Friday, August 05, 2011

How al Shabaab is wrecking Somalia

All those of us not living under a rock are aware of the famine in East Africa. Some of us have even read a bit about the al Shabaab militia getting in the way of relief efforts. Should one donate when part of the contribution might end up bribing the militia? A recent UN report shed some light on the details of the al Shabaab regime.

Al Shabaab generates $70-$100 million a year from various trade schemes, taxes, "jihad contributions" and extortion. Some of these money are demanded by gunpoint at roadblocks but much is earned in more sinister ways. For example by exporting charcoal, importing sugar and manipulating the accounting to allow illegal money transfers to fill up the artificial surplus.

"In a very real sense, al Shabaab is becoming a business: a network of mutually supportive interests in Somalia, Kenya, the Middle East, and even further afield. Even businessmen who are not ideologically aligned with al Shabaab have little incentive to see the Islamists displaced by a predatory and corrupt Transitional Federal Government."
- UN Report.

A terrorist militia extorting its own people even during a drought of historical proportions threatening the livelihoods of millions of people. That's bad enough. But pause for a moment to consider the complete and utter reckless idea of chopping down trees to export charcoal when your country is suffering from some of the worst deforestation and desertification in the world.

Avaaz is doing a petition to press for a deal with al Shabaab to allow food aid. They almost make it sound like the crisis is happening because of the US 'war on terror'. How about a petition to press for sanctions against Kenyan and Dubai based traders who make the al Shabaab business model possible? How about an investigation of how weapons supposed to arm African Union peace keepers end up for sale on Mogadishu markets?

East African drought monitor, August 2011 and 36 months back. For Somalis the drought hit hard this year whereas the past years were easier on them.

What is your verdict, dear reader - do we sign the Avaaz petition or not?

Sources: Reuters / Factbox: U.N. Monitoring report on Somalia, Eritrea, Guardian / Somalia famine: The problems of delivering aid, / Al-Shabaab ligner mere en regering end en oprørsbevægelse.

UPDATE: Al Shabaab militia’s tight grip on ‘desert’ charcoal trade
The taking of Ras Kamboni and Bur Gaboby, the two fishing towns by the sea that have been under the control of Al Shaabab, by the Kenya defence forces has struck an economic blow at the militia group.

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