Aid as a Weapon in Mogadishu

NAIROBI: Once again it’s the people of Somalia who are losing out. Yesterday the World Food Programme suspended aid to 75,000 people in Mogadishu after its compound was stormed and a senior managers detained by Somali armed forces.

A number of theories are doing the rounds:

  1. With Ali Mohamed Gedi, the prime minister, deadlocked with President Abdullahi Yusuf it is an attempt by the president’s National Security Service to make Gedi – and his allies in Mogadishu – look bad
  2. Alternatively it might be the exact opposite. Mohammed Dheere, former warlord and now mayor of Mogadishu, may have put the NSS up to the job. President Yusuf is then harmed by the international outcry
  3. Perhaps the most miserable option – and the one I favour – is that it is another attempt to control the flow of aid into Somalia for political purposes. In August, Dheere accused aid agencies working in aid camps of helping feed terrorists. Many of the camps are home to people who fled Mogadishu after the collapse of the Islamic Courts at the end of the year. Last month he cut off water to some of the camps, and this week the WFP began distributing food through mosques in the city. It doesn’t take much of a leap to accuse the WFP of feeding the Islamist insurgency

I wasn’t one of the cheerleaders for the Islamic Courts. They brought stability for a period last year but were defeated just at the time that much of their support was starting to crumble. The Transitional Federal Government does at least have a number of mechanisms which are supposed to ensure accountability and so on. But the reality of Somalia is that whoever is in charge has got to the top table with the help of a technical or two and a shedload of AK-47s. That mentality doesn’t disappear overnight.

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