Monthly Archives: February 2012

London Somalia Conference: A Betrayal of Somali Optimism

I would be lying if I said I had any real expectations for the much hyped  London Somalia Conference, and yet when the day came my deeply buried optimism emerged. I noticed myself obsessively checking the BBC Somali news service and other news outlets for updates and watched snippets of the opening speeches. I was especially pleased with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emphasis on ending the TFG come August 2012 and the pledge of a new stability fund. There was of course no serious discussions on how to solve the deep seated political problems in Somalia before the August deadline, piracy and the threat of terrorism were given far more weight than the massive humanitarian crisis faced by Somalis,  but then again it was just one day conference organised by the U.K, no big surprises. Despite this, all in all the London Conference didn’t seem to display any of the the sinister motives some commentators were fearing, raising fears that British meddling could lead to Somalia’s ‘ultimate demise’.

These sinister motives, however, became all too clear yesterday with the report published by The Observer. The story reveals whilst world leaders were meeting in London giving lofty speeches on how the world can no longer ignore Somalia’s myriad of problems, British officials were exploiting Somalia’s lack of a legitimate government and poverty to gain a stake in Somalia’s future energy industry. Prime Minster Abdeweli Gaas himself admitting that he would trade Somalia’s natural resources in return for aid. It’s pretty remarkable how in the space of less than a week, the optimism this conference raised amongst Somalis back home and abroad was so quickly replaced by the default cynicism toward the West’s interventions in Somalia. All hopes raised on the day, that the international community were taking serious steps to solve Somalia’s problems if not for the sake of its long-suffering people, but to defend the West from terrorism, have been swiftly dashed.

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Progress I suppose…

It’s sad that an agreement to raise the representation of women in Somalia’s parliament up to 30% is viewed as a ground breaking step in the right direction. I understand anything is an improvement on the current composition, where the only female cabinet minister for years has been the Minister for Women’s Affairs, but 30%? Really?

I’m going to read on the results of the Garowe Conference some more to get a better idea on what to expect from next weeks major conference in London.

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50 Cent visits Somalia

No, this is not a story from The Onion. Of all the random celebrity humanitarian ‘missions’ to Somalia or the neighbouring refugee camps heaving with Somali refugees, this one really baffled me. 50 Cent Curtis Jackson, visited the Gedo region as part of a mission sponsored by the World Food Program, doesnt strike me as the type to spend much time thinking about hunger and global poverty. Pretty much because of the picture below and the crude materialism espoused in his music. The star of a film called ‘Get rich or die tryin’ visiting people whose challenge was to get to the camps or die on the way. Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.

One positive aspect of his interest in the crisis in Somalia is that he has committed to providing 1 billion meals for the hungry (no specifics) which is pretty remarkable despite the fact that it is tied to a cheesy promotion of his energy drink brand.

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When the West gets it right and the Left don’t

Russia and China’s recent UN Security Council veto of the US and Arab League-backed resolution calling for the removal of President Bashar Assad, despite the vote coming after the massacre of Homs, was despicable. What really surprises me amongst the ongoing bloodshed in Syria is the lack of real condemnation of the regime from left-wing anti-war movements in the West. So far it seems only Western governments are making the most noise in condemnation of the violence. Strange.

Browsing the Stop the War Coalition website , which played a large role in the early protests against the Iraq war in the UK and is now focused on working against any potential strike on Iran, proves fruitless. The only articles on the Syrian uprising are focused on the perils of any Western military intervention à la Libya 2011. That’s it, the killing of Syrian civilians only matters if they are killed by Western bombs.

Kenya’s ‘sea grab’

As suspected, Kenya’s military adventure in Somalia has not limited itself to the goal enforcing a buffer-zone on its border. The Kenyan government’s sudden hands-on approach to the long-running conflict in Somalia may in fact be more focused on exploiting the chaotic political situation in the country to expand its territorial waters by 150 nautical miles, a move which requires the consent of neighbouring countries. Kenya first applied for this expansion to the UN in 2009, claiming the support of the unelected and comically inept TFG in a memorandum of understanding between the countries, which was quickly voted against by Somali MPs in Parliament and condemned by the Puntland administration. Kenya is of course continuing with its bid,which will be determined by 2014, to expand its marine territory despite these protests because of the improved prospects of striking oil offshore. Prospects made ever more likely with recent news that two Western companies have begun drilling for oil in Puntland as part of a three month exploration project.

This whole project, to me at least, is clearly a brazen attempt to circumvent international law, steal and exploit the natural resources of a troubled but sovereign (technically) nation. And yet, it has received barely any media coverage or better yet, any non-Somali condemnation. This is not to say that the media have no interest in Somalia’s plight, every tragedy seems to have been documented to capture each indignity suffered by Somalis over the past 21 years. But perhaps a story of one poor African country screwing over another isn’t ‘sexy’ enough to stir the Western media’s interest.