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Humantarian Disaster in Somalia - an American Opportunity?

A.J. Deus, October 12, 2011
The unfolding humanitarian disaster in Somalia and its neighboring states is beyond precedent. In the most devastating famine in six decades, 750,000 people are starving to death without substantial aid reaching them. In Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda, more than 13 million people need emergency assistance. While refugee camps are overcrowded, the crisis areas are also among the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. Malnourished children are prone to disease and die away in hordes. Many are too weak to even fend off the flies from their eyes. Induced by severe drought, water and food are scarce, and up to half of the aid that reaches the ground is being misappropriated.
For twenty years, Somalia has been a failed state with roughly 10 million people, most of them believing in a version of Sunni and Sufi Islam. The GDP is estimated at about $6 billion and the needed aid amounts to about $700 million until year’s end. The most inaccessible areas are those in the south of Somalia that are controlled by the militant Islamic group al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda. Much of the sea is controlled by pirates. The al-Shabaab group is in conflict with other Islamic sects over the strict interpretation of Sharia law. They oppose the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which just came to free the country’s capital Mogadishu from the insurgents with the help of troops from the African Union. The opposition rests on anti-Americanism with al-Shabaab militants believing that the Americans backed not only the TFG but also the Ethiopian invasion from a few years back to intervene in a civil war. Before that, communists ruled the country, and even before, British Imperialism and Italian Colonialism, all put their mark on the area after they had plundered the land.
Somalia is a country with potential. Seasonal rains make it an agriculturally valuable area. With reliable irrigation systems, Somalia could ensure food safety. Arab states have recognized Somalia’s values and invest in farmlands and export infrastructure for livestock. Frankincense and myrrh are important export products and the land is suitable for domestic corn production.
Although unreliable, troops of the African Union are on the ground. They have the exaggerated but unfortunate reputation of shelling civilians. American drones have been in the air for months. Hence, the level of reconnaissance in the area should be good. However, indifference on the part of the international community keeps an unprecedented humanitarian disaster lingering on and the world stands by with thousands dying every day. They do not have dirty water; instead, there is no water; they are not malnourished; there is no food. Somalians are left rotting in their own filth, abandoned by the rich world that perceives its financial turmoil as more important than their lives.
America has lost a lot of goodwill in the Middle East with its war on terrorism. Perceived as the big brother of Israel, the level of Anti-Americanism and sheer religious hatred among Muslims fly high. The revelation that several homegrown terrorist plots on American soil turned out to be induced by the American authorities will not help to foster trust, either abroad or at home.
Somalians urgently need help. In order to get enough water and food through to them, a corridor is needed that allows the various aid organizations to move freely. While dangerous, al-Shabaab militants are neither well armed nor well trained. Together with forces of the African Union and Arab nations, a small contingent of the American army could?on their way home, so to speak?install such a corridor with relatively little risk to American lives. Is there finally a just use of American force to enable the process of saving lives in a foreign land? Neighboring nations, including Arab countries, would likely support a massive humanitarian initiative that is free from the burden of religion, and the Peace Corps could follow in order to promote stability. Armed emergency measures amount to an American opportunity to correct its image by utilizing its superb forces already nearby for a humanitarian cause that can otherwise not be resolved.
The root cause of Somalia’s poverty and humanitarian disasters lies in religious sects that are strong enough to control majorities. This same pattern persists in most Islamic countries. In the long run, Somalia’s solutions to systemic hunger and disease include a reformation of Islam, creating a deeper sectarian fragmentation. When religious sects represent minorities they shift their focus to secularism, democratization, and separation of church and state.
A.J. Deus
Author of The Great Leap-Fraud - Social Economics of Religious Terrorism

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