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Somalia: Economies of War

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Nov 3, 2011 (111103)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Al-Shabaab's resilience, despite its lack of popular support and the chronic divisions within its leadership, is principally due to the weakness of the Transitional Federal Government, and the latter's failure to broaden its political appeal or share power with other de facto political and military forces in the country. The endemic corruption of the leadership of the transitional federal institutions ... is the greatest impediment to the emergence of a cohesive transitional authority and effective State institutions." - UN Monitoring Group

The report goes on to note that "Given its lack of popular support, political fractiousness and military limitations, Al-Shabaab's greatest asset today is its economic strength. The Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea estimates that Al-Shabaab currently generates between US$ 70 million to US$ 100 million per year in revenue from taxation and extortion in areas under its control, notably the export of charcoal and cross-border contraband into Kenya."

In the light of these realities, the primary focus on military action against Al-Shabaab, as illustrated by recent news concerning expanded U.S. drone activity and the most recent Kenyan military intervention, are not only unlikely to produce any stability or increased capacity to address Somalia's desperate humanitarian needs. They are also highly likely to be counterproductive. To date, the Kenyan intervention not only shows little military advance; it has only provoked new attacks in Kenya and hindered the escape of refugees from the famine zone in southern Somalia.

Among recent reports on Somalia, that of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, released this summer, stands out not only for its length (417 pages) but also for its focus on measures that might address the central questions of putting pressure on both Al-Shabaab and the Transitional Federal Government.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains brief excerpts from that report. The full report is available at http://reliefweb.int/node/437743

Other recent thoughtful policy reports and analyses include:

John Norris and Bronwyn Bruton, "Twenty Years of Collapse and Counting: The Cost of Failure in Somalia"
Center for American Progress and One Earth Future Foundation, September 2011
http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/09/somalia.html

Ken Menkhaus, "A Diplomatic Surge to Stop Somalia's Famine"
Enough Project, September 21, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3cq7xkn

EJ Hogendoorn, "Solving Somalia's Food Security Emergency,"
International Crisis Group, October 3, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3oqtvzs

>Latest (November 1) UN situation report on drought and famine in Somalia
http://reliefweb.int/node/457056

On Kenya's military intervention in Somalia

"Kibaki Gambles On Regional War With Al Shabaab"
Africa Confidential, October 21, 2011
http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201110211498.html

Jeffrey Gettleman, "Kenyan Motives in Somalia Predate Recent Abductions"
New York Times, October 27, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/6xshbu3

Muthoni Wanyeki, "Shock and awe in Somalia? Sorry, it isnâ€TMt a board game"
The EastAfrican, October 30, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3rohbol

Charles Onyango-Obbo and Nick Wachira, "Why Capturing Kismayu Could Trigger Proxy Wars in Kenya."
The EastAfrican, October 30, 2011
http://allafrica.com/stories/201110311711.html

For recent revelations on the expanded U.S. use of drones in the Horn of Africa, see the following links:

"U.S. Assembling Secret Drone Bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Officials Say"
Washington Post, September 20, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3qdgkrz

"U.S. Expands Drone Flights to Take Aim at East Africa"
Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3swpmsh

"America's Secret Empire of Drone Bases"
Alternet, October 16, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/3bz2h39

"U.S. Drone Base in Ethiopia is Operational"
Washington Post, October 27, 2011
http://tinyurl.com/4xolnh6

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, including three earlier this year, visit
http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php

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

United Nations Security Council

18 July 2011

S/2011/433

Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 1916 (2010)

[Brief excerpts only, on Somalia only. The full report is 417 pages long, and available at http://reliefweb.int/node/437743 The full report, as indicated by the title, includes information on Eritrea as well as Somalia.]

Summary

...

More than half of Somali territory is controlled by responsible, comparatively stable authorities that have demonstrated, to varying degrees, their capacity to provide relative peace and security to their populations. Without exception, the administrations of Somaliland, Puntland, Gaalmudug, and "Himan iyo Heeb" evolved independently of centralized State-building initiatives, from painstaking, organic local political processes. Much of Galguduud region is controlled by anti-Al-Shabaab clan militias loosely unified under the umbrella of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a (ASWJ), but lacks a functional authority. Consolidation of and cooperation between such entities represents the single most effective strategy for countering threats like extremism and piracy, while expanding peace and security in Somalia.

Other southern anti-Shabaab militias, including the various factions of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a, "Azania State", and "Shabelle Valley State" appear to be proxies for neighbouring States rather than emergent local authorities, and it is unclear to what extent they may also be able to deliver enduring peace and security. To a certain extent, the resort to Somali proxy forces by foreign Governments represents a potential return to the "warlordism" of the 1990s and early 2000s, which has historically proved to be counterproductive.

The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, whose mandate expires in August 2011, has left much of the country to Al-Shabaab, which controls the greater part of Somali territory between the Kenyan border and southern parts of Mudug and Galguduud regions. In Mogadishu, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), together with pro-Transitional Federal Government militias, has made some limited gains against Al-Shabaab, but at a considerable cost in both military and civilian casualties. In the absence of a coherent Transitional Federal Government security sector, the most effective local allies of AMISOM are clan-based militias with loyalties to individual commanders and who look to the African Union rather than the Government for leadership and support. The intense fighting, combined with a serious drought and Al-Shabaab restrictions on access for humanitarian organizations, has triggered a new and acute humanitarian crisis, including a fresh exodus of refugees into neighbouring countries.

The principal impediments to security and stabilization in southern Somalia are the Transitional Federal Government leadership's lack of vision or cohesion, its endemic corruption and its failure to advance the political process. Arguably even more damaging is the Government's active resistance to engagement with or the empowerment of local, de facto political and military forces elsewhere in the country. Instead, attempts by the Government's leadership to monopolize power and resources have aggravated frictions within the transitional federal institutions, obstructed the transitional process and crippled the war against AlShabaab, while diverting attention and assistance away from positive developments elsewhere in the country.

The response of Al-Shabaab to military setbacks in Mogadishu, the central regions and the Juba Valley has been to aggressively expand its control over the southern Somali economy. Given its lack of popular support, political fractiousness and military limitations, Al-Shabaab's greatest asset today is its economic strength. The Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea estimates that AlShabaab currently generates between US$ 70 million to US$ 100 million per year in revenue from taxation and extortion in areas under its control, notably the export of charcoal and cross-border contraband into Kenya. Given the corrupt and predatory practices of the Transitional Federal Government, many Somali businessmen find Al-Shabaab to be better for business, and from a purely commercial perspective have little interest in seeing the group displaced by the Government.

Al-Shabaab's core leaders have also responded to domestic difficulties by seeking to align themselves more closely with foreign jihadist entities and to provide a platform for like-minded groups in the region. The July 2010 Kampala bombings were the first successful Al-Shabaab operation beyond Somalia's borders. They also signalled a new and alarming trend, in which East African extremist groups inspired and mentored by Al-Shabaab, including the Muslim Youth Centre in Kenya, might represent the next generation of extremist threats in East Africa and the wider region.

Piracy remains another Somali-based threat to regional and international security. International counter-piracy efforts have made little or no headway in curbing the number of piracy attacks and hijackings, but they have helped to displace the threat further from Somali shores, threatening an even wider area. The enhanced risks and costs to pirates associated with operating at greater distances from shore have helped to drive up ransom demands and prolong negotiations for the release of hijacked vessels.

The burgeoning engagement in Somalia of private security companies, whether to deter pirates or to provide security on land, is of growing concern. The private security sector lacks a robust regulatory framework, and the operating practices of many private security companies are opaque. The Monitoring Group believes that at least two such entities have committed significant violations of the arms embargo by engaging in unauthorized training and equipping of Somali militias — one with the intention of trafficking in arms and narcotic drugs.

Eritrean involvement in Somalia continues to represent a small but troubling part of the overall equation. Asmara's continuing relationship with Al-Shabaab, for example, appears designed to legitimize and embolden the group rather than to curb its extremist orientation or encourage its participation in a political process. Moreover, Eritrean involvement in Somalia reflects a broader pattern of intelligence and special operations activity, including training, financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups in Djibouti, Ethiopia, the Sudan and possibly Uganda in violation of Security Council resolution 1907 (2009).

Eritrea's support for such groups can only be understood in the context of its unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia. It is also symptomatic, however, of the systematic subversion of the Government of Eritrea and party institutions by a relatively small number of political, military and intelligence officials, who instead choose to conduct the affairs of state via informal and often illicit mechanisms, including people smuggling, arms trafficking, money-laundering and extortion.

Such irregular financial practices, combined with direct financial contributions from ruling party supporters and some foreign States, as well as the imposition of a "diaspora tax" on Eritreans and foreign nationals of Eritrean origin living abroad, help to explain how a country as poor as Eritrea manages to sustain support for a variety of armed opposition groups across the region. From 2011 onwards, however, Eritrea's newly emerging mining sector — especially gold — is likely to become the country's principal source of hard currency.

During the course of the mandate, it is the Monitoring Group's assessment that the Eritrean leadership committed multiple violations of Security Council resolutions 1844 (2008) and 1907 (2009). Most significantly, in January 2011, the Government of Eritrea conceived, planned, organized and directed a failed plot to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa by bombing a variety of civilian and governmental targets. Although many Eritreans harbour profound and arguably legitimate grievances against Ethiopia for failing to implement the boundary decision that formally ended the 1998-2000 border war between the two countries, the means by which the leadership in Asmara apparently intends to pursue its objectives are no longer proportional or rational. Moreover, since the Eritrean intelligence apparatus responsible for the African Union summit plot is also active in Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda, the level of threat it poses to these other countries must be re-evaluated.


II. Context: description of the security-related environment

12. Since the late 1990s, Somalia has been characterized by the bifurcation of its territory into relatively stable and secure regions governed by responsible authorities in the north, and the protracted violence and absence of effective governance in the south. Security trends since the submission of the Monitoring Group's previous report in March 2010 have been uneven and at times contradictory.

13. The principal impediments to security and stabilization in southern Somalia are the Transitional Federal Government leadership's lack of vision or cohesion, its endemic corruption and its failure to advance the political process. Arguably even more damaging is the Government's active resistance to engagement with or the empowerment of local, de facto political and military forces elsewhere in the country. Instead, attempts by the Government's leadership to monopolize power and resources have aggravated frictions within the transitional federal institutions, obstructed the transitional process and crippled the war against AlShabaab, while diverting attention and assistance away from positive developments elsewhere in the country.

14. The authorities in Somaliland maintained security and stability, kept their coastline pirate-free and consolidated their nascent democratic institutions with a presidential election in June 2010 that was widely deemed to be free, fair and peaceful. In Puntland, the administration also maintained relative peace and stability — although targeted killings have been on the rise in major towns — and made gains against piracy. These authorities, however, face growing common threats in the disputed regions of Sool and eastern Sanaag, where the Sool, Sanaag Cayn Army aims to aggravate local political and social tensions into violence, and where Mohamed Sa'iid Atom's militia has effectively merged with Al-Shabaab.

15. In central Somalia, embryonic authorities such as "Gaalmudug State" (Mudug region), "Himan iyo Heeb" (Mudug region) and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a (ASWJ) in Galguduud region, have also made some modest progress towards achieving local security and stability. Trends elsewhere in southern Somalia, however, have been largely negative. AlShabaab remains in control of much of the territory, and the conflict between AMISOM, the Transitional Federal Government and allied militias, on the one hand, and Al-Shabaab on the other, has engendered escalating violence and a deteriorating humanitarian environment. Meanwhile, the Transitional Federal Government security forces and their local allies continue to be little more than clan-based militias with loyalties to individual commanders and that look to AMISOM rather than to the Government for leadership and support.

16. Other southern anti-Al-Shabaab militias, including the various factions of Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a, "Azania State", and "Shabelle Valley State" appear to be proxies for neighbouring States rather than emergent local authorities, and it is unclear to what extent they may also be able to deliver enduring peace and security. To a certain extent, the resort to Somali proxy forces by foreign Governments represents a potential return to the "warlordism" of the 1990s and early 2000s, which has historically proved to be counterproductive.


XII. Observations and conclusions

A. Somalia

441. Al-Shabaab's resilience, despite its lack of popular support and the chronic divisions within its leadership, is principally due to the weakness of the Transitional Federal Government, and the latter's failure to broaden its political appeal or share power with other de facto political and military forces in the country.

442. The endemic corruption of the leadership of the transitional federal institutions — and the conflicts it engenders between Transitional Federal Government officials over power and access to resources — is the greatest impediment to the emergence of a cohesive transitional authority and effective State institutions. By extension, corruption is arguably also the single greatest obstacle to the defeat of Al-Shabaab and its foreign affiliates in Somalia.

443. Corruption in the transitional federal institutions not only prevents consolidation of the security forces. It also corrodes political cohesion at the top, precludes genuine power-sharing with non-Transitional Federal Government authorities (such as Puntland, Galmuduug and ASWJ), and diverts ministers and other senior figures away from their official functions into the pursuit of lucrative commercial opportunities and aid projects. As a result the Government's operating budget is far below actual income, civil service salaries go unpaid, soldiers defect to the opposition or become pirates and ammunition is sold to the opposition.

444. Perhaps more importantly, it means that trade, and the vital revenues that it generates, is channelled to AlShabaab -controlled areas, which offer a more disciplined, predictable and profitable environment for Somali commerce. In a very real sense, Al-Shabaab is becoming a business: a network of mutually supportive interests in Somalia, Kenya, the Middle East, and even further afield. Even businessmen who are not ideologically aligned with Al-Shabaab have little incentive to see the Islamists displaced by a predatory and corrupt Transitional Federal Government. To the extent that members of the business community also exert influence over political and military dynamics within their clans, it is unsurprising that the Government lacks any significant domestic base of support.

445. Unless steps are taken to alter this equation, the anticipated reorganization of the transitional federal institutions in August 2011 is unlikely to produce an authority capable of expanding Government authority or regaining the initiative from Al-Shabaab on the battlefield. The Monitoring Group therefore recommends, in section XIII below, a number of measures intended both to curb the corrosive influence and practices of the Transitional Federal Government's internal spoilers and to discourage the business community from colluding with Al-Shabaab in its efforts to seize power through dominance of the Somali economy.

XIII. Recommendations

A. Somalia

Threats to peace and security

448. The Monitoring Group recommends that:

(a) The Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea should proceed without further delay to designate additional individuals and entities proposed by the Monitoring Group or Member States for targeted measures under Security Council resolution 1844 (2008) and/or resolution 1907 (2009);

(b) In line with Security Council resolution 1844 (2008), paragraph 8 (a), individuals and entities that threaten to destabilize stable areas, to militarize political or social conflicts or to incite inter-communal violence should be considered subject to targeted measures, together with their financiers, facilitators and active supporters;

(c) Any member of the transitional federal institutions whose actions threaten the political process or undermine the cohesion of the Transitional Federal Government or its security forces, or otherwise detract from the Transitional Federal Government's capacity to fulfil its mandate, should be considered subject to designation by the Committee for targeted measures;

(d) The Government of Kenya, in cooperation with community leaders and civil society organizations, should urgently consider measures to curb the radicalization, recruitment and resource mobilization by Al-Shabaab affiliates and sympathizers in Kenya;

(e) The Government of Kenya consider establishing rehabilitation centres for returning Kenyan fighters from Somalia and offering amnesty to any who agree to attend them.

Al-Shabaab finances

449. The Monitoring Group recommends that:

(a) The Security Council and the Committee should consider all non-local commerce via Al-Shabaab-controlled ports to constitute financial support for a designated entity, rendering individuals and entities engaged in such commerce subject to targeted measures;

(b) The Transitional Federal Government should officially ban all trade by large merchant vessels with Al-Shabaabcontrolled ports, notably Kismaayo, Marka and Baraawe, and seek the cooperation of neighbouring States, especially the United Arab Emirates, as well as States with naval assets in the Indian Ocean, in enforcing the ban;

(c) The Transitional Federal Government should require all merchant vessels calling at the port of Mogadishu to fully discharge all of their cargo and seek the assistance of AMISOM in monitoring and enforcing this edict;

(d) The Government of the United Arab Emirates, and especially the authorities in Dubai and Sharjah, should consider enforcing more stringent measures on dhows conducting trade with Somalia, especially to verify conformity of their cargoes with their custom declarations and/or cargo manifests;

(e) The Gulf Cooperation Council and/or its Member States should consider imposing a ban on all charcoal imports from Somalia;

(f) The Transitional Federal Government, and specifically the Mogadishu Port Authority, should review the rates at which it imposes taxes and duties on imports, in order to discourage illicit trade with Kismaayo;

(g) The Transitional Federal Government and other Somali authorities should introduce, in consultation with knowledgeable international partners, a legislative framework for the telecommunications, banking and money transfer sectors, requiring greater diligence and transparency (i.e. comprehensive "know your customer" polices).

...

Arms embargo

451. The Monitoring Group recommends that:

(a) The Security Council should consider clarifying whether the general and complete arms embargo on Somalia should apply to Somali territorial waters (12 nautical miles) or the Somali exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles);

(b) The Security Council should consider requiring all Member States and international organizations that come into the possession of weapons, ammunition or military material on Somali territory, or which are destined for Somalia, or which have originated in Somalia, to record the identifying characteristics of those items and communicate them to the Monitoring Group in accordance with paragraph 6 of Council resolution 1425 (2002);

(c) The Security Council, NATO, the European Union and Member States engaged in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean should expand the mandates of those naval forces to enforce the arms embargoes on Somalia and Eritrea through boarding and inspection of suspicious vessels;

(d) The Secretary-General, through his Special Representative, should consider introducing a security sector programme to assist Somali authorities to:

  • Maintain inventories of all of weapons in their possession
  • Record the issuance of arms and ammunition to their forces and monitor their use
  • Securely store all arms and ammunition, including those seized from non-State armed groups and actors

(e) Any support to security sector institutions should include a component dedicated to security sector governance, including systems of payment, to enhance transparency, discipline and accountability while curbing corruption and the leakage of arms and ammunition to local markets or armed opposition groups. Obstruction of humanitarian assistance

452. The Monitoring Group recommends that:

...

(c) Donor Governments, whose current regulations potentially restrict operations in Al-Shabaab-held areas, should engage with the United Nations system, international humanitarian organizations as well as international and local nongovernmental organizations to develop clear operational guidelines for the implementation of those measures, and periodically revise them, taking into consideration both the level of humanitarian need and the perspectives of those entities with operational experience on the ground;

...


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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