Policy WATCH:
UN Grasps Obvious, Shabaab Goes For The Gore
Media Messages Show How Far Apart Good Intentions and Somalia Really Are
05/14/2011
Mogadishu Street View
©Somalia Report
Mogadishu Street View
The public and press events of last week were far away from the gunfire and booming explosions in Mogadishu's Hodan district in which ten people were killed and 8 were injured on Friday alone. A total of 27 people have been killed, most of them al-Shabaab fighters, as AMISOM and jihadis battle over inches in the hot seaside capital.

Far away in New York, after a security council meeting, Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, issued a statement to the UN News Center stating that Somalia's government was a mess. Warning them that after the TFG's mandate is over, the UN will seek a more regional approach to forming a government.

The main focus of the TFG/UN interface is whether elections should be held in July or held at a later time with the TFG still in place. He called for "an agreed framework of federalism, devolution, decentralisation." “Both the Government and Parliament have not addressed this issue,” referring to the role of the semi-autonomous regions that seem to be springing up like wild flowers in the vacuum of TFG governance.

Mahinga insisted that the TFG with the help of AMISOM had made "significant territorial gains" against al-Shabaab insurgents in the capital of Mogadishu as well as in the central, western and southern areas. His concern is that the military efforts of AMISOM would be for nothing if there is no political solution to fill the vacuum.

The UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday told the TFG "to reach agreement on holding elections for president and speaker of parliament as soon as possible" and warned that without such elections "there can be no extension" of the transitional government's mandate. Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed gave a speech felt that the dissolution of the TFG and the election process would come at the worst time. The prime minister apologized for the childish antics of the TFG in illegally extending their mandate and the constant bickering. His presentation did not sway or impress the de facto caretakers of Somalia.

“The Government has not succeeded in undertaking any political reforms that would inject new momentum into the process,” said Mr. Mahiga. “At the moment the political will is lacking.”

The Prime Minister of Somalia offered up proof of his government's success: a hospital, a school and minor rehabilitation projects but only within Mogadishu. The TFG set meetings for June to further discuss their fate with stakeholders. In a mastery of understatement the 15 nation group issued a formal statement: “The Security Council reiterates its grave concern at the continued instability in Somalia, which has led to a multitude of problems.”

As the Prime Minister focused on the tiny enclave of UN defended Mogadishu, the UN seems to be blind to the success of Somaliland and Puntland in their choosing to ignore the TFG and going about the business of creating governance without major international assistance and political engineering.

Both regions have their problems but both seem to be functioning at a level much higher than greater Mogadishu and the south as a whole. Adding complexity to any future solution are the myriad of new breakaway regions have appeared in what seems to be an effort to prepare for a coalition of regional states.

There is also friction between these new states as they elbow each other for control over scarce resources and strategic positioning. Recent fighting in Galgala, the expansion of piracy and a long list of targeted assassinations in the north also add to the gloomy forecast of political stability.

A coalition of the Illing?

There is no 'one' healthy place or even a major "good news" story in Somalia. The policy of disengagement could allow Somalia to sink below its unenvied position at the bottom of the Human Development Index. Somalia boasts a grey which means "data unavailable" a dubious honor shared by Liberia and Afghanistan in the worst years of their violent history. Abandoning Somalia may be worse than leaving it on broken life support. But clearly even the UN policy of propping up a false front government and hiring mercenaries to defend them has not worked. It is also up for discussion whether the less than clandestine activities of Ethiopia, the U.S. and their proxies are bringing the salvation Somali's pray for.

Regardless of what political structure is created in the coming months, the people of Somalia are suffering now. The political charades of the TFG, breakaway, semi-autonomous and autonomous regions are secondary to the very real food and security crisis affecting all Somalis. While the TFG and UN play government, the pastoralists and city dwellers suffer the very real effects of poverty, sickness, malnourishment, thirst and despair.

The UN did mention at the tail end of their press release that they estimate that 75% of Somalia's livestock had perished. This would be a stunning amount if true since livestock are a critical part of Somalia's existence. They not only provide income when sold but also sustenance in milk, meat and transport.

The now standard statement that 2.4 million of Somalia's 7.2 million people are in need of relief aid is in itself misleading because the lack of funding and violence prevent many groups from delivering basic staples. The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia estimates around 241,000 children to be acutely malnourished

Oxfam Novib in Nairobi estimates that the scope of the food crisis caused by the drought is simply impossible to assess. They do know that only a third of the $529 million appeal for 2011 is funded showing a distinct lack of interest from global agencies to help Somalia. Aid agencies are also directly affected by the violence and have curtailed much of the humanitarian programs in the south.

Thirty one NGO's issued a joint statement on Friday addressing the food crisis and little good news until July when crops are expected to be harvested. The rains have arrived but the amount of forage and crops is affected by forced migration and dead or diseased animals.

On the streets of Mogadishu al-Shabaab seemed to take a different tack for their press. On Thursday they held a media conference after they dragged the body of a dead Ugandan AMISOM soldier through the streets using a rope. "Today we are celebrating the death and blood of your sons," Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage bragged to an assembled group of journalists.

Al-Shabaab made no comment on the suffering of the Somali people.