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As Somalia’s Crisis Degenerates, World Leaders Fail to Act

Despite increasingly dire and desperate warnings from numerous political officials and non-governmental organizations, world leaders have failed their promises to promptly address Somalia’s deepening problems. 

Although Secretary of State Clinton pledged millions of dollars in aid to Somalia’s embattled government last month and international donors promised $213 million dollars to bolster its security forces in April, little has improved in Somalia – in fact, conditions have only worsened.

Last week, the U.N.’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia predicted a “future of miserable destitution” if the country’s growing problems are not tackled.

What are those problems? Drought, displacement and disease. A weak government and a violent insurgency with ties to terrorist networks. These are but a few of the major troubles Somalia currently faces – and which place Somali civilians at the crux of impending calamity on a daily basis.

A week ago, the European Union’s humanitarian chief cautioned that if Western powers do not offer more support to Somalia’s fledging government, the country will turn into the “next Afghanistan,” providing Al Qaeda with a major African base.

But insufficient resources and a lack of international aid (most vows of donations have gone unfulfilled) have already allowed Al Qaeda to strengthen its hold of Somalia. Two Mondays ago, Al Shabaab, Somalia’s largest radical Islamist insurgent group, officially and proudly declared its allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

This was after Al Shabaab bombed the African Union’s peacekeeping base in Mogadishu in mid-September, killing 21 people, including 17 peacekeepers. The U.N. immediately repudiated the attack as “unacceptable” – but will mere words stop Al Shabaab from doing the same in the future? A major Islamist leader has already called for more suicide attacks like the AU bombing to deter peacekeepers from their work.

Moreover, clashes between government forces and Al Shabaab rebels in Mogadishu continuously erupt and kill dozens of civilians each week.

Not to mention the looming humanitarian disasters – Somalia’s worst drought in a decade approaches, the U.N. has warned, threatening to further imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Somalis. The international non-profit group Oxfam has also pleaded with the international community to improve nearly inhumane conditions at Somali refugee camps, where Somalis lack basic necessities like water and medicine. Other U.N. reports note that half of Somalia’s 7 million people are now dependent on international aid and that 50,000 Somalis have already fled the ongoing violence this year.

Yet the international community has responded with little more than raised eyebrows and silence.

In an interview with the New York Times last week, Somalia’s president, Sharif Sheik Ahmed, reminded the world that without the appropriate resources , Somalia’s government will not be able to survive – and without a semi-stable government, Somalia will be once again plunged into intransigent, fatal chaos. There will be no hope for the security and well-being of Somali civilians.

The questions now remain: How long will the international community wait to act? And what more will it take for it to respond?


-- Carolina Chacon, National Conflicts of Concern Education Coordinator



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