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SOMALIA: Peacekeepers Admit To Their Heavy Losses
Monday, May 14 2013
The AU (African Union) revealed that in the last six years some 3,000 AU peacekeepers have died in Somalia. The peacekeeping effort began small and it took a year to get the force up to 3,000 troops.
Currently there are nearly 18,000 peacekeepers in Somalia. It’s been a dangerous area for peacekeepers, with about 15 percent of them killed or wounded since 2007. For a long time the AU played down their losses but did not hide them. The casualties were reported in the countries the peacekeepers came from. Somalia has been one of the bloodiest peacekeeping missions ever. As the only professional soldiers in Somalia during this period, it was the peacekeepers that did the most damage to al Shabaab and were decisive in breaking the power of the Islamic terrorist militia.
Al Shabaab is still active in the far south (near the Kenyan border) and in Puntland up north. Without the peacekeepers, or a Somali government force, the Islamic terrorists can recover from their losses and become a threat once more. The violent and extremist ways of al Shabaab still appeal to many young Somalis, especially if they are unemployed. High unemployment and low literacy rates are the result of persistent internal problems (corruption, tribalism and a tradition of violence) that are always standing in the way of any political or economic progress. For example, when Mogadishu was freed from al Shabaab two years ago, there then developed major problems with the new police force, which tended to commit most of the crimes. Looting and assault by cops is still common and the government seems unable to do anything about it.
May 14, 2013: In northeastern Kenya, near the Somali border, a group of gunmen fired on a police station, killing one cop and wounding four. Al Shabaab terrorists were believed responsible.
May 8, 2013: Somali officials and international donors met in Britain to work out the size, scope and management of a major foreign aid program for Somalia. Some $300 million was pledged. Donors are uneasy about the Somalis ability to use all that aid without most of it being stolen. Somalia is generally regarded as one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. As usual Somali officials promised to deal with the corruption. This rarely happens and the donors are insisting on controls that the Somalis consider insulting. Many donors insist on the tight fiscal controls, threatening to not participate if the restrictions are not accepted. Even then, the financial controls often fail, defeated by some very determined elected thieves. For example, last year UN audits of over $300 million in aid delivered to Somalia in the previous 11 years revealed that at least two thirds of it was stolen by Somali government or aid officials. The theft was often blatant and Somalis simply deny guilt when presented with evidence of their crimes. Attempts to impose fiscal controls resulted in all manner of deceptions and even death threats against the foreign auditors and administrators.
The corruption makes it very difficult to run the country. For example, the Somali government has little ability (or inclination) to tax the populations. That’s because everyone realizes that any taxes paid are largely destined for the bank accounts of government officials. It’s not that no one pays taxes in Somalia. Since the post-colonial government collapsed in 1991 there have been areas of Somalia where there was sufficient order for commerce to function. The businesses paid what amounted to protection money. Local warlords made it safe enough for the businesses to operate. But the new government has few armed men on the payroll. Thousands have been trained by foreign aid donors but most end up deserting because they are not paid (because senior officials stole the payroll.) Now the government wants aid donors to provide $160 million to pay for recruiting and training a security force (soldiers and police) of 28,000 personnel. Such a force would cost nearly $100 million a year to maintain assuming lots of the cash was not stolen (causing most of the soldiers and police to walk away).
May 5, 2013: In Mogadishu a suicide car bomber attacked a government convoy and killed eleven people (most of them nearby civilians). Four officials visiting from Qatar were in the convoy but were unharmed. Al Shabaab was suspected.
May 3, 2013: Police shut down many roads in Mogadishu for four days as part of a major sweep to find al Shabaab hideouts and safe houses.