Anyone following the news from the Horn of Africa knows that the TFG, together with AMISOM, launched an offensive to clear Al Shabaab terrorists from Mogadishu and its environs.
From AMISOM PRESS RELEASE: TFG/AMISOM Commence Operations to Secure Final Sector of Mogadishu, October 10, 2011:
10 civilian deaths from continued Al Shabaab mortaring in Heliwa and Karaan Districts last week have prompted the Somali National Army, supported by AMISOM, to undertake operations in the North of the Mogadishu.
Operations are aimed at securing the former Arafat Hospital and the Pasta Factory on the Industrial Road, and driving the Al Qaeda linked extremists out of the city.
And, more recently, from AMISOM PRESS RELEASE: Control of Deynile Critical to Security of Mogadishu, October 21, 2011:
Mogadishu, 21 October, 2011; AMISOM Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha, today undertook a tour of the frontline following the commencement yesterday of operations in support of the Somali National Army, aimed at pushing al-Qa'ida linked extremists from the strategic Deynile district on the outskirts of Mogadishu.
"Deynile is of vital strategic importance as it controls access to the Afgoye Corridor which links the capital to the terrorist-controlled areas of southern Somalia, allowing them to reinforce and resupply their fighters in Masla and Balaad in the far northeastern edges of the city," he said following his tour.
"The Afgoye Corridor is also home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and securing it will allow humanitarian aid, which the extremists have so far been restricting, to finally reach them," he said. "The extremists have also been using the suburbs of Deynile as a base to assemble improvised explosive devices, including car and truck bombs such as those recently employed to target civilians in the capital."
He said that the success of this operation was critical for the security of Mogadishu. "As was to be expected, given Deynile's significance, the operation has encountered heavy resistance but steady progress is being made. In the face of this resistance, AMISOM has suffered casualties," he added.
The offensive has had some success - which generates new problems. As we previously pointed out, control of key economic areas in Mogadishu served as a source of income for Al Shabaab, as the organization "taxed" merchants and businesses.
Of course, we have also been told a big part of the problem in Somalia now is a famine.
But, then, the famine is starting to look a little suspicious.
We now consider an article entitled Somalia: Manufacturing a famine by Rasna Warah, October 19, 2011:
On July 18 this year, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea tabled a report to the UN Security Council.
The report stated that United Nations agencies, international humanitarian aid organisations and local Somali non-governmental organisations had been forced to move their operations or cease them entirely in many parts of Somalia, mainly due to "an alarming void in international humanitarian aid and development assistance," and also because of "threats from elements of Al Shabaab," who control much of southern Somalia.
Two days later, the UN's World Food Programme — the largest distributor of food aid to Somalia — declared that Bakool and Lower Shebelle, two regions in southern Somalia, had been hit by the worst famine in 20 years.
The UN agency further claimed that 3.7 million people across the country — almost half the total Somali population – were in danger of starving, of which 2.8 million were in the south.
This declaration led to a massive multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaign by UN and international humanitarian agencies. Meanwhile, journalists began referring to the famine as a "biblical event." By September, Time magazine was reporting that the famine had expanded and that a full 12.4 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda were at risk from hunger.
The magazine also stated that in southern Somalia, 63 per cent of the population was either starving or at risk of it.
These figures did not convince many Somali analysts, including Ahmed Jama, a Nairobi-based agricultural economist and former consultant with the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation.
"I was disturbed by the WFP announcement because Lower Shebelle is Somalia's breadbasket and had even experienced a bumper harvest last year," he told this writer.
But was there really widespread famine, or were the famine figures exaggerated or misinterpreted? FSNAU's estimates for Somali populations "in crisis" in the period August-September 2011 were highest in the most fertile southern parts of Somalia, and were highest in those areas controlled by Al Shabaab.
Significantly, there were only 490,000 people (less than one-eighth of Nairobi's population) in Somalia who were experiencing what the IPC classifies as "famine" or a "humanitarian catastrophe."
In fact, about half of the nearly four million people that the WFP claims are starving are actually experiencing what is known as a "humanitarian emergency"; the rest are in an "acute food and livelihood crisis."
Therefore, I think the widely reported "famine" in Somalia is highly exaggerated. What Somalia is experiencing is generalised food insecurity, not widespread famine. Unfortunately, most media organisations have failed to mention or comprehend this fact.
Is it possible that the "famine" in Somalia was "manufactured" to raise funds? The sequence of events leading to the famine appeal certainly raises suspicions. According to Jama, the timing of the famine declaration in July was probably a response to the shortfall of funds that WFP has recently been experiencing and also to divert attention from the criticism that the UN agency was subjected to after the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia released its 2010 report in March last year.
Then, WFP was castigated by the UN Monitoring Group for colluding with corrupt Somali contractors who are known to sell or divert food aid. Sources interviewed by the Monitoring Group — an entity mandated by the UN Security Council to monitor arms embargo violations in Somalia — estimated that up to half of the food aid reaching Somalia was regularly diverted, not just by Somali transport contractors, but by WFP personnel and NGOs operating in Somalia. That 2010 report led some donors, notably the US, to withdraw funding to WFP’s operations in Somalia.
Rasna then goes on to explain how the European Union has invested a considerable amount of money - 175 million Euros over the past 15 years - to develop the agricultural infrastructure of the Shabelle region of Somalia - "Somalia's breadbasket" - and the question presents itself as to how a famine could occur in a "breadbasket" whose infrastructure has been built up with so much investment over more than a decade. Later on, Rasna points out that the EU funds this through the UN, and relies on UN reports to assess the effectiveness of the program - without any independent or EU audits.
An opportunity for someone? To divert and profit from control of international aid? And, perhaps more... after all, there is international traffic of ships, aircraft, and trucks moving that international aid, from developed countries to Somalia, and then the ships, aircraft and trucks go back... I wonder if they are empty when they go back.
The interesting turn, though, is a Kenyan armed invervention, prompted - supposedly - by lawlessness that spilled over from Somalia into Kenya.
From Kibaki gambles on regional war with Al Shabaab, October 21, 2011 (also available here):
Panic in Lamu
Some witnesses say the kidnappings along Kenya's coast were carried out by groups linked to the Somali pirates whose operations have come under pressure from heavier international maritime policing in the region. The kidnappings generated panic. The resort town of Lamu, favoured by (relatively) wealthy European tourists, emptied within days and this at the start of the tourist high season, which this year was forecast to generate a record US$1 billion in revenue.
Those abductions were further aggravated by the kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp. This was the shot that sent Kenya's armed forces into south-central Somalia. Invoking Article 61 of the United Nations charter on territorial integrity, some 1,600 Kenyan troops launched their first cross-border military offensive, Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation), since the end of the Shifta War in 1967. Derided in the region for their lack of fighting experience, the Kenyan armed forces have deployed mechanised infantry with aerial cover from fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. We hear that Somali TFG troops will be joining them in the battle for Afmadow.
The real prize, though, is the port city of Kismayo. Both Kenya's military and its Amisom counterparts believe that the capture of Kismayo, from which Al Shabaab now derives much of its revenue, will choke off the militants.
Kismayo... in Part 1 we discussed how Al Shabaab taxes, among other things, the charcoal industry, which exports charcoal to the Arabian Peninsula. But, a port town is important for moving other commodities, as well.
By the way: the Kenyan attack seems to be supported by US drone activity which has resulted in losses of some of our drones.
Either way, Kismayo is important to Al Shabaab, and Al Shabaab is preparing to defend it. From Kenya-Somalia: A risky intervention, October 20, 2011:
On the move
"Many people have been leaving in the last three days. No-one wants to get caught up in the fighting, I have sent my family to the villages," said a resident of Afmadow, a town 140km north of Kenya's border.
Describing the intervention as a "joint Kenya-Somali operation", the commander of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces in the border area, Gen. Yusuf Hussein Dhumal, told IRIN from his base in Tabta, 65km north of the Kenyan border, that his forces were in control of Qoqani, 50km south of Afmadow town.
"We are being delayed by heavy rains. Our aim was to be in Afmadow by now but the rains have made that impossible. We will push until we chase them [Al-Shabab] from Kismayo."
Mohamed Ahmed Ilkase, a reporter for Somali national TV travelling with the Somali forces, told IRIN Al-Shabab was reportedly regrouping in Afmadow.
A resident of the port city of Kismayo, 500km south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said Al-Shabab had been reinforcing its positions in the city and conscripting people "to fight the enemy. They have been bringing many militias since Monday [17 October] and have been calling on residents to register to fight."
He said families had started leaving the city. "Some are going south [towards Kenya], while many others are going north to Mogadishu."
Al Shabaab has time to dig in to defend Kismayo, conscripting local people to fight. The time is available because heavy rains are slowing the movement of the military forces trying to seize the town... heavy rains in a region that has a famine caused by drought.
Of course, it is not uncommon for an area devastated by drought to have heavy rain, which still does not make up for an extended time of below-average rainfall. And, it is not uncommon in arid regions of the world for sudden heavy rain to bring vehicular movement to a standstill.
We consider an excerpt from an article entitled Taliban Heroin Flooding Kenya on its Way To Europe and The Americas from December 14, 2009 (the post appears to be a copy of an article from The Standard (Kenya), to which I link in the sidebar, but I have (curiously) not been able to find the article there; italics, boldface and other formatting are in the original):
Kenya is fast becoming a key hub for trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan to the rest of the world.
According to reports by the United Nations, "30 to 35 metric tonnes" of Afghan heroin pass through East Africa each year.
This is two-thirds the volume going through West Africa. The largest ever drug haul in Kenya, in December 2004, was 1.1 metric tonnes with a street value of over Sh13 billion.
The proceeds from the drugs are used to finance terrorism activities in Northern Africa and some other sub-Saharan states. It is also suspected that the illicit drug trade supports the unending conflict in neighbouring Somalia.
The Taliban, among whom the world's most notorious terrorist Osama bin Laden hides, are reported to earn $100 million (Sh8 billion) a year from protecting the drug trade. Drug barons are rumoured to sit in Afghan government positions raking in billions more. The UN puts the potential export value of Afghan narcotics at about $3.4 billion (Sh270 billion) a year. So much is grown that destroying it all is impossible: With stockpiles of 10,000 metric tonnes awaiting export, the UN this year proposed creating a "flood of drugs" in the country to destroy the value of opium.
This last comment is interesting; if the Afghan opium fields were suddendly destroyed, for example, by spraying herbicide on or by burning the opium plants, there is still enough Afghan heroin in the "pipeline" to supply the world until another harvest - and, perhaps, for longer. This stuff has been getting stockpiled under the watch of US-led international forces in Afghanistan.
On November 24, a ministerial declaration supporting UN efforts against drugs and organised crime was signed in Kenya. Dated December 8, the report quotes Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director on the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) as saying: "Drugs are enriching not only organized crime but also terrorists and other anti-Government forces,"
He describes the situation as a worrisome development.
"In East Africa... 30 to 35 tonnes of Afghan heroin [are] trafficked each year causing a dramatic increase in heroin addiction and spreading of HIV and Aids in the slums of Nairobi and Mombasa."
The official said the rise is also connected to state failure in Somalia.
"Mainly because of the drastic situation in Somalia, he said, East Africa was becoming a free economic zone for all sorts of trafficking — drugs, migrants, guns, hazardous wastes and natural resources."
West Africa has traditionally been associated with the international drug trade but Kenya now leads states in East Africa that have emerged as favourites for drug traffickers.
Obviously, this development of Kenya becoming a hub for drug-trafficking is not something that happened over night. For example, drug-trafficking through Kenya was addressed in an article entitled Traffickers' drugs haven in Kenya by Karen Allen, May 9, 2006
It is something that worries Titus Naikuni, chief executive of Kenya Airways.
His airline crews have been amongst those used as drug mules.
Five of his staff have been arrested over the past year, trying to bring narcotics into Europe.
With extra security measures now in place, he says his employees are aware that international drug cartels are now targeting them.
The travel industry is used to move drugs from Kenya to Europe.
It is interesting that the previously-described "panic in Lamu" is resulting in a dramatically-decreased number of tourists coming in from Europe to Kenya. Decreased business might have an impact on the travel industry... at a minimum, fewer tourists means that honest customs and immigration officials (assuming some can be found) have more time to examine aircraft, passengers and cargo, and thus to detect drug shipments.
We now consider an excerpt from a recent report, Termites at Work: Transnational Organized Crime and State Erosion in Kenya by Peter Gastrow, September, 2011:
While to the onlooker Kenya appears to be in a relatively healthy state, it is in fact weakening due to a process of internal decay. Endemic corruption and powerful transnational criminal networks are “white-anting” state institutions and public confidence in them. Termites are at work, hollowing out state institutions from the inside. As a result, development is being hampered, governance undermined, public trust in institutions destroyed, and international confidence in Kenya’s future constantly tested.
The country is perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world, ranked far down at 154th on a list of 178 countries that feature in the 2010 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.5 Close to 90 percent of Kenyans surveyed rated their country as being between corrupt and extremely corrupt, while only 8.5 percent regarded it as slightly corrupt.6 Bribery has become a normal part of life. In 2010, 58.6 percent of persons who sought the services of the Nairobi City Council paid bribes, 54.4 percent of those who sought the services of the police did the same, and 47.8 percent who sought the services of the judiciary also resorted to bribes.7 It is this corruption- ridden environment that enables criminal networks to thrive. They can buy protection, information, and power.
I wonder if the corruption includes collaborating with transnational cartels that traffic in Afghan heroin (and Latin American cocaine)?
Kenya's intervention in Somalia is not about stabilizing Somalia, a neighbor which has been in chaos for decades. The intervention is about control of a route for moving heroin from Afghanistan where it is produced, via Iran and Pakistan, to the Somali port of Kismayo, from which heroin is trafficked through the lawless areas of southern Somalia and across the border into Kenya, and from there smuggled to lucrative markets in Europe and elsewhere.
And, the US is actively supporting this intervention, just like the US occupies Afghanistan, where the heroin is now comfortably produced and even stockpiled.