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Somalia: "Most Neglected Crisis"

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Apr 6, 2008 (080406)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Forty humanitarian agencies appealed to the international community late last month to pay attention to the crisis of some one million displaced on ongoing fighting in Somalia. Refugees International termed it currently "the most neglected crisis in the world," And Donald Payne, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa told the New York Times (, "We're Baghdad-izing Mogadishu and Somalia."

One might question the rhetorical practice of labeling a crisis "Most neglected crisis." How does one really compare crises, thinking of northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or even (in terms of action if not news coverage) Darfur. But there is no doubt that the worsening conflict in Somalia has attracted relatively little international attention, even while featuring not only humanitarian crisis, but also occasional U.S. air strikes, Ethiopian troops bogged down more than a year after a U.S.- encouraged invasion, and a government that the New York Times characterized as "teeter[ing] on collapse." .

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains reports and recommendations on the current situation from Refugees International and Amnesty International, as well as a statement by 40 humanitarian agencies involved in Somalia.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, and links to additional background information and news, see

New feature: This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a new feature, "Editor's Picks," This will appear occasionally to call readers attention to an interesting article, book, website, or other resource that does not fit as an AfricaFocus Bulletin on its own, for reasons of copyright, length, or lack of relevance to the topic in the current Bulletin. In the case of long URLs, which may get broken in e-mail messages, a "tinyurl" is also provided for convenience,

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@Editor's Picks: Newspaper Article@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Title: 'Flow' - Out of Africa, Whatever Africa May Be

Author: Holland Cotter
Source: New York Times


"Afropolitanism is the modish tag for new work made by young African artists both in and outside Africa. What unites the artists is a shared view of Africa, less as a place than as a concept; a cultural force, one that runs through the world the way a gulf stream runs through an ocean: part of the whole, but with its own tides and temperatures.

This idea, or something like it, lies behind "Flow" at the Studio Museum in Harlem, a fine-textured survey of 20 artists who, with a few exceptions, were born in Africa after 1970 but who now live in Europe or the United States."

Related links:

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@End Editor's Picks: Newspaper Article@@@@@@@@@@@

Somalia: Most neglected crisis in the world; one million internally displaced lack basic assistance

March 31, 2008

Refugees International .
Contact: Vanessa Parra 202-828-0110 x225

Somalia: Most neglected crisis in the world; one million internally displaced lack basic assistance
Report Says U.S. Must Condemn Human Rights Violations by Ethiopian Military Forces

Washington, D.C.-- A report released today by Refugees International calls Somalia the most neglected crisis in the world. In order to stabilize Somalia and keep the crisis from spreading further, the report calls on the UN Security Council to approach the use of UN peacekeepers with extreme caution and asks the US Congress to investigate the conditions under which military support was provided to Ethiopia. The UN also needs a larger number of Somalia-based staff in order to increase its capacity to monitor and deliver impartial assistance to vulnerable Somalis.

The report describes "a staggering scale of need" for the one million people now displaced. Based on recent figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the report says that malnutrition rates for children under 5 are alarmingly high. In the first three months of 2008 alone, 60,000 people fled Mogadishu due to ongoing conflict, including 'search and sweep' operations conducted by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Ethiopian military. Displaced Somalis told Refugees International of the indiscriminate killing of civilians and the shelling of entire neighborhoods. Refugees International spoke to some of the 200,000 civilians who have settled on the road to Afgooye, a village approximately 30 km west of Mogadishu. That area is now the most densely populated settlement of internally displaced people in the world.

"Somalis perceive the United States as supporting the Ethiopian presence and the reprehensible behavior of Ethiopian troops in their country. The heavy-handed bombing of individual targets in Somalia and other military actions fuels this anti-American sentiment," said advocate Patrick Duplat. "By condemning human rights abuses and holding the Ethiopian military accountable for their actions, the U.S. can go a long way towards defusing tensions in the Horn of Africa. We hope that Congress will investigate the military support that was provided to Ethiopian forces."

The report also focuses on the feasibility of a peacekeeping force in Somalia and highlights the current political culture in Somalia as an impediment to progress. Interviews with local Somalis made clear that the transitional government is largely viewed as an externally-imposed and illegitimate body. Abusive behavior by security forces and the Ethiopian military further erodes support. Under these circumstances, the report argues that a peacekeeping force is unlikely to fill the security vacuum, protect civilians, or allow for safe delivery of humanitarian aid. The report urges the UN Security Council to seriously consider the Secretary-General's own assessment that the deployment of peacekeepers in Somalia can only succeed when there is a peace to keep.

"The UN risks repeating the mistakes it made in the early 1990s. The Security Council is considering a peacekeeping force without sufficient discussion over whether this is a viable solution to the ongoing crisis in Somalia," said peacebuilding advocate Erin Weir. "Peacekeepers should only be deployed if minimal political benchmarks are met and if UN member states are willing to provide the troops, equipment and mandate to confront armed resistance and address the root political causes of the Somali conflict."

Refugees International also urges the UN to increase the number of field-based staff inside Somalia, instead of relying primarily on senior staff in Nairobi. The report describes how some senior staff have been unable to go to Mogadishu for months and argues that remote staff are often "out of touch with the fast changing realities on the ground." The recent targeted kidnapping and killing of aid workers proves the difficulty and danger of operating in Somalia, but the UN Refugee Agency, in particular, should dramatically increase its Somalia-based staff to enable ongoing protection work through periods of high insecurity.

Refugees International is an independent, non-profit Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. In February and March 2008 advocate Patrick Duplat and peacebuilding advocate Erin A. Weir assessed the conditions faced by displaced Somalis in parts of Lower Shabelle, Mogadishu, and along the Mogadishu-Afgooye road. During the mission, they interviewed representatives from UN agencies, local and international NGOs, government and local authorities, as well as Somalis who have been affected by the conflict.

Somalia: UN Security Council Arria Briefing
Briefing Paper

Amnesty International

31 March 2008

AI Index: AFR 52/003/2008

The dire inter-linked human rights and humanitarian crises in Somalia require far greater attention by the UN Security Council (UNSC) and its member states. While Amnesty International notes the strategic and coordinated planning in security, political and programmatic areas of engagement on Somalia, as presented in the recent report of the Secretary General, serious abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law remain largely undocumented, unpunished, and ignored by the international community. These violations arise from a surge in attacks affecting civilians, committed by all parties to the conflict in 2007 and early 2008, including by Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian armed forces.

More than 6,000 civilians have been killed, and some 600,000 displaced within southern and central Somalia since the beginning of 2007, resulting in over one million internally displaced at this time. The UN has estimated that nearly 60% of the population of Mogadishu has fled. Entire neighbourhoods have been emptied by armed conflict and an absence of functioning institutions of justice and basic governance has resulted in near-total impunity. Journalists, other media workers and human rights defenders have been and continue to be specifically targeted; women and girls have been subjected to increasing levels of rape and other forms of gender-based violence; and all Somalis remain at risk of beating and unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, and theft and looting, including at some 400 check points and road blocks throughout the area.

Amnesty International recently travelled to the region to interview survivors of armed conflict and witnesses to human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations in southern and central Somalia. Their testimonies described horrific attacks against individuals and families during house to house raids and searches by TFG and Ethiopian armed forces, rocket and mortar attacks by TFG and Ethiopian forces in heavily populated urban neighbourhoods, as well as threats and attacks by non-state armed groups. Amnesty International repeats its call to all parties to the conflict in Somalia to immediately abide by international human rights and humanitarian law.

As the UN Security Council moves forward with plans to provide security and support political dialogue in Somalia, Amnesty International calls on UN Security Council member states to urgently, consistently and directly confront the inter-linked human rights and humanitarian crises. Specifically the ongoing violations against rights to physical integrity, freedom of expression and association, the rights of the displaced, and violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may include war crimes. There must be no further delay in establishing mechanisms to end a decades-long environment of impunity that serves to encourage violations against civilians by all parties to the conflict.

There is nothing to be gained by the international community remaining silent in relation to abuses currently being committed in Somalia. Impunity will not contribute to a Transitional Federal Government more capable of protecting the rights of Somali civilians, nor will it end insurgency. To the contrary, impunity only deepens the conflict and drives communities apart as there is no deterrent against committing human rights violations and abuses. The current lack of attention to serious human rights violations in Somalia gives the damaging impression to all parties to the conflict that these conditions are somehow acceptable and that the international community will not act to prevent them.

In light of these grave and urgent concerns, Amnesty International calls on the UN Security Council and its member states to:

  1. Strengthen the capacity of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and allocate sufficient resources to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to effectively monitor and report on human rights conditions, provide technical assistance and advice to the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI), and support human rights defenders throughout Somalia;
  2. Support an International Commission of Inquiry or a similar mechanism established by the Security Council to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in Somalia in 2007 and 2008, and to map violations since 1991 which may be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity. This mechanism could be assisted by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, established under article 90 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions;
  3. Strongly encourage that the African Union's Peace Support Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and any succeeding UN peacekeeping mission be mandated to protect civilians - particularly women, children, discriminated Somali minorities and internally displaced persons, and include a strong human rights component with the capacity to monitor, investigate and publicly report human rights violations;
  4. Strengthen the UN arms embargo on Somalia, by increasing the capacity of the Panel of Experts to monitor and report violations, enforcing the requirement of application for exemptions, and considering imposing a ban on aircraft, ships, and land vehicles owned by individuals, companies or countries reported to have breached the embargo;
  5. Publicly and privately insist that TFG and Ethiopian armed forces cease extra-judicial executions and other unlawful killings, including all direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects in violation of international humanitarian law.
  6. Strongly urge the TFG and the Ethiopian government to fulfil their obligations under international law to investigate and bring to justice armed forces commanders and other personnel suspected of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law;
  7. Use all available diplomatic means to ensure that the TFG and other parties to the conflict remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and take effective measures to ensure the safety of local and international humanitarian workers;
  8. Ensure that all diplomatic initiatives toward national reconciliation make human rights and access to humanitarian assistance central to inclusive dialogue in Somalia.

Somalia crisis deteriorates, aid agencies warn

Concern Worldwide
March 31, 2008

The United Nations Security Council was briefed today in an Arria Formula meeting in New York on the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia.

The Security Council was given details of the growing threat to ordinary civilians caused by conflict and impending drought and the increasing difficulties faced by aid agencies operating in the country who are trying to bring assistance to the victims. Several non-governmental organizations, including Concern Worldwide, will attend the session.

Today's special 'Arria Formula meeting' (an informal arrangement that allows the Council greater flexibility to be briefed about international peace and security issues) follows a joint statement issued on March 26, 2008 by more than 40 non-governmental organizations to highlight the plight faced by hundreds of thousands of Somalis.

The statement marks the second time in less than six months that agencies such as Concern Worldwide have chosen to speak out collectively to draw attention to the alarming humanitarian situation in Somalia that has the potential to become a complex crisis on the scale of the country's devastating famine in 1992.

Full text of the March 26, 2008 NGO Joint Statement on Somalia:

'On Oct. 30, 2007, 39 NGOs warned of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Somalia and an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Since then, the crisis engulfing Somalia has deteriorated dramatically while access to people in need continues to decrease; 360,000 people have been newly displaced and an additional half a million people are reliant on humanitarian assistance.

There are now more than one million internally displaced people in Somalia. Intense conflict in Mogadishu continues to force an average of 20,000 people from their homes each month. This, combined with record high food prices, hyperinflation and drought in large parts of the country is leaving communities struggling to survive. Extreme water and food shortages are expected to worsen across the country if the seasonal rains (April - June) fail as they are predicted to.

As the crisis worsens, Somali and international aid agencies are unable to respond adequately to the needs. Attacks on, and killings of, aid workers, the looting of relief supplies, and a lack of respect for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict have left two million Somalis in need of basic humanitarian assistance.

For too long, the needs of ordinary Somalis have been forgotten. The undersigned agencies are asking the international community and all parties to the conflict to urgently focus their attention on the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Somalia. They must ensure access for humanitarian supplies, live up to their responsibility to protect civilians and address the environment of impunity. The humanitarian crisis will become more and more complex and will continue to deepen in the absence of a political solution to the current crisis.

Agencies Signatory to the Statement

  1. Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)
  2. Adventist Relief Development Agency (ADRA)
  3. African Relief and Development Program (ARDP)
  4. Caritas Swiss Group (CARITAS Swiss Group)
  5. Cooperative Assistance for Relief Everywhere (CARE)
  6. 6.Concern Worldwide (CONCERN)
  7. Coperazione Internazionale (COOPI)
  8. Diakonie Emergency Aid Bread for the World (DBG)
  9. Diakonia Sweden (Diakonia Sweden)
  10. Development Initiative Access Link (DIAL)
  11. Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
  12. Gedo Health Consortium (GHC)
  13. Global Organisation for Health and Development (GOHED)
  14. Gothenberg Initiative (GI)
  15. Gol Yome Rehabilitation & Development Organization (GREDO)
  16. Humanitarian Action for Relief and Development Organization (HARDO)
  17. Himilo Foundation (HIMILO)
  19. Horn Relief (Horn Relief)
  20. International Aid Services (IAS)
  21. Institute of Education for Disabled People in Somalia (IEDSOM)
  22. International Medical Corps (IMC)
  23. International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  24. Interpeace/ War Torn Societies (Interpeace)
  25. Medicins du Monde (MDM)
  26. Mercy Corps Somalia (Mercy Corps Somalia)
  27. Merlin (Merlin)
  28. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
  29. Oxfam International (OXFAM International)
  30. Progressio (Progressio)
  31. Relief International (RI)
  32. SAACID Australia (SAACID Australia)
  33. Saferworld (Saferworld)
  34. Save the Children UK (SC-UK)
  35. Terra Nouva Association for international Cooperation to Development (Terra Nouva)
  36. Education Small Scale Enterprise Food Security & Resource Emergency Response (TROCAIRE)
  38. WETHULNGERHILFE/ German Agro Action (GAA)
  39. World Concern International (World Concern)
  40. .World Vision (World Vision)

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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