the defeated UIC militia rose the Shabab, who successfully fought the
transitional government and Ethiopian troops using guerrilla tactics. As the
Shabab took control of much of the south of the country the African Union
sent a peacekeeping force to Somalia,
cle> consisting mostly of Ugandan and Burundian soldiers. The transitional
government and peacekeepers proved unable to defeat the Shabab but
cle> maintained control of shifting areas of the country, including key
areas of Mogadishu . The Shabab imposed strict sharia law in areas under
their control and harassed and expelled foreign aid workers, including the
cle> UN World Food Programme.


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