Monday, October 31, 2011

Remarks by president of Puntland

Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, president of Puntland State of Somalia, spoke at Chatham House in London on 19 October 2011. He addressed relations with the TFG, the drought in Puntland, security challenges, and piracy. You can read the transcript here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Interview on Ethiopia and Horn of Africa

I taped on October 6 a 46 minute interview on developments in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa with ESAT Ethiopia Insight. It caters primarily to the Ethiopian diaspora.

PowerPoint presentation on South Sudan

I have included a PowerPoint presentation that I gave in late October on the challenges facing South Sudan. While this is a fairly pessimistic outlook, it is a more positive presentation than I would deliver at the current time on the challenges facing the government in Khartoum.

Republic of South Sudan: Statehood and the Challenges Ahead

Somali Youth radicalization

The most recent issue of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette published an article in English and French that I wrote on Somali youth radicalization. You can access the French version here, and the English version is found here. Although the English-language printed version properly identifies me as the author, the web version does not.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Kenya risks rallying support for Somali rebels"

UPDATE: Nov. 2: Al Jazeera quoted from this interview in its piece, "Kenya's blundering mission in Somalia."

I'm quoted in Richard Lough's Reuters story on Kenya and Somalia. Here are the quotes:
"Kenya does not have the capacity to drive al Shabaab out (of southern Somalia) and keep them out," said David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

"The best it can do is remove al Shabaab from the border area, and possibly Kismayu, and then try to replace al Shabaab with Somali forces friendly to Kenya."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Analysis of Ethiopia’s economy

Shimelse Ali, an economist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, offered a brief analysis of Ethiopia’s economy on 20 October titled “Ethiopia’s Imperfect Growth Miracle.”
Ethiopia: Planting Avocado Trees in Katbare. July 2011. Flickr/Trees for the Future.
He stated that since 2004, Ethiopia’s economy has grown on average by an unprecedented 11 percent. Per capita income has more than doubled over the same period, albeit from a very low base. Although the economy remains heavily reliant on agriculture, the service sector has driven recent growth, accounting for nearly half of GDP since 2004.

He concluded that despite the country’s remarkable growth performance in recent years, its record in promoting socio-economic development is mixed. Ethiopia has made significant strides in reducing rural poverty, improving life expectancy, and raising education levels. But these gains have come with rising urban income inequality and surging inflation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with BBC World Have Your Say

I joined on 19 October three Kenyans in Nairobi and BBC correspondent Mohammed Ali in London for an hour-long BBC call-in program “World Have Your Say” devoted to Kenya’s recent intervention in Somalia. You can listen to the entire program below.

Instability in South Sudan’s unity state

The International Crisis Group published a solid report on 17 October 2011 titled “South Sudan: Compounding Instability in Unity State.” Situated along the North-South border and the source of much of the South’s known oil deposits, Unity is a strategic territory and primary source of South Sudan’s revenue. Politics in Unity are deeply polarized. Its people, land and social fabric were devastated by two decades of conflict that pitted national forces, border-area proxies, southern rebels and its own ethnic Nuer clans against one another.

Recent rebel militia activity has drawn considerable attention to Unity State, highlighting internal fractures and latent grievances. The fault lines in Unity run deeper than the rebellions. A governance crisis has polarized state politics and sown seeds of discontent. Territorial disputes, cross-border tensions, economic isolation, lack of development and a still tenuous North-South relationship also fuel instability.

You can read the entire report here.

The cost of failure in Somalia

The Center for American Progress and One Earth Future Foundation issued a report dated September 2011 titled “Twenty Years of Collapse and Counting: The Cost of Failure in Somalia.”

Written by John Norris and Bronwyn Bruton, it estimates that the international community has spent more than $55 billion dealing with crises related to Somalia since 1991. It describes Somalia as “a tragic case study of the international community getting it wrong repeatedly.” It adds that “the United States in particular shows an almost willful disregard for sensible diplomacy or the kinds of patient, grassroots engagement that might have helped Somalia achieve a greater level of stability at different junctures.”

While I agree that the international community and the United States have made more than their share of mistakes in Somalia, I believe the report is excessively harsh on the role of the international community. It was the international community that ended the 1992-1993 famine and has continued to keep many Somalis alive with emergency food aid. In the final analysis, it is Somalis themselves who created this situation. Could the international community done much better? Yes.

Decide for yourself by reading the entire report.

Kenyan troops enter Somalia

BBC radio and television asked me to comment 17 October on Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. While acknowledging that Kenya had other options to pursue, including taking the matter to the United Nations, I suggested that the frustration of recent attacks inside Kenya against tourists and non-governmental organization personnel pushed the Kenyans to the limit. They decided they had to respond militarily. Obtaining some kind of UN sanction for the operation would have taken considerable time.

It is not clear whether al-Shabaab carried out the attacks inside Kenya, but it is clear that the perpetrators took the hostages to territory inside Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab, thus making al-Shabaab complicit in the attacks.

The objective of the Kenyan military operation and the length of time the Kenyan forces intend to remain inside Somalia remain unclear. The longer they remain, however, the greater will be the animosity of the average Somali against Kenya.

The Kenyan forces may intend to clear a buffer zone along the Kenya-Somali border and then install Somali forces who oppose al-Shabaab and are friendly with Kenya. Kenya may go as far as the important al-Shabaab port city of Kismayu and try to put friendly Somali forces in charge of the port so that al-Shabaab can no longer use it as a major source of revenue, including the transit of products that are smuggled into Kenya.

This action does raise the possibility of al-Shabaab terrorist attacks inside Kenya such as occurred in Kampala, Uganda, in July 2010. So far, al-Shabaab has avoided terrorist attacks in Kenya because, I believe, it benefits from the illegal trade into Kenya and receives financial support from sympathizers in the large Somali community in Nairobi. Al-Shabaab did not want to jeopardize this cozy relationship by attacking Kenya. It may now conclude that retaliation is more important than continuing the economic advantages that it had in Kenya.

Kenya almost certainly consulted key allies such as Ethiopia, the United States and United Kingdom on this operation but the decision to send troops into Somalia was, I believe, Kenya’s alone. The United States has in the past provided counterterrorism training and shared intelligence with key allies in the region, including Kenya. Although I doubt that the United States had a direct role in the intervention, there is no reason to believe that it objected to the operation.

"Somali rebels reinforce Afmadow, residents flee"

I'm quoted in a Reuters story on Kenya and Somalia.

[Update: The Reuters interview is referenced in a Catholic News Agency story.]

Here's the full transcript of the responses I provided:
Kenya’s action is an expression of frustration as a result of bad developments coming from Somalia whether from al-Shabaab or some other group. I don’t believe Kenya’s action is a publicity stunt or an effort drive al-Shabaab out of southern Somalia. Kenya does not have the capacity to drive al-Shabaab out and keep them out. The best it can do is remove al-Shabaab from the border area and possibly Kismayu and then try to replace al-Shabaab with Somali forces friendly to Kenya such as the Transitional Federal Government, Ras Kamboni faction and/or others.

The Kenyans must understand that a long-term presence inside Somalia will become a rallying cry for al-Shabaab and result in more anti-Kenyan sentiment among many Somalis. It is questionable if pro-Kenyan Somalis would be able to hold this territory after the departure of the Kenyan forces.

In this sense, the Kenyans are creating a dilemma for themselves. On the other hand, they are fed up with the antics of al-Shabaab and some of these criminal Somali groups and felt that it had to take action. Kenya may have intelligence that al-Shabaab captured the French and British tourists and the two Spanish MSF volunteers.

I am not convinced al-Shabaab carried out these attacks. But the fact is that all four of these people returned to territory under the control of al-Shabaab, which makes al-Shabaab complicit whether it conducted the operations or not.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Kenya Gets Pro-Active on Somalia Militancy"

I'm quoted in Nairobi-based reporter Brian Dabbs' World Politics Review piece on Kenya and Somalia. (The article requires a login.)

Kenyan military moves into Somalia

Aljazeera English asked me to comment 16 October on the move into southern Somalia by Kenyan military forces following three separate attacks on foreigners inside Kenya by persons who escaped with hostages to al-Shabaab held territory in Somalia.

I replied that the attack seems to have been coordinated with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces although the Kenyan military clearly provided most of the firepower. The big question is how many Kenyans went into Somalia, what is their objective and how long they plan to stay.

Somalis oppose all foreign forces — Kenyans, Ethiopians and those with al-Shabaab. The longer the Kenyans remain in Somalia, the greater will be the animosity against them by average Somalis.

Kenyan forces do not have the capacity to occupy all of the territory held by al-Shabaab. They might have limited objectives along the border and perhaps intend to disrupt the ability of al-Shabaab to operate the port of Kismayu.

I have no knowledge of any U.S. role in the operation but would note that the United States routinely shares intelligence with Kenyans and has in recent years trained Kenyan counterterrorism forces.

See the video below (my quotes start about half a minute into the clip):

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Somali Public Opinion

The National Democratic Institute sponsored a second focus group study with Somalis that it conducted between February and June and published in September 2011. The information is based on 54 focus group discussions and 28 one-on-one interviews with 651 Somali participants in Puntland, South and Central Somalia and among Somali citizens in the diaspora in Kenya.

Key findings include:
  • A sense of utter fatigue and desperation about life in Somalia.
  • Deep concern over both western involvement in Somalia and foreign support for al-Shabaab.
  • Unhappiness about the harmful effect of foreign intervention in Somalia and rejection of the use of private security firms by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
  • A tendency to reject any future role in Somalia for the international community.
  • A belief that clanism has caused Somalia’s descent into lawlessness and the business community continues to profit from the conflict.
  • Futility with TFG efforts to end the chaos.
  • A belief that al-Shabaab has made a mockery of Islam.
  • Generally more unfavorable than favorable views of the international community, especially toward the United States and Ethiopia.
  • A strong desire for a unified Somalia but also growing support for a federal system.
  • Rejection of the 4.5 power-sharing formula based on clans.
  • A desire for political parties that are not based on clans.
  • Growing support for a new constitution.
  • Enthusiastic support for the public consultation process in preparing a new constitution.
  • A tendency to welcome the return of Somalis from the diaspora but concern that they are out of touch with current realities in Somalia.
  • A strong believe that political reconciliation must be Somali led.
You can access the entire report here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Update on China-Africa bibliography

I continue to maintain a bibliography on China-Africa materials. The initial bibliography appeared in issue 108 (2008) of African Research and Documentation (ARD), the journal of the Standing Conference on Library Materials on Africa. ARD just published an addendum to the original bibliography in issue 115 (2011). These materials are intended to assist researchers on China-Africa relations.

China-Africa Relations: Bibliography

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa

Following are remarks on U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa that I made on 30 September 2011 at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

U.S. Policy towards the Horn of Africa

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quoted in IPS Africa

Earlier this month, I was quoted in an IPS Africa article. In the piece, titled, "SUDAN: China Could Oil the Peace Process," I am quoted on the U.S. role in easing tensions between South Sudan and Sudan:

"The U.S. doesn’t have much of a (diplomatic) muscle to flex any more," David Shinn, former United States ambassador to Ethiopia, told IPS back in June.

"The only thing it can do other than pontificate more vociferously than it has in the past is to threaten to slow down any aspects of the normalisation of relations."

"Drone Wars: Somalia becomes the latest front"

I am quoted in Tristan McConnell's GlobalPost piece about drone wars in Somalia.

Here's an excerpt:
David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador in the Horn of Africa, was also skeptical.

“There’s a debate being had over the utility of drone attacks in Somalia,” he said. “They don’t get you that far, and the targets are not as valuable as in other areas, such as Pakistan.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Suicide Bombing in Mogadishu

The BBC World Service asked me to comment October 4 on the massive suicide truck bombing in Mogadishu carried out by al-Shabaab.

I suggested that any organization determined to carry out asymmetrical attacks such as suicide bombings has an advantage. Al-Shabaab can continue such attacks until the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union forces become more capable in countering them. Suicide bombings are, however, a sign of al-Shabaab’s desperation not its strength. In this case, many of the victims were Somali students applying at the Ministry of Education for scholarships offered by the government of Turkey.

This bombing was similar to al-Shabaab’s suicide attack in 2009 during a graduation ceremony in Mogadishu that killed a number of students. These suicide attacks that kill many innocent people outrage most Somalis and will result in decreasing support for al-Shabaab.

When the BBC correspondent countered that these tactics have not diminished al-Shabaab’s ability to recruit more young people to its cause, I disagreed, arguing there is evidence that al-Shabaab is now experiencing difficulty recruiting new followers. In response to a question, I did not believe the most recent suicide bombing would change U.S. policy in Somalia.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mismanaging the Famine in Somalia

Flickr/Internews Network
Matt Bryden, coordinator of the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, wrote in October 2011 a brief for the Enough Project on the criminality and mishandling of the famine in Somalia.

He excoriated the extremist group, al-Shabaab, for denying Somali famine victims the opportunity to migrate in search of food and for banning the most effective aid agencies from working in areas it controls. He also condemned the Transitional Federal Government for permitting gross corruption that prevents it from discharging its duties.

You can read the short paper here (pdf).

African Response to Chinese Engagement with Africa

Elijah Nyaga Munyi, a PhD fellow at Aalborg University in Denmark, did a study released in September by the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University dealing with African policy responses for engaging China and enhancing regional integration. He argues that the time has come for African countries to develop common policy measures to manage China-Africa relations.

His proposals include creation by China of a trust fund administered by the African Development Bank that would supplement the existing China-Africa Development Fund, which is designed primarily to serve the interests of Chinese firms. He also calls for Chinese FDI to play a greater role in employment creation and technology transfer.

More specifically, Munyi suggested African countries should take the following steps:

1. Set clear minimum requirements on equity joint ventures and cooperative joint ventures for Chinese companies investing in certain strategic target sectors for enhancement of technology transfer.

2. Enact strict limits on the number of foreign workers that each Chinese company can bring into African countries.

3. Push China to consider voluntary export restraints on a continental basis as it did for a period of time in the case of textiles to South Africa.

4. Take steps to ensure that Chinese loans do not contribute to intolerable debt.
While these are good suggestions, history indicates that it is extremely difficult for 54 independent African countries to act collectively as they engage with China or any other major partner.
You can read the entire report here (pdf).