27 November 2009

From the Frying Pan Into the Fire: Somalis Flee to Yemen

You have to be pretty desperate to go to Yemen in search of a better life. Now - how about handing your life savings over to some shady character to transport you there ... that is, if you can survive the life-threatening journey? So far this year, more than 55,000 have done just that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - all trying to make their way from the Horn of Africa, across the Gulf of Aden to their Yemeni utopia. More than 250 of them, for sure, this year have died trying to make that trip and another 150 are presumed to be dead. I'm guessing they don't get their money back either.

Why jump from the frying pan into the fire? In case you thought all this talk of "climate
change" and "global warming" was just just a concoction of some hand-wringing tree-huggers - in East Africa, the effects are as real as it gets. Half the population of Somalia is now in need of humanitarian assistance - that's more than three and a half million people. The droughts there are coming hard and fast, kicking the ass of whatever is left of Somali's agricultural industry. That means less available work and higher food prices. Much higher. It enough pressure to drive a man to ....well..Yemen.

Agencies like the UN's World Food Programme are trying to help, but in the past year four of them have been killed for their efforts. Islamist insurgents have also told citizens not to accept WFP aid or to cooperate with their assistance efforts. Plus, it's not as easy as you might think to get the food to the people who need it. Nearly all of Somalia's assistance arrives by sea. Anyone who's picked a news paper in the past couple of years knows that the waterways off the Somali coast are now every bit as dangerous as the streets of Mogadishu, where Sahaab militants have been stirring up some serious violence.

The Somali coast is plagued by piracy. The pirates and the Islamist militants are largely different groups of bad guys. The one thing that have most in common is that they both benefit from from a grossly ineffective government who is unable to provide even the most basic population security in the country outside of about 10 square city blocks. The world cannot easily afford further instability and lack of governance in such an important region, nor can we leave hotbeds of radicalization to fester unattended. The recent arrests of more than two dozen men in the "Little Mogadishu" area of Minnesota should be a sobering reminder that problems over there can have ramifications at home as well.

30 November 2009- ADDENDUM

Somali (Al Qaeda-linked insurgent) camps may pose threat to US
By Mohamed Olad Hassan /Associated Press /

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The recruits gather in scorching desert hideouts in Somalia, use portraits of President Obama for target practice, learn how to make and detonate bombs, and vow allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Training camps in the lawless nation of Somalia are attracting hundreds of foreigners, including Americans, and Somalis recruited by a local insurgent group linked to Al Qaeda, according to local and US officials. American officials and private analysts say the camps pose a security threat far beyond the borders of Somalia, including to the US homeland.

Read the full story HERE.