Posts by Robert Young Pelton

News Site Scores Scoops and Blunders

As founder and publisher of Somalia Report I would like to publicly thank our staff and stringers for rapidly building this site into the fastest-growing "must read" news site on Somalia. We experience readership growth every day.

Six months ago, I had a vision for a ground-based service with local reporters assisted by veterans being able to communicate what life inside Somalia is really like. I saw this a natural evolution of my books, my television series, and journalistic reports from the world's most troubled places. I first want to thank our network of stringers from Hargeisa to Mogadishu that risk their lives to bring us stories. I also want to thank our far-flung staff who help clean up, encourage and support our people in the most trying of conditions.

On a personal note I have seen how war zones discourage the free flow of information allowing propaganda, misinformation and bias to creep in. We do not tolerate that at Somalia Report and we rely on our readers to contribute if they see something that we are not reporting or needs correcting.

As for blunders, we have made mistakes. For example, we have received eyewitness accounts of ransoms being dropped from two separate sources only to find that no such event occurred after we reported it. We have had potential stringers (no longer with us) send us direct copies of news from the internet assuming that the status quo was in place. We have had official sources insist that we were wrong only to find that we were right and their attempt to cover-up the story was misguided.

If we are wrong we clearly note the mistake and correct or pull the article.

We are unaligned and report to no one except our readership. We do not even carry any advertising. The safety and welfare of our staff and stringers is paramount and we are freely available for any questions or discussions.

Our stories are the best that a privately funded business, putting food on the table of hard-working and talented Somali journalists, can do. We would welcome sponsorship to keep the website open and free to all, and we provide in-depth private reporting for academic, business and social organizations.

We are getting close to having enough readers to transform ourselves into a paying service, but for now you can still read the site for free. If you would like to be included in our weekly letter from the editor in which we recap the week's highlights, please send an email to:

Again, thank you to our devoted readers, stringers and staff.

Robert Young Pelton

Founder and Publisher

Somalia Report

Help Us Find NGOs Who Do Not Deliver on Their Promises
Foreign Aid in Port. Will it actually get to its intended recipients?
Foreign Aid in Port. Will it actually get to its intended recipients?

Conditions in Somalia over the last two decades have never been good, but a recent confluence of fighting, famine, drought and desperation have sent pastoralists, city dwellers and the normally self-sustaining Somalis into survival mode.

Due to violence, militant Islamist group al-Shabaab, and checkpoints, delivery of relief supplies in Mogadishu has been been the most difficult on earth. If the shipments survive pirates, they must then deal with port taxes, checkpoints, greedy local officials and a myriad of barriers to its ultimate destination. This system of corruption and theft of foreign aid is insidious, and was the major reason for the US military intervention in the early 90's.

Today the players may have changed, but the game is the same. There are individuals who prey on the supposedly tax- and duty-free foodstuffs to rob the Somali people of their lifeline. Aid is the singular lifeblood of much of Somalia and organizations like al-Shabaab now use the delivery or blocking of delivery as a weapon against the people it was destined for. To compound this, the business of aid, research, public benefit and even research has been infiltrated by people whose sole intention is to enrich themselves. Somaliland, pro-government militia Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) and other groups have made efforts to crack down and register NGOs to prevent fraud. At the same time al Shabaab extorts recognized bringers of aid simply as a cold hearted source of cash and then treats them as spies and interlopers. In all Somalia is a tough ugly world for those who bring hope.

Charity for Whom?

The UN has estimated it needs $300 million dollars within the next two months to deal with the famine. There is much criticism when desperate people see the UN whisking around in chauffeur-driven Toyota Land Cruisers, although Land Cruisers are often owned by warlords and criminals. But the UN is often the only game in town. Under the UN, and interwoven in any disaster, are the myriad of charities and NGOs who often carry out the legwork and hire the workers to get the goods and service to the people. Amongst them are also special interest advocacy groups pledged to spread the word of God, stop genital mutilations, save the seas and promote democracy, creating a crazy quilt work of charities. Most rely on donations and all hit the PR button hard during times of crisis, even though they will privately admit that by the time that money gets there the crisis is usually over.

So it is with the famine in Somalia hitting the news. Well-intentioned people shocked by statistics and images will turn to the internet to donate and help in any way they can. 3.7 million Somalis (almost half of the total population) are affected by the drought and in need of aid, according to UN figures. In the relief world, and by any measure, the crisis in Somalia is proportionally worse than the earthquake in Haiti (a third of the population or three million Haitians were affected by the earthquake). The difference is Google lists 488,000 hits for "Donations to Haiti" and only 208 listings for "Donations for Somalia". Even with 10 million affected in all of the Horn of Africa, and four out ten thousand children dying daily, you won't see Sean Penn in Mogadishu any time soon.

You will see all the familiar faces in Dadaab, Kenya though. The refugee camp concept can further exacerbate the situation. Because aid agencies can't push relief into Somalia they are focusing on supporting remote camps far away from Somalia and furthering the destructive process of gutting the social structure by pulling desperate people out of their homes and into Kenya. Far away from home the camps will become recruiting centers for idle angry youth and soul crushing prisons. Refugees will then have hopes of visa's and life in a new nation, their past lives abandoned.

All the while press offices facilitate high profile media reports focusing on dying children, desperate elders and scenes of heart wrenching misery. Millions of dollars in donations will begin to flow in from concerned diaspora, strangers and governments. How will you help? This is a personal choice. The closer to the ground your money gets the more impact is has. The more the money stays inside Somalia the more it allows people to stay in their homes and villages. But you must also accept the looser controls and pragmatic realities of supporting NGO's in a war zone.

If you donate to some of the blue chip NGO's you can expect a chunk to go towards overhead and fundraising. Canada has created a single donation point to add more impact. Other large groups may exploit Somalia's woes but will admit that it goes into a larger pot and may not specifically go to Somali emergency activities.

The larger the organization the more comfortable you should be about your donation being put to good use. You don't want to hear it but the chances are good that part of that money will end up in the pockets of al Shabaab, corrupt government officials and even for goods put up for sale at the local market with "Gift of the USA, Not for Sale" clearly marked on the sacks.

So how do you guard against people taking advantage of charity? Where should your compassion be directed? How best to respond?

Normally you would start by consulting a watchdog organization or government registrar. Just search on line and you will see plenty.

Seventy percent of domestic charities typically spend around 75% of the donated funds on programs. Most charity rating sites only cover large US-based groups. UK-based watchdogs do their best, but only if the charity provides the data for government scrutiny. By law, a charity must prove its tax-exempt status by registering and filing. Even a foreign charity or NGO must register with the local government to ensure compliance. Somalia attempts to do this in Mogadishu, but Somaliland and Puntland do a better job. Even if a charity fails to register, they must deal with local power brokers like militias. But we are talking about who is legitimate and what they actually do.

On the upper end of governmental agencies, we see large, well-funded organizations like the Danish and UK government-supported COMMUNITY-DRIVEN RECOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT (CDRD) in Somalia. They openly publish how-to manuals, financials, independent assessments, helpful information and data critical to understanding their operations. They work with other large NGOs and create media outreach, training and almost too much data. A donor can simply click to see where even expenditures of as little as $800 dollars go.

Non Governmental Agencies

Yes, large NGOs can be bloated, top-heavy leviathans with overpaid expats that populate the office space and bars of Nairobi, but who else will do the emotionally blistering work of saving lives in times of need? Groups like MSF are famous for pushing their volunteers to the front lines and you can find them in Mogadishu and the camps. Somalia is too dangerous for Merlin but can be found in Kenya. Many NGO's have been forced to pull their western staff out of Southern Somalia due to direct threats from al Shabaab.

That's why as you get closer to the center of the problem you find the local NGOs. Usually well-dressed, intelligent Somalis who have decided to stay behind, make a decent wage and coordinate the larger efforts of the Kenya-based NGOs and coordinators. We have provided a list below of legitimate groups working inside Somalia.

Somali NGOs like Bani'Adam with websites that list their office, mission and photo page are a good example. Bani'Adam Relief and Development offers an impressive list of services ranging from sanitation, to food delivery, to education with an earnest website that tries to communicate as much as it can. The Mogadishu-based NGO began in 1991 and its President Abdulaziz Maio Mohamed is a known entity in the relief business.

Many of the Somali NGOs do not publish their finances and the ability to determine their effectiveness requires an inordinate application of effort in remote and often hostile places. We encourage you to directly engage these NGO's via email, ask to see financials and inquire as to specifically where your donation will go.

But Bani' Adam Relief and Development answers to a board of directors and coordinates with other larger NGOs. It is questionable if these NGOs are more than sources of employment allowing local staff to act as representatives of larger NGOs based in Nairobi. Their annual report comes with a "Make Donation" on fire button and does not provide any financials or dollar figures. They do provide extensive listing of projects, photographs, partners and contact information. They are also part of UNOCHA's WASH (Water, Sanitation, Health) list and operate in the most dangerous and difficult parts of Mogadishu. They can be forgiven for typos, missing financials, and their urgent appeal for donations. You will find little media coverage of this industrious group of volunteers. It is up to the donor to ask for financials and determine if this charity is delivering good value.

Some NGOs are chameleon-like, blending and bending to suit the crisis. Media savvy NGOs like Ecoterra Intl have shape-shifted from internet eco-warriors, to land-locked maritime advocates, to piracy reporters and relying on outrage to drum up funds and sympathy. With pirates hijacking food shipments, poachers stealing tons of fish, Somalia fishermen unable to feed their families and general abuse of the unguarded oceans around the Horn Of Africa, what better time for a maritime and fisheries-based NGO to step up?

Logic would dictate that supporting a charity that can create self-sustaining jobs, deliver protein and protect clean water from Somalia's oceans and ecosystem would be a good bet? At first glance based on their impressive media profile, Ecoterra as an NGO focused on maritime protection and ecological sustainability should be the perfect conduit for funds from an concerned public.

The problem is that Ecoterra, despite their high profile, and their more than two decades of operation from Nairobi, have yet to provide a single tangible shred of evidence of their cause but still use their high profile to canvass for donations and support.

Julian Bauer of Ecoterra International maintains an internet presence as ECOP Marine, no clear documentation, no history of projects, but requests for donations: "Our engagement is pro bono, but like everyone we too have to pay the costs for communications, transport, actions and local staff."

Photo of Bauer below is credited to

Julian Bauer, Ecoterra

Bauer has managed to operate his "maritime protection" NGO for over a decade and is not registered in Kenya or Somalia. Somalia Report's Andrew Mwangura worked closely with Mr. Bauer from 2003 to 2010 in an attempt to better the condition of seaman but received nothing in compensation, while noticing that Mr. Bauer was using the information he provided to gain funding from European sources. In the 8 or 9 years that Andrew and his network provided information to Mr. Bauer, he never saw an office in Nairobi for Ecoterra, but met Mr. Bauer "mainly in west side coffee houses and in 5-star hotels." Andrew is now our Maritime Editor.

Although Bauer is well-known around town and a prolific creator of internet content, for someone as adept in written output, his background is unusually sparse. There is not one single bio or photo of Bauer on any of his websites. There are no photographs of projects. There is no office, no employee pictures not even a clear indication who the author of the hundreds of reports is. For someone who calls himself Professor, there is a notable lack of academic rigor.

As best Somalia Report can tell, Bauer is native of Germany, he is said to have taught in Mogadishu at the now defunct university in the early 90's. His cryptic educational history includes the term "Professor" but none of the four universities we contacted in Germany, Canada and Somalia had any records of his matriculation. He has participated in various UN and NGO conferences on ecological matters and has written about animals, ethnic groups and maritime resources.

Bauer established ECO²TERRA in 1986 and allegedly registered it in 1987. His site states that ECO²TERRA is "recognized as NGO, NGHA and charity, at first in the Federal Republic of Germany."

In the mid 2000's, ECO²TERRA, Ecoterra, ECOP and Eco Terra would then create a series of ambiguous sites with numerous links to unrelated charities defending animals, the oceans, ethnic minorities, a defunct Somali sultanate and even a stillborn Eco resort. In 2002, he set up a website which remained under construction for two years. During that time, he described Ecoterra as a "news site" and focused on the poaching of maritime resources off the coast of Somalia. In October of 2007, he had a unpleasant stint as a eco-tourism resort manager and found himself locked in his office as 100 rioting workers on the Segera ranch demanded he be fired.

In the fall of 2008 and early 2009, Bauer found himself as a sought-after blogger of the MV Faina hijacking, along with the colorfully named Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis, who wrote a multi-part series under the Ecoterra and East African Fishing and Dumping Hotline and East African Seafarers Assistance Programme. The reports were free and Ecoterra was on the map. Mwangura feels like his East African Seafarers Assistance Programme was used by Bauer to gain legitimacy since Andrew's years at sea, his networks amongst kidnapped crews and contacts in the seafaring world were never monetized or rewarded.

Somalia Report has found no evidence of any actual programs, support or publications that would support EcoTerra's NGO status. We have asked Ecoterra to provide proof of toxic waste dumping and even sent one of our correspondents to visit coastal areas to corroborate proof of toxic dumping. Instead we found little to support their accusations. EcoTerra did not respond to an email request, but has sent lengthy threatening emails to Somalia Report and even distributed a blind email designed to endanger our correspondents inside Somalia. We are happy to provide a rebuttal for Mr Bauer. Generally, sources we talked to described Mr. Bauer as combative, secretive and prone to conspiracy theories. Not one person we contacted could find a photograph of Mr. Bauer, a single report on his NGO's accomplishments, or even an address of his NGO. He continues to issue regular lengthy reports on piracy, toxic dumping and maritime affairs. As of July Bauer was still maintaining that "

ECOTERRA Intl. and ECOP-marine serve concerning the counter-piracy issues as advocacy groups in their capacity as human rights, marine and maritime monitors as well as in co-operation with numerous other organizations, groups and individuals as information clearing-house. In difficult cases we have successfully served as mediators."

Julian Bauer continues to do interviews with the media, sometimes using aliases, and has represented his organization in the media as:

an NGO,

a charity,

a media organization,

a monitoring organization,

a Kenya-based group set up by scientists, researchers and development experts to seek solutions to environmental problems in developing countries,

an environmental and human rights organization,

a maritime monitoring agency,

a coastal monitoring group,

an international maritime group,

an environmental and human rights NGO monitoring maritime activity,

an environmentalist NGO that monitors illegal dumping,

a Dutch nature protection and human rights group,

a Kenya-based organization that follows events in Somalia

a piracy monitoring group,

a group which has campaigned for the protection of coastal communities' rights and resources in the region,

non-governmental observers,

a non-governmental organisation that also monitors the marine and maritime situation along the East African coast,

a maritime watchdog.

Concerned donors, organizations and Somalia have every reason to support NGOs who pledge to protect their maritime resources, the safety of seafarers or even in-depth coverage. They should also demand accountability for the funds and support. We have yet to uncover any evidence of Ecoterra and its various guises (all leading to the same address, bank account and phone number) providing benefit or even accountability. We urge readers to provide their input on this shadowy NGO, which operates under the following handles:

In June, the TFG began to crack down on NGOs and ordered all healthcare-related NGOs to register. Dr. Adam Hajji Ibrahim, the minister of health, held a press conference to communicate his concern that these organizations needed to become official despite the chaotic nature of their operations . Somalialand legislation on NGO's showed in 2010 NGOs were estimated to bring in $87M in revenue to the region

Puntland has formed a drought relief committee and seeks to expand delivery of water, food, medical and vet supplies.

During Somalia's time of need, Somalia Report has been conducting and will continue to conduct an investigation into NGOs, or those who purport to be NGO's but do not provide the services, skills or benefit they promise. We are looking to single out groups and individuals who abuse the public's trust and charity in what may be Somalia's most desperate hour.

We have been investigating people who have been representing themselves as charitable organizations but are not registered, present false credentials or are set up strictly to benefit the owners. Many of these groups rely on the lack of actual auditing of their facility, staff, accounts or activities by donors. We intend to physically visit and check in on NGO's who are deemed suspect and to report on our findings.

As part of our investigation we also will highlight those NGOs who do admirable work but do not receive enough attention. We have spent time on the ground with aid activities who selflessly care for the afflicted but do not do the normal self promotion required to get funding. NGOs are a critical part of Somalia's survival and the vast majority work selflessly to provide food, medical care, shelter and very survival.

Please send us your suggestions of NGOs that should be held accountable and those that should receive more positive focus.

Send your information with relevant name, address, documents, details and photographs to

Thank you,

Robert Young Pelton Publisher Somalia Report

Further Sources:



World Food Program ReliefWeb





International Rescue Committee

The above sites are good sources to keep up on developments, donate money, get informational maps and reports. Keep in mind that most of their efforts of the large NGO's are focused on the camps in Kenya, not inside Somalia where the need is greatest.

NGO's In Kenya

You can also check with the Nairobi office to confirm that an NGO is registered before you donate. Many registered NGO's are not active or have no specific programs in Somalia. There are just under a million Somali's living in Kenya and about 100,000 in the camps and classified as refugees.

The Non-Governmental Organisation Co-ordination Board
Co-op Bank House, 15th Floor, Haile Selassie Avenue
P.O Box 44617-00100 Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: +254-20-2213938/4044/4231/4487/4813/4821
Fax: +254-20-2214801

The UN keeps a "WASH" list of local NGO's and support groups that focus on the most immediate needs of civilians under stress in Somalia. You can download the complete database with contact info here: 110713_WASH_contacts.pdf

Although registration inside Somalia is hit and miss, The Somalia Consortium based in Nairobi maintains a list of legitimate NGOs working in Somalia: If there is a specific interest you have they can direct you to the best NGO for your donations.

Somalia Consortium of NGOs Peponi Rise of Peponi Road, Kitisuru
P.O Box 14762 - 00800
Nairobi, Kenya
Telephone: +254-020 2607110/1
Fax: +254-020 2607112
Mobile Phone Number: +254 700 419246 / +254 734 211098

AAH-I - Action Africa Help - International ACTED - Agency for Technical Co-operation and Development

Adventist Development and Relief Agency Somalia

Africa Education Trust

African Rescue Committee


American Friends Service Committee

Agency for Peace and Development

Bani'Adam Relief & Development Organization Burhakaba Town Section Committee

Cooperative Assistance and Relief Everywhere Caritas Switzerland/Luxembourg Programme For Somaliland Comitato Collaborazione Medica

European Committee For Training in Agriculture

Cooperation and Development

International Commiittee for the Development Peoples

CONCERN Worldwide Somalia

Cooperazione Internazionale

Coordination Committee of Voluntary Service Organizations

Daryeel Bulsho Guud Website down

Development Initiative Access Link

Danish Refugee Council

Family Empowerment and Relief Organization


Golyome Rehabilitation and Development Organization

Gruppo Per Le Relezionni Transculturalli

HANDICAP International 



Handicap Initiative Supporting and Networking

HORN RELIEF International Aid Services

Integrated Development Focus

International Medical Corps

International Peacebuilding Alliance

Humanitarian Aid Organisation


International Rescue Committee

International Research & Exchanges Board

International Solidarity Foundation

JUBBA Foundation

KISIMA Peace & Development Org

Kaalo Relief and Development

Mines Advisory Group

Medecins Du Monde

MEDAIR (Somalia/Somaliland) MERCY CORPS


Mubarak for Relief and Development Organisation

Norwegian Church Aid

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs

Noleeynta Naruurada Mustaqbalka

Norwegian People's Aid

Norwegian Refugee Council OXFAM GB


Physicians for Social Responsibility - Finland

Relief for Africa

RELIEF International

Social-Life and Agricultural Development Organization


Samawadada Rehabilitation & Development Organization

SAVE THE CHILDREN Somalia/Somaliland Programme Swedish African Welfare Alliance

Society Development Initiative Organization

Somali Emergency Aid

Somali Family Services





Veterinaires Sans Frontieres - Germany

Veterinaires Sans Frontieres - Suisse

WAHA International

Wajir South Development Association

WORLD CONCERN International

World Vision Somalia

Youth Organization for Relief & Development

Another Famine, Another War. What Did America Learn From 1993?
Movie Still From Black Hawk Down
Movie Still From Black Hawk Down

Recently a bid went up on the U.S. government site to recreate a diorama of the events now called Black Hawk Down. It's yet another reminder that the U.S. efforts in Somalia were defined by failure, when the opposite is true. The military intervention actually ended the famine in Somalia by allowing aid to get out of the warlord embattled ports and out into the rural areas. Black Hawk Down was simply a two day event that had little to do with the U.S. effort overall but came to define "Operation Restore Hope".

This week's famine announcement brings back echos of the early 1990s, when UN peacekeepers, US Marines, Army Rangers, 10th Mountain Division and Special Operations teams landed in Mogadishu to secure the UN aid effort and stop the then Somali leaders and their militias from defeating the UN's efforts to distribute aid.

Although historically the event is considered a failure, the Mogadishu-based media ignored how many lives were saved by the ill fated intervention and wasn't even around to document the even larger number of Somali's were saved from the abyss. Some like Georgetown's Professor Chester Crocker estimate that although the effort was flawed, over a quarter of million Somalis were kept alive due to the aggressive intervention.

The question that must be posed is; will anyone come to Somalia aid this time? AMISOM is confined to Mogadishu, Ethiopia is diddling along the borders but has a bad taste in their mouth from their three year, U.S. backed stint occupying the south and America is busy backpedaling from their ten years in Afghanistan and 8 years invasion of Iraq. The entire East African and even North African region has it's own larger problems and it seems that even well intentioned public calls for simple financial aid are not doing well.

So with Shabaab flip flopping on aid and regular Somali's choosing to flee rather than wait, will anyone save Somalia?

Black Hawk Down Syndrome

Aerial view of fighting in October 1993
Aerial view of fighting in October 1993

The most famous attempt to intervene in Somali's agony has been reduced in most outsider's perception as simply "Black Hawk Down," a debacle that began with an attempt to secure aid delivery and ended with a bungled attempt to arrest Farrah Aidid that ended with the deaths of 18 American soldiers, one Malaysian peacekeeper and an estimated 200 (ICRC estimates) to 3500 (Amb Robert Oakley estimate) Somalis.

The heroic but catastrophic event will continue to be a popular touchstone for much of the ensuing famine coverage, policy planning and security operations as reporters and governments hark back to the last time the US tried to alleviate famine and bring stability but ended up folding their tents and leaving. It was an event so impactful that it affected US foreign intervention policy until September 11, 2001.

The US and other western nations fatigued by a decade of combat since 9/11 may react with even less enthusiasm as the growing need for security in Somalia brings calls for more robust external assistance.

Author Mark Bowden's best selling book (not to be confused with the UN's current representative Mark Bowden) and Ridley Scott's blockbuster depicted American soldiers suddenly outnumbered and fighting heroically against generic mobs of Somalis. Their depiction of dark evil Somali warlords and under-supported troops are memorable but selective in their focus on just a few hours of Somalia's turbulent history.

Is Somalia Different Today?

The reality of those events, although truthful in the telling, were different in context. Somalia's condition as a functioning nation had been declining since independence, haphazard foreign aid programs, the war against Ethiopia, social engineering and escalating failure of economic growth slowly unwound Somalia's economy and social structure. The UN's intervention and the US action as "Doing God's Work" appeared well after the point of triage. Describing Somalia as "lawless", "ruled by gangs" and "out of control" suited the perception required to render security assistance to the "tragedy in Somalia" and "save thousands of innocents from death". It was estimated that 1.5 million Somalis were at risk of death.

Somalia's post-colonial President Siad Barre, a man who initially championed social reform, was forced out of office in January of 1991 by General Farrah Aidid. Barre's rapid shift from Soviet-era reformer to predator, along with his lack of response to the worsening economy, forced Aideed's hand. When Barre left, infighting between Muhammad Ali Mahdi of the Abgaal clan and Aideed of the Habr Gadir clan began as both proclaimed themselves to be President of Somalia, even though Aidid had won two thirds of the United Somalia Congress' vote. A war between between literally two cousins broke out with Ali Mahdi pushing a western-style government and Aidid advocating a clan-based system. Ali Mahdi was defeated and Aidid also began to war against the remnants of Siad Barre's army. It was also in 1991 that Somaliland chose to breakaway from the southern squabbling. Not surprising since there were at least 27 different factions battling inside Somalia.

All sides were bloated with weaponry and supplies from the war against Ethiopia. When the UN intervened, it was its position that there was no government (due to the coup and infighting) and essentially began to run Somalia. Ali Mahdi's western view was more acceptable and the UN ignored clan elders. The clans banded together and began to war against the foreigners, who they accused of indiscriminate slaughter and a dictatorship type rule.

Images of war, and famine soon began to be broadcast from Somalia. It is estimated that 300,000 Somalis died in this dark period and it wasn't until March of 1992 that the UN brokered a tenuous cease fire. A tiny contingent of UN military observers paved the way for the delivery of humanitarian supplies but this quickly broke down into fighting. The UN urgently appealed for help.

On December 5, President Bush used a folksy TV announcement to order 25,000 US troops into Somalia to secure the ports and the delivery of aid. The use of the US Air Force since August was not working. The president's concern that aid was blocked in the harbor and needed outside troops to provide security sounds very familiar. On December 8, Dan Rather of CBS, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Ted Koppel of ABC left for Mogadishu. CNN broadcast live coverage of what they labeled "Saving Somalia".

Four days later, Marines stumbled onto the beaches and were blinded by the dozens of camera crews waiting for them. America's high moral purpose contrasted with the violence they encountered delivered an ominous feeling that this highly publicized humanitarian action was not going to go well. Another 3,252 Americans were put under UN command and a support contingent of contractors arrived. The idea was to open the supply routes and create a short term presence to hand over to the UN. "We will not stay one day longer than absolutely necessary," was the promise President Bush made.

What America was not told was that General Farah Aidid saw the UN control of Mogadishu and the U.S. arrival as a direct threat to his control of the region. He pledged to actively combat the foreign forces in Somalia who were viewed more as interlopers than liberators.

The Tipping Point.

The critical point of Operation Restore Hope is that 30,000 U.S. troops and international intervention ended the mass starvation by March of 1993. Much of this convoy protection and aid delivery took place far away from the media coverage of Mogadishu.

Operation Restore Hope
Operation Restore Hope
It was not the U.S. that fired the first shot. There were complaints on indiscriminate shots, civilian casualties and deaths but Aideed used the intervention to further his political and military agenda.

On June 5, 24 Pakistani UN soldiers were ambushed, killed and mutilated during an inspection of arms depot. Although Aidid was not directly implicated, it was clear that he had declared war on the UN and US. A UN resolution to arrest Aideed and his top aides, which was revealed on June 27. It took until August to get a special operations group positioned in Mogadishu to go after Aideed but military operations began to kill or capture Aideed began immediately. This was not in the original plan and had direct political impact on the UN and U.S. position in Somalia. In a country that supposedly had no government or army, outside forces found themselves at war with a politician and army that had deposed the sizable forces of Siad Barre.

Although Aidid is portrayed as a ruthless warlord he was in fact a trained accountant turned general and had been educated in Italy and Soviet Russia. He served as the ambassador to India and the head of intelligence under Siad Barre. In addition, the ramshackle bloodthirsty militia portrayed in the film were part of a seasoned fighting group that had deposed Siad Barre in 1991. It was Aidid's and to a certain extent popular support that provided much of the friction to the presence of the UN and US forces.

A successful humanitarian operation was being suddenly being hampered by an internal conflict. A robust mission to take out Aideed was mounted.

On July 12, US helicopters fired 20 TOW missiles and over 2000 rounds of 20mm cannon rounds into the offices of Abdi Hassan Awale Qaybdiid. A newspaper announced there there was a meeting of Aidid's elders to come up with a peace deal with the UN, but Aidid and Qaybdiid were not there because he had been tipped off by the Italians. The summer was full of attempts to destroy Aidid-related strong points, including his radio station. In August, Special Operation troops arrived, but without armor and heavy air support.

"Task Force Ranger arrived in Somalia by 28 August. The task force consisted of special operations ground forces, special operations helicopters, U.S. Air Force special tactics personnel, and U.S. Navy Seals. During August and September 1993, the task force chalked up six successful raids inside Mogadishu including the September 21st capture of Aideed's advisor, Osman Ali Atto. Faced with increasing pressure, Aideed's milita began fighting back harder.

The real Black Hawk that started the violence was actually downed before the famous event as laid out by another author, Scott Peterson, who wrote "Me Against My Brother: At War in Somalia, Sudan and Rwanda".

What American's Didn't See

On September 25, Somali militia men shot down a Black Hawk helicopter, killing three Americans, mutilating and decapitating one American and charging the curious money to peek inside the "Gift of the USA" flour sac. This barely publicized event led directly to the mission to get Aidid on October 3, which saw 19 helicopters, 12 vehicles, and 160 men were sent to capture him in a building next to the Olympic Hotel. But Aidid and Qaybidiid were late and arrived as the attack began. Some say it was a deliberate set-up based on their experience with the July 12 ambush. Delta snatched 24 of Aidid's men who surrendered peacefully then led them down to the street for transport. Army Rangers had been dropped to provide perimeter security and when a Black Hawk crashed near Bakara market, the chaos began. Aidid had planned for this and his men set up withering crossfire inside the warren of buildings. Despite the initial rush of around 100 US troops shooting over 60,000 rounds in less than 30 minutes, the relief effort was called back.

The 90-minute operation turned into a two-day long battle. The ensuing television coverage of American bodies being desecrated resulted in the loss of popular support for the US mission and eventual pull out. Rarely is the peaceful lull that broke out after the violent incident reported.

Newly elected President Clinton, not wanting to absorb the political damage created by his predecessor George Bush Sr., ordered a full withdrawal by 31 March 1994 and all foreign troops, support contractors and UN workers were gone by March of 1995 when Aidid declared himself president. He was wounded and died in 1996 and in an odd twist of fate his son, Hussein Mohamed Farrah, who had immigrated to US at 17, was chosen to succeed his father as President. The irony was that Farrah was a US Marine who served in Somalia as a translator during Operation Restore Hope.

Although the fighting in Mogadishu was primarily between the SNU or Aidid's Habr Gadir clan and Ali Mahdi Mohamed's USC, and despite either the militias never hearing of al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, the event was used by Bin Laden to show that local fighters can defeat the world's most powerful army.

Even today, the condensed popular view of the event is a major consideration in the deployment of ground troops to any region. Although people initially are moved by scenes of suffering and starvation, political and popular support rapidly erodes when gruesome images of dead Americans are front and center as they were broadcast on television on October 5, 1993. The fact that they actually stopped the famine is long forgotten.

Is There Popular Support For Intervention?

A rearview mirror, war weary look of the event would lead most to believe that America wanted out, Clinton’s decision was not supported by the majority of US people. A poll taken by ABC and CNN/USA Today right after the horrific images were broadcast showed that only 37% to 43% of Americans supported the immediate withdrawal of US troops. These (and five other polls taken at the time) showed that 55 - 61% of Americans polled supported sending in more troops. an ABC poll recorded that 75% supported sending in a major military offensive to get Aidid and to release Mike Durant, the then kidnapped American pilot.

Gothic Serpent was turned into a best selling book in 1999 and a hit film by Ridley Scott in 2001 and documentaries provide a lasting reminder to be made.

Although polls showed that US support of the US being involved in peacekeeping dropped from 70% to 40%, it rebounded to 70% when other nations were included in the survey. Polls by Time on Bosnia showed 68% of Americans polled supported using US troops to support peace agreements.

To the casual observer, it seemed that America's good intentions had backfired, but in reality polls taken in February by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland specifically about US troops in Somalia showed that 84% of Americans supported UN peacekeeping and only 13% were opposed. In July of 1994, PIPA found that 73% supported the use of American troops in peacekeeping. This misreading of the public mood led to Clinton doing nothing during the massacres in Rwanda and to a tepid approach to Bosnia.

The polls also clearly showed that Americans clearly understood the difference between bringing in relief to Somalis versus solving their political problems for them. 60% felt "the U.S. did the right thing".

There has yet to be a poll on whether America opinion on intervention in Somalia but a recent Harris poll shows a much more cautious country. In this poll on general intervention, 22% or more of Americans more are not sure whether or not it was right to intervene in six countries where U.S. troops or airplanes have been used. About half or 47% are unsure about Somalia.

47% to 27% plurality believes that intervening in Afghanistan was the right thing to do the opinion is evenly divided on U.S. intervention in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Kosovo. Where actual ground troops are not used there is actually more confusion: 53% are not sure about past intervention in the Ivory Coast. When asked about whether they support U.S. non lethal activities in Darfur and Rwanda, 45% of those polled are simply not sure. The obvious answer is most Americans simply don't have a clear idea of what their nation is doing overseas and even less about the end benefit or penalty. The truth? Most young people get their TV news from comedians Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. Despite half a decade of U.S. troops in country, in 2006 nine out of ten Americans polled by National Geographic couldn't point out Afghanistan on a map. There is little hope for Somalia.

If there is a direct threat of a terrorist attack Americans rebound to early 90's level of approval. 79% support military intervention to prevent attacks on the U.S. or to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. 74% if a strong and friendly ally is attacked and 55% - 66% support using troops if a dictator is killing large numbers of their own people, to overthrow a dictator who is very hostile to the U.S. and only 33% agreed with the use of U.S. military to change a dictatorship into a democracy. The prognosis for intervention to simply provide security for aid delivery is not even on the survey. 67% to 11% strongly believe that the U.S. should not be the world's policeman.

The Future for Somalia

Today's Somalia is much different, the fighters of al-Shabaab are poorly trained, the undermanned but professional Ugandan and Burundian soldiers of AMISOM are in control of much of Mogadishu and the famine is caused more by natural and economic reasons. It would be important to go past the cliche and Hollywood imagery and look at what actually occurred during the early years of the UN in Somalia.

AMISOM has shown that with tiny incremental troop increases it can expand its hold on Mogadishu, Ethiopian forces pushed out al-Shabaab fighters and the last remaining military opposition is finding itself being resented and tested by even the Somalis eager to see foreign influence leave.

The idea of khat-fueled Somali militiamen lurching around Mogadishu on technicals along with a hatred of foreign forces is not entirely true, either in the past or in any future attempts American's might make to help Somalis.

For now countries like the U.S. simply will not go against the polls and continue to funnel funds into less functional activities allowing them to claim compassion but not take the political risk associated with direct intervention. There will be much hand wringing at corruption, incompetence and failure but the media friendly spectre of Black Hawk Down will ensure that the public will remember "Operation Restore Hope" as a failure rather than America's intervention actually ending the famine.

Addendum: The Popular Version

Despite the need for clear thinking in the wake of yet another African disaster the perpetuation of "BHD syndrome" continues. A diaroma of that event will be built at the Fort Benning Infantry Museum and a bid went up on the U.S. government bidding site for the USA ACC MICC Fort Benning requires the following items, Purchase Description Determined by Line Item, to the following:

LI 001, Eight mannequins a.. Panama Era Ranger Rifleman as per RSOP of period.

b.. Panamanian Defense Force Soldier

c.. Somalia Era Ranger Rifleman as per RSOP of period

d.. Somali Farrah Aidid Gunman

e.. OIF Ranger Rifleman as per 2003 RSOP

f.. Iraqi Conventional Soldier

g.. OEF Ranger Rifleman as per current RSOP Al Qaeda/Taliban Terrorist, 8, EA; LI 002,

Dioramas include:

a.. Panama Rio Hato Airfield Seizure depicting six Rangers landing on the northern portion of the airfield.

b.. Panama Ma Bell mission depicting 3 Rangers, Ranger Jeep (RAV) and Panamanian Cuartel commander and PSD surrendering his command. Spectre gunship flying in distance.

c.. Somalia Depict three Rangers fast roping to provide security around target building.

d.. Somalia Super 6 - 1 crash site at the time SSG Eversman found it. Includes portion of Blackhawk, portion of crew and six rangers. e.. Somali Farrah Aidid seven man gang contingent.

f.. OIF 2003 Haditha Dam depicting GMV on top of dam with five rangers securing area.

g.. OIF MH6 lip landing of four rangers on two-story building with two insurgent inside.

h.. OIF King's Crossing eliminating top AQI insurgents. Depicts four rangers setting charge over spider hole entrance.

i.. OEF KG Pass Rangers clearing through insurgent lay-up station. Includes pass, thatch huts, six rangers, six insurgents, sleeping area, space blankets

j.. OEF Palm Grove being cleared by six Rangers and scout dog. Includes palm orchard with palm/bushes, bordered by mud wall, six rangers, scout dog, resting place, motorcycle, insurgents., 10, EA; LI 003, installation and set-up, 1, EA;


UN Operations in Somalia


The U.S. Army in Somalia

"Black Hawk Down" Mark Bowden's original Philadelphia Inquirer Series

Sony Pictures Black Hawk Down

Journeyman Films Documentary on Mogadishu

Dramatized History Channel Version

Video Game Documentary

Raw footage shot by Somali Cameraman

Two Perspectives In On Interventions and Humanitarian Operations (After Action Report by Amb Oakley)

Wins Number One Position for "Extreme Risk" Label from Investment Firm
Dire outside reports seem to ignore that Somali's markets and economy still function
Dire outside reports seem to ignore that Somali's markets and economy still function
Somalia was chosen by British firm Maplecroft as the place people will most likely die from a terrorist attack. Maplecroft is an investment firm that leans towards the politically correct side of international investment with a focus on human rights, ethical supply chains and corporate reputation. Part of what they do is monitor the relative safety of 197 countries for their clients and promotional purposes and of course offer their services to analyze that perceived risk for investors.

Their new report is custom made for the media's top ten lists. There are no surprises on the list other than the inclusion of South Sudan as one of the countries "most at risk from terrorist attacks."

The investment advisor's selection of the top twenty countries and territories in the ‘extreme risk,’ category are:

1) Somalia

2) Pakistan

3) Iraq

4) Afghanistan

5) South Sudan

6) Yemen

7) Palestinian Occupied Territories

8) DR Congo

9) Central African Republic

10) Colombia

11) Algeria

12) Thailand

13) Philippines

14) Russia

15) Sudan

16) Iran

17) Burundi

18) India

19) Nigeria

20) Israel

The company states:

The (Terrorism Risk Index) TRI has been developed by Maplecroft to enable business to identify and monitor the risks posed by terrorism to employees and assets in 197 countries. The index draws on the latest and most comprehensive data available to calculate the frequency and lethality of terrorist incidents over the 12 month period prior to April 1st 2011. The TRI also includes a historical component assessing the number of attacks over five years and assesses risks relating to countries’ geographic proximity to terrorist hotspots.

Sharp eyed readers will note the lack of Mexico, Libya and other extremely violent places as well as the irritating need to include massive nations like India and Russia that have regional insurgencies. There is also the very western habit of only including direct action conducted by recognized terror group but not giving context. There is no inclusion of foreign troops who die from terrorist attacks, no mention of "safe" countries that are the target of foreign terrorist groups and an arbitrary inclusion of "territories" without applying the same discipline when analyzing relatively calm places Kurdistan or Somaliland.

Perhaps more importantly there is no estimate of the death and destruction caused by what terrorist groups "don't" do as in the case of al-Shabaab severely hindering aid organizations and civilians. All in all it would seem the world needs to move beyond simplistic labels and assumptions and look towards use the global flow of data to create more constructive observations.

Tracking terrorism also requires a reporting system that clearly pushes the military obsession of recording every possible incident in Afghanistan and Iraq to the top end of the list.

In addition to their regional blind spots, these press releases rarely invest the energy to point out that within all these regions are unique opportunities for investment. Afghanistan, Iraq, the Congo and other "difficult places" like Somaliland, Puntland and even Mogadishu to a certain extent offer opportunities for investors. The spectacular rise of the mobile phone business and money transfer company Dahabshiil are a couple of examples. The recent restarting of the petroleum exploration business and even fledgling airline service are signs that even the world's most dangerous place is populated by industrious investors and a functioning customer base.

A recent report by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) shows that despite the extraordinary stress, violence and dysfunction in Somalia, markets still function. The impressive report deduces that, "Markets continue to function despite the many challenges market participants face and the reduction in effective demand caused by collapsing livelihoods and weak purchasing power across southern Somalia." That's not quite the image these "world's worst" press releases send.

There are equally socially productive investments in everything from fisheries to natural resources to education in these regions. What is needed is proper analysis of the opportunities and risks so that investors can make intelligent decisions.

Those with an obsessive need to track terrorist incidents can go to the US government's global incident database and write their own press release.

There is no argument that parts of Southern Somalia are dangerous but a firm who prides themselves on being "conscious of the significant financial benefits that can be achieved through good monitoring of such risks and the seizing of relevant opportunities" should follow its own dictum.

You must register to download the report here.

Philippine Crew Member Shot During Hijack, According to Pirates
A stuffed leopard mascot, Two Danish members (with orange on shirts) of the MV Leopard posed with kidnapped crew from the MT Polar crew photographed in Wasil on April 2011
A stuffed leopard mascot, Two Danish members (with orange on shirts) of the MV Leopard posed with kidnapped crew from the MT Polar crew photographed in Wasil on April 2011

The MV Leopard was carrying weapons when it was attacked by Somali pirates around 5pm local time on January 12, 2011. The ship had just dropped off its security crew hired for the passage through the Gulf of Aden and was off the coast of Oman. As they headed towards Mumbai, the captain saw rapidly approaching ships on their radar.

Back in late 2010 the location of the ship at 15-11N, 058-19E was supposedly outside the normal "danger zone." They did not notice that a pirate group had been reported the day before at 15-10.48N 058-19.12E

Although the ship had been "hardened" to prevent pirates from boarding using rickety ladders, photos of the vessel indicate that a pilot's step had been dropped and a small section of the barbed wire had been cleared away from the stern.

Rear of disabled MV Leopard showing pilot's ladder and hardening from transit through the Gulf of Aden
Rear of disabled MV Leopard showing pilot's ladder and hardening from transit through the Gulf of Aden

The quick thinking first mate managed to disable the ship before the pirates overpowered them. Unable to steam away with the ship and it's very valuable cargo, the pirates returned to their skiffs and commandeered fishing ship. The pirates were using the FV SHIUH FU N1. The fishing vessel and its crew of 26 were taken by pirates on December 25, 2010 in fishing grounds around 140 miles off the northeast tip of Madagascar. The same ship and group used to take the much large MT POLAR) and took the hostages to the coastal town of Hobyo, in Somalia's Mudug region. Before they were taken of the MV Leopard, the captain was able to make a quick communication with a Japanese naval patrol aircraft confirming the attack and a NATO warship, then 250 nautical miles away, was sent to the scene..

MV Leopard was found drifting at sea
MV Leopard was found drifting at sea
Two days later the disabled ship was found and boarded by the Turkish Navy ship "Gaziantep". Later the MV Leopard was towed to safe waters. There was no mention of a missing crew member in any official communications or press releases from NATO, EU NAVFOR or the ship's owner.

The crew had vanished but it didn't take long to find them. Demands for ransom were sent to the owner Shipcraft A/S, a company that specializes in high risk cargo. The owners kept silent other than official press releases while they and their security company did their best to negotiate with the pirates in in good faith until talks broke off in March.

On April 6th a series of photos of the Danish crew and officers of the MT Polar a tanker taken in late October, 2010. were taken in Wisil (just inland from Hobyo) with a Nokia mobile phone They were circulated in an attempt to restart talks. What was odd about the photos were the stuffed leopard mascot and the fact that only 2 of the crew were in the photo. The pirates had not included the four Pinoy crew members of the Leopard in the photos.

In July a stage managed interview was released with the men visibly disturbed about their captivity pleading for their release and once again only five men in the videos. Armed pirates stood nearby with the prerequisite disguises. The cameraman holds for a long time on the two Danish officers and three Pinoy crew as they do their best to look distraught, even pretending to cry into clothes. There was clearly a missing crew member.

Somalia Report has been consistently demanding the status of the missing sailor since April and has finally received a response from the pirates. We received two different version from two different pirate groups in Hobyo. The third version comes from the captain himself.

Version One

The pirates insisted that the missing seaman was shot by the US Navy which they say opened fire during their hijacking of the ship. Asad Nor, a member of the pirate group holding the crew of the MVLeopard, insisted that the crew member was hit in the chest and died in January. Their version is that the American naval forces fired on the pirates both on the MV Leopard and their skiffs. The pirates kept the body of the sailor on their ship as they sailed to Hobyo but decided to throw his body into the sea. Asad rejected the idea that the pirates killed the seaman and said the fire from the Americans caused the death and also wounded one of the pirates at the time. There are no facts to support this version, nor is their any evidence that any naval support other than the Japanese naval group radio monitoring aircraft was anywhere near the hijack.

Turkish helicopter view of MV Leopard and Turkish Naval ship Gaziantep in background
Turkish helicopter view of MV Leopard and Turkish Naval ship "Gaziantep" in background

Version Two

A second version based on pirates in Hobyo who know the group that took the MV Leopard offered a different version to Somalia Report. They insist that three of the pirates killed the seaman during the hijacking in January. “The pirates shot the seaman when they felt that the Navy was moving towards them. Their aim was to move the Navy away from the area because only three pirates were on the ship and eight other pirates were on the boat. The body of the dead sailor was left on the MV Leopard to delay the Navy," according to the pirate.

He also explained that, According to the second version, the idea was to use the crew as human shields. But when they shot the Filipino sailor and threw his body overboard the Navy left the area.

Both of these versions are suspect.

MV Leopard showing bridge
MV Leopard showing bridge

The Captain's Version

The best source for what happened to the missing crew member comes directly from Chilean-born and Danish citizen, Eddie Lopez, the 47-year-old captain of the MV Leopard. The July 14th video gives his version of the attack that led to the potential death of the crew member. Keeping in mind that the crew was under duress and direction during this video to show emotion and plead for help.

He described two skiffs overtaking the MV Leopard and coming along each side. The 10 knot MV Leopard could not outrun the skiffs so Lopez began to make evasive maneuvers. The pirates then began shooting up at the windows in the wheel house three stories above the bucking ocean sending bullets ricocheting through the steel structure and nearly hitting the captain in the head and splattering his face with flying glass.

When the captain noticed "one of his crew was down", he then ordered the remaining survivors to the engine room to lock themselves in what is called the "citadel". The security team aboard for the Gulf of Aden, hardened entry areas, evasive movements and use of a citadel to buy precious time is part of "Best Management Practices" A properly hardened safe room can buy time but not if a crew member is still left outside. It is not known exactly what happened but the pirates were able to breach the citadel.

The pirates began beating the crew forcing them to try to restart the disabled engines. During the attack in the wheelhouse the captain told the pirates that his pilot "pushed all the buttons" on the bridge but the engine would not restart. The engineer went down below and could not figure out how to restart the engines. The pirates tried to tow the ship with their small fishing craft but soon gave up and took the surviving crew to Hobyo. Four days later they arrived and were held on a ship offshore, most likely the MT Polar. On April 4 they were taken off the host ship and moved around on land to avoid detection. In July two videos were made by an English speaking Somali who initially asks journalistic questions but eventually films the crew looking upset with a crudely staged backdrop of fabric and creatively armed pirates.

The Valpraiso-born Lopez recounted his ordeal on video, "We get meat every two days, drink dirty water and are sick." The crew appears to have gastro-intestinal pains and the navigator is said to be suffering from high blood pressure."

The captain then oddly said that "the crew is all together". The missing crew member has never been seen in the video or the previous photos. An interview with Sean, the first mate, and three of the Pinoy crew provided the nervous prompted responses about being scared and demand for payment.

He then sent a message to the company and the Danish government to release them after being gone from home for ten months (They have been in captivity has been almost seven months as of August 7, 2011). The captain asked the Danish government to, "Push the company to pay the demand."

In the English language interview, the captain said that the pirates suspected them of carrying toxic waste to dump in the Somalia's water and that they may be used to trade or as payback for captured pirates.

Osman Guux, a pirate investor in Dhanaane Village which is near the district Hobyo, told Somalia Report that the pirates are now holding five crew members on another ship which is now anchored off the Ceel Daan area, but refused to name that ship.

Sailors from the Philippines make up the largest group of hostages in Somalia. A sailor group estimates that there 113 Filipino being held on board eleven hijacked vessels. The commandeered Taiwanese tuna fishing ship FV SHIUH FU N1 continues its career as a pirate mother ship and was seen in July searching for more victims.

In what is perhaps the most direct and personal statement on the video, the captain at a loss to describe his ordeal simply says, "I can not take anymore of this shit."