Somalia’s Suffering – OpEd


A bomb goes off in Mogadishu, almost certainly planted by the extremist Al-Shabab movement which in August was forced to pull its forces out of the Somali capital. Over 70 people have died. Meanwhile, in the south of the broken country, clashes between opposing armed groups have resulted in many dead and injured. The news from Somalia is unremittingly grim.

Yet, more attention is paid to the story of the disabled French tourist seized from an island resort in Kenya and taken by her captors back to Somalia. Perhaps it is inevitable. There was something slightly different for the International media to focus on: A Frenchwoman — and a disabled one at that — seized.

The fact is that the world has lost interest in Somalia. Even reports of boats seized by Somali pirates no longer hit the headlines. It is because the world has become hardened to news from Somalia. Not even the famine, the worst in 60 years, or the announcement by the UN that three-quarters of a million Somalis may die as a result or the outbreak of cholera have made much impression on the outside world. Somalia is seen as a hopeless case. It and its woes are ignored.

The blame for Somalia’s suffering does not lie with foreign governments, even if some readers would like to think otherwise. It lies with its squabbling politicians, including a supposedly transitional president who refuses to step down for elections, and with the Al-Shabab who by denying there was a famine and refusing to allow in aid to the starving people in the areas they control have demonstrated all too clearly that they have no care at all about the ordinary people they control. All they care about is power. And we can be sure that they are not starving. That is why they are becoming so despised in Somalia. It is why they had to withdraw from Mogadishu and that is the only way they can make themselves felt there is by blasting its inhabitants to eternity.

But in ignoring the troubles of Somalia, the world stokes up trouble for itself. Because of the unending crisis now made worse by the famine, Somalis flee in ever larger numbers.

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, 300,000 Somalis have left the country this year alone. The figure may well be far higher. And there are hundreds of thousands more, desperate to follow them. They head to Europe, to the north America, here to Saudi Arabia — anywhere where they can live in peace and have a chance of making a reasonable life for themselves and their families. And who can blame them?

The trouble is that absorbing them brings major problems of its own.

Weary and wary of Somalia the world may be, but it is in its own interests that peace be enforced there. It can be done. There is a 9,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force there, mainly in Mogadishu. It should be far larger but funding has been lacking.

Last Friday, the UN called on the AU to expand the force. International funding to countries such as Burundi, Uganda, Djibouti and Sierra Leone which have pledged troops but not sent them, could make it happen. That would help Somalia enormously.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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