Climate, Wars, Economics, and Pirates
First let us get things straight. Human beings lived in Africa long before Europe was populated. In other words the history of Africa didn’t start with the European colonisation of Africa. Neither is culture a European monopoly.
From the 25th century BC and onwards the Egyptians sent expeditions to the land of Punt, which is supposed to have been the Horn of Africa. If so a lot of things have changed since then, as the Land of Punt was known for producing and exporting gold, aromatic resins, African blackwood, ebony, ivory, slaves and wild animals.
Somalia became independent in 1960. It has been tormented by crude civil war most of the time since 1986. UN humanitarian troops landed in 1993 and started a two-year effort (primarily in the south) to alleviate famine conditions. The period of 1998–2006 saw the declaration of a number of self-declared autonomous states within Somalia. In January 2009, Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia following a two year insurgency. In short their is practical no law and order and the central Somalian government has little to say.
Today 85% of the population are Somalis, a population that CIA estimates at nearly 10 million people (another source says 4 million in 1979). The Somalis began populating the area around 1000 years ago. About 70 percent of all Somalis are nomads who travel with their herds through Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Today more than 3 million Somalis are dependant on food aid and 1.3 million are fugitives.
Only 1.64% of Somalia’s 637 657 km2
is arable land with permanent crops on 0.04% of Somalia. Most of the country receives less than 500 millimeters of rain annually, and a large area encompassing the northeast and much of northern Somalia receives as little as 50 to 150 millimeters. One of the country’s biggest problem is the heavy loss of livestock suffered by the pastoralist communities in the worst drought in 30 years.
Somali has a 3,025 km long coastline. In 2005 ca. 700 foreign fishing trawlers were illegally active in Somalian waters. For years other countries have dumped nuclear and toxic waste off the coast of Somalia. After the tsunami in 2005 some of this waste washed ashore with disastrous results for the coastal population like skin diseases and mouth bleedings.
So what can you do in Somalia for a living. Crops gone, livestock gone, fish gone, and no social security. One solution is taking aid helpers as hostages to get ransom money. It has been done lately. There is however bigger money in piracy. And the pirates are local heroes. They are the revengers of those foreigners that destroyed the fishing industry and they provide money.
Eyl in Puntland is the location of most of Somalia's casualties from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It has about 3 million inhabitants and has become something like the capital of the Somalian pirates. As the so-called pirate capital it is where the high seas hijackers often steer their captured vessels. Special restaurants in the town cater for the captive crews. With their expensive tastes in fancy houses, cars and women, the pirates have brought boom times to the local economy. The Puntland government has acknowledged that they are relatively powerless to stop pirate activities.
To recapitulate: Somalia is one of the poorest, most violent, least stable countries anywhere on Earth. It suffers from severe drought and its people face hunger and violence on a daily basis.
How can you stop the piracy. Much is said these days about warships and other military or paramilitary actions. No doubt such things are necessary. But without improving the humanitarian situation for all Somalis, the problem will not be solved. This is an extremely difficult task for the international community.
I wonder if the international conference
held these days in Brussels, and sponsored by the United Nations and the European Union, that aims to raise at least euro128 million ($166 million) in donations for Somalia's nascent security forces and for the African Union peacekeeping contingent there, leads to any decisive results.
See also my post: http://my.opera.com/nielsol/blog/2009/04/20/floods-in-somaliland