Thursday, January 26, 2012

Al-Shabaab and Somalia

The Navanti Group hosted a workshop in New York City 24-26 January 2012 for representatives of various U.S. government agencies and local law envforcement jurisdictions. I gave on 25 January a presentation on al-Shabaab and Somalia in the 21st century. I tried to cover the importance in Somalia of political Islam, some of the larger regional issues and the problems posed by forcing Somali hawalas out of business.

You can read my remarks here.

Somalia - Al-Shabaab - NYC Navanti Workshop

1 comment:

  1. Dear Amb. Shinn:

    While I agree with your contention that Somalis in Somalia are the ones who need to find a solution to the problems in that country, not all Somalis are free to represent themselves.

    In particular, I am speaking of the Bantu groups who are native to the Juba and Shabelle River valleys. The Bantu, along with the southern coastal Barawa, Bajuni and other outcaste groups are collectively referred to in the Somali constitution as the Minorities. Although their population is certainly in the range of the other four clan groupings that are each allocated full representation in the Somali constitution, the Minorities are only allocated .5 representation.

    It is not a coincidence that the instability and violence in Somalia has been concentrated in the south where the Bantu and Minority groups dominate. With limited arms and a relatively weak organizational structure, they have been unable to defend themselves against the onslaught of well-armed nomadic clan militias - primarily from the Darood and Hawiye clans - that have violently competed for control of the south's land and labor.

    The nomadic clan militia leaders of the day who control districts in the south claim to speak for all residents of the south. In fact, the Bantu and other Minorities - who are considered cheap labor to be exploited or lucrative recipients of foreign donor assistance to be stolen - are held hostage by the militias and coerced under penalty of death to remain silent.

    Your comment that Somalis are blinded by family and clan ties is correct. The nomadic clans appear also to be blind to the fact that Somalia is a diverse country where many Somalis don't speak the Maha language and do not come from a traditionally nomadic lifestyle. If the nomadic Somalis admit to other such people living in Somalia, they are oftentimes described as a tiny fraction of the Somali population or even that they are not Somalis at all. This myth of Somali homogeneity also extends to language use where most Somali Maha speakers won't admit that languages such as Maay Maay, Zigua, Bajuni, Chimbalazi and others are widely spoken by a majority of the Reewiin (Rahanwein), Bantu and coastal Swahili peoples in the south.

    The international community empowers these well-armed nomadic clan militias by recognizing them as the legitimate representatives of the southern regions. Had the Bantu been able to speak freely about the Ethiopian invasion that drove out the occupying nomadic clan militias from the south, many would have said they supported this military intervention. The nomadic clan militia leaders who lost power in the south predictably claimed the intervention made things worse in Somalia.

    Al Shabaab, like the I.C.U., Juba Valley Alliance, and post Barre militias that scrambled for control of the south in the early 1990s, is primarily in the south to make money. Estimates of profits made by al Shabaab from extortion of Bantu farmers, tolls on roads and bridges, fees at the sea ports and the export of charcoal, among other activities, runs into the tens of millions of dollars per year.

    The critical Somali analyst should seek to understand why Somaliland (primarily Issaq), Puntland (primarily Darood) and areas in central Somalia controlled by the Hawiye have been relatively stable since 1992 while the south has been a continuous battleground.

    The Bantu and other minorities have been rendered invisible by the nomadic clan Somalis and by extension to the international community. Without recognizing the Bantu and Minorities as the legitimate owners of southern Somalia's Juba, Shabelle and southern coastal regions where their people dominate, we can predict that nomadic clan militias will continue to violently compete for control of these regions.

    Yours truly,