Getting It Wrong in Somalia Over and Over Again

Al Shabaab is a nasty, thuggish organisation that started as a protection unit for visiting al Qaeda operatives and has today morphed into a network of clan-based Islamist militias, which controls a good chunk of southern, central Somalia. It has imposed its own brand of brutal Sharia law on its enemies – and its supporters. So the announcement yesterday that they would seek the closure of three United Nations agencies – the UN Development Programme, the UN Department of Safety and Security, and the UN Political Office for Somalia – in its territory is a sickening development. This is how Al Shabaab chose to make its announcement…

This decision was finally concluded after thorough research and due to an ongoing investigation into the actions and motives of many of the NGOs and foreign agencies currently in operation. The above foreign agencies have been found to be working against the benefits of the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic State in Somalia.  Some of the findings include evidence of training and support for the apostate goverment and the training of its troops.  

The research also found material support being given to the apostate militias in the border regions in hopes of destabilizing the regions and disrupting the safety and security that the Islamic administrations of those regions have accomplished by the permission of Allah.

But as the world rushes to denounce the actions of Al Shabaab, something needs to be said. The UN political strategy in Somalia has been a thorough mess for the past two years. Millions of dollars has been channelled to warlords and thugs in the Transitional Federal Government charged with running its security aparatus. There has been no oversight and no accountability. Warlords have used the UN cash to build up their own militias and power bases.

This is how I reported the story last year, focusing particularly on British taxpayers’ money that had gone to the UNDP.

The UNDP had paid for pickups for a new police force, run by one of the most notorious warlords of them all. No-one at the UN could tell me what had happened to the pickups and whether they had modified with heavy machine guns, turning them into "technicals".

I followed it up with another story about how the UN-trained and funded police force was guilty of human rights abuses. It never ran, but I have pasted it below.

Of course, Al Shabaab is responsible for any disruption of humanitarian services that follows their statement yesterday and the looting of UN premises in Baidoa. But when is the world going to wake up to its responsibility to the Somali people. Picking sides and imposing solutions will not work in this war-savaged land. All bets are off here. This country has served as a graveyard for even the best intentioned of foreign policies. Parachuting in the TFG, arming it and pouring millions of dollars into the coffers of its warlords only marks the UN out as an enemy to much of the Somali population.

Solutions must come from Somalia. Then we have to be ready to support them, building on what the Somali people themselves want. We had a chance three years ago with the Union of Islamic Courts. We can’t blow it again.




SOMALI police officers, funded with British and European taxpayers’ money, are engaged in a campaign of looting, intimidation and extortion, according to witnesses in Mogadishu. 

In one of the most blatant incidents, police armed with AK-47 rifles opened fire in a school in apparent retaliation for a mortar attack on the president’s motorcade in June. 

A child in year 6 was seriously injured. 

The police, dressed in khaki uniforms, smashed electrical equipment and tried to burn down the school by setting fire to piles of books. 

“It was very frightening. We thought we were all going to die,” said a witness, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “Why would they do this to a school?” 

The United Nations Development Programme which is responsible for delivering donor cash to the police has launched an investigation into the incident. 

In dozens more cases, security forces – who cannot be identified because many wear the same types of uniform – are accused of raping, looting and arbitrarily detaining suspects. 

Human Rights Watch will today(MON) launch a report detailing the full scale of abuse, and call for western government to reappraise their positions on Somalia. 

Earlier this year, The Times revealed that Britain’s Department for International Development was one of the major donors backing attempts to bring law and order to Somalia’s lawless land. 

A weak transitional government took control of the capital Mogadishu last year after its Ethiopian allies defeated an alliance of Islamic courts. Since then ministers have relied on donor cash as they try to stop Islamist insurgents regaining control of the country. 

The money is supposed to help build a community-based police service, trained in human rights, based on the success of similar projects in other “fragile states” such as Sierra Leone. 

Without basic security, so the philosophy runs, it is difficult to channel development aid into lawless states. 

The British Department for International Development (DfID) is the second-largest donor – behind the European Commission – to UN programmes supporting the Transitional Federal Government, having committed £11 million to date. However experts warn the policy is going awry in Somalia. 

Millions of pounds in police stipends, vehicles and equipment has been given to a force headed by General Abdi Hasan Awale Qaybdib, one of Mogadishu’s most notorious warlords. 

A recent United Nations report showed the Somali police included members of his own militia, drafted in to collect donor-funded stipends, which are currently suspended. 

Security experts in Nairobi believe Qaybdid’s police are acting in tandem with the feared National Security Agency, arresting suspects before delivering them to the an underground prison in Mogadishu. 

The Times has spoken to three Somali journalists who were arrested by the Somali police force and held for weeks without charge in the dungeon before paying bribes to be freed. 

One radio reporter was accused of supporting Islamist insurgents and tortured when he told his interrogators he knew nothing about al Qaeda. “They ordered me to stand and put my hands on the wall and face them,” he said by telephone from Mogadishu. 

“Then they started to beat me. When I cried they took off my shirt and used cables to beat me until I was close to unconscious.” 

A spokeswoman for DfID said Britain’s work in Somalia was under review because of the country’s testing conditions. 

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms any violation of human rights by the Somali police force. All UK-funded police training includes training on human rights. Somalia is an unstable country and the international community has a duty to remain engaged there, not just to reduce poverty, but also to build regional stability,” she said.