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Somalia has been touted as a failed state, a state that has spiralled downwards on all fronts-political, economic and social. With famines, droughts, pirates and warlords, all that remains of the state itself is a meagre cadaver. Arguably, one may believe that a state itself is not responsible for the way nature plays with it. However, the Somali problem goes a lot deeper than meets the eye. Nature has been unkind, no doubt, what with droughts being an exceedingly common feature in the state. However, it is only an exceptional drought that produces a famine. If a famine does arise, it must be remembered that there are a host of other factors that create a path for it.
Geographical factors catalyzing a famine, no doubt, are very simple to understand. If a state is entirely dependent on the vagaries of a monsoon to covet a good crop yield annually, it is obvious that a failure of rainfall would only imply the consequent failure of crops, and a clear shortage of food. However, that need not result in a famine. A proactive gubernatorial force will see to it that there is an alternative solution in that food will be sourced from allies and sympathetic states in the international community. While Somalia has all the geographical factors that may result in a famine, the operative word is may. However, Somalia also has exactly all the political and gubernatorial factors that will result in a famine, and the operative word here, is will. Needless to say, the confluence of the two has hardly been of any use to the state.
There is no dearth of examples in Somalia’s history to testify to this fact. Take the drought of 1984, in the Horn of Africa, which, though, did not cause a famine in Somalia, but virtually devastated Ethiopia. Although geographically contiguous, Ethiopia took a heavier beating from the drought because its military government was embroiled in a civil war, and remained engaged in it instead of rising to the occasion and meeting the needs of its people. Somalia also had borne the brunt of a prolonged drought, called the dabadeer- meaning long-tailed- during the mid-1970s. The state did not succumb to a famine, thanks to the proactive gubernatorial policies that despatched aid to its people, nipping possibilities of mass-starvation in the bud. Later, in 1992, Somalia underwent a massive famine, which had nothing to do with a drought, but had everything to do with sectarian politics that functioned as a rift in the Somali polity and society. The famine itself originated in the heart of the state’s productive agricultural regions, namely, Bay. Starvation was deployed as a weapon by warlords, in a bid to target farmers and bucolic. When Somalia collapsed in 1991, the state fell prey to marauding gangs that looted whatever little that the farmers had in the name of harvests. Food was kept away from the hungry common populace in the State’s major warlord’s attempt to capture the region. At that juncture, the United States sent in troops to the country to reach the indigent populace.
Droughts are obviously nothing new to Somalia. However, it has been five whole decades since the last drought-induced famine. Attention needs to be focussed not on the drought, but on the famine. The biggest reason behind Somalia’s present condition of being steeped in penury and hunger is the inherent vulnerability of the state itself. Ecological disturbances have emanated as part of the impact of political and military forces. With the American pursuit of the Global War on Terror, the al-Shabaab terrorist outfit, the Transitional Federal Government, the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and its continuous political and military involvement there, and finally East Africa's Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the UN itself, Somalia has plenty and more to cope with. Each of these actors has had a role to play in creating a situation where the common populace of Somalia find themselves hungry and starving, bereft of food and nutrition. The way the country has emerged is entirely consequent to its history.
America’s agenda in Somalia has been to fight what it calls the Islamic terrorists, of which, the target is the al-Shabaab in particular. Following the 1998 bombings in the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, there have been a host of secret operations, each carried out in a bid to capture terrorists and then run them aground by weeding out their support bases in Somalia. In the process, the United States had to seek assistance from warlords in Somalia, resulting in the 2005 Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism in 2005. The people of Somalia were antagonistic to the alliance and the patron, resulting in their subsequent move of turning against them under the auspice of the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006. With the warlords defeated at the hands of the Union, peace reigned in Somalia, while most of the southern portion of the state came under the control ambit of Mogadishu.
Following this, the United States, along with Ethiopia, laid claim that these Islamists were terrorists, and therefore had to be weeded out since they were a threat to the region and its peace. However, a greater majority of the Somalian populace supported the Union of Islamic Courts, and even pleaded with the international community to work on a peaceful framework while engaging with them. Despite this plea, America supported Ethiopia, and an invasion commenced in December 2006. This resulted in a mass displacement and a terrible death toll. When Somalia responded with its own stream of attacks, Ethiopia hadn’t a choice but to withdraw a greater part of the troops. Nevertheless, there was an indelible mark from the invasion, one that left the state in a terrible condition of disarray. With Ethiopia left Somalia thus, the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the international community picked up strings thereon. Designing a Transitional Federal Government that was led by the faction of the Union of Islamic Courts that was most amenable to the international community, and to the US agenda, things turned against Somalia once again. All the forces that had tried to work a means to push Ethiopia out were marginalized, leading to the Transitional Federal Government gaining control over all the regions that was under the control of the African Union Forces.
Needless to say, there was a massive civil war after Somalia had been left at the hands of the Transitional Federal Government, leading to the return of the al-Shabaab in the southern part of the state. The Transitional Federal Government was corrupt and inert for the most part. The death toll rose with such leaps and bounds. It was horribly astounding to note that the regime turned a deaf ear to the crisis that was burgeoning under its nose. Nothing was done to bail out is population while all that gubernatorial attention focussed on was to continue a sectarian war within the state.
One of the biggest catalysts for the ringing of the Somali death knell was the emergence of the al-Shabaab as a terror outfit. What started off once as the youth wing of the Union of Islamic Courts soon became a militant outfit when it brazenly declared its affiliation with the al-Qaeda. With that alignment, the group earned itself the official epithet of a terror outfit, and was identified thus by the United Nations and states in the international community. Needless to say, the group became the cynosure of all eyes as part of the world’s endeavour in the Global War on Terror. Though the al-Shabaab has endeavoured to have an Islamic state established, it has completely failed in bringing something as basic as infrastructure to the state. It has also been in complete denial where the existence of the famine is concerned, to the point that it has completely refuted permission to the international community to allow the influx of food. In every state, action of the gubernatorial kind commences from the grass-root level. When a crisis strikes, the lowest rung of the ladder seeks to respond with all its resources. When things get out of hand, the national government steps in. And when it meets with failure, the neighbouring states, and if it may so wish, the international community itself, will step in. Somalia has absolutely nothing to show to prove that it has the local level and national administrative levels up and running. And with these terror outfits being seized of power in such sizeable amounts, the international community and its attempts to pump in aid is also as much a failure as is the machinery within the state.
The world itself has been exceedingly obsessed with either the famine being consequent to the drought, or, with weeding out the al-Shabaab. No attention was diverted to understanding the true nitty-gritties of the little common man stuck in the ruined state. Military prowess has been pumped in aplenty only to destroy the state itself, instead of supporting its development. What Somalia needs now, is a government- and one that is capable of handling all of its crises, of solving these problems and of putting the state back on its feet.