Monthly Archives: January 2012

Netherlands to ban Khat

I was surprised to read today that the Dutch government is to ban Khat (a mild stimulant used mostly by Somalis and Yemenis), especially considering that this is the country whose drugs policy is so liberal that cannabis coffee shops are open for business across the country. In the BBC article, it cites ‘concerns’ that Khat can bring on schizophrenia, failing to mention that long-term cannabis use can have an greater affect of inducing psychosis, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Khat has a lower level of harm and dependency compared with alcohol and cannabis 

In fact, the mental health problems of older Somali males who chew khat may have more to do with war-related PTSD or the the difficulties of refugee life. I suspect this ban has more to do with a failure to grasp why so many Somali’s living in Europe struggle to find work or otherwise integrate fully in their adopted countries.  Gerd Leers, the Dutch immigration minister supportive of the ban, explained that the drug has led Somali male chewers to “refuse to co-operate with the government or take responsibility for themselves or their families”. Instead of addressing the true causes of social exclusion of Somali immigrants in the Netherlands, such as the increased instances of racism and Islamophobia accepted into European political discourse, the Dutch government have laid blame on the  a substance which has the effect of an espresso.

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Somalia after al-Shabaab

With recent news that al-Shabaab have lost the town of Beledweyne, which borders with Ethiopia, leaving their remaining strongholds increasingly vulnerable, many (including myself) are hopeful that 2012 may herald the military defeat of the group once and for all. It also raises the incredible possibility that after over 20 years of anarchy, the country (well the South at least) can be unified under the control of a central government. But what measures are being taken to ensure that a power vacuum is not created, and the south does not plunge into the clan based fighting which consumed the country before the 2006 formation of al-Shabaab? After all, despite their many, many, MANY crimes against the Somali people living under their brutal rule, in regions like Bay their administration has provided the first semblance of law and order to places where warlords previously ruled with violence and lawlessness reigned.  So what to look forward to in this shiny new year? Not much in Somalia. As wonderful as the potential news of al-Shabaab’s downfall may seem, there appears to be greater dangers emerging in the future. The greatest potential conflict zone appears to be the newly-declared state of Azania, (or Jubaland depending on who is advocating for it), in the south.

If the Kenyan invasion is successful in removing al-Shabaab from the bordering territory of Azania/Jubaland and installing a satellite administration (Azania) under Mohamed ‘Ghandi’ Abdi Mohamed, as Wikileaks revealed was the Kenyan’s motives for their invasion, Ethiopia will likely not stand idly by. Since the loss of Eritrea in 1991, Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia has largely been concerned with ensuring access to its ports. Jubaland includes Somalia’s third largest port city; Kismayo. Consequently, Ethiopia is backing its own favoured factions to ensure access. The end result in an al-Shabaab free region would therefore entail placing two clan-based  factions against each another, both backed by Somalia’s two most powerful neighbours. This does not look good.

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