Somalia and Yemen

Unhappy new year in Somalia. This just in from the UNHCR…

The number of Somali casualties and displaced civilians continues to grow as fighting in central areas of Somalia rages on. Since the beginning of the year, fighting and general insecurity have displaced an estimated 63,000 people in Somalia.

As the world wakes up to Yemen’s problems and parallels are drawn with two decades of misery in Somalia, let’s hope that the right lessons are being learned. Basically that…

  • Solutions have to come from the grassroots up – top-down solutions, such as throwing in support for an unpopular government, will cause more harm than good
  • Sometimes you have to do deals with unpleasant people – if that means backing the Islamic courts or paying cash to tribal warlords in pursuit of the bigger picture, then maybe that’s what you have to do
  • Extremist ideologies are just that, they are on the extremes – few Somalis or Yemenis support extreme Islam, but many will care about national or local struggles. Don’t allow Al Qaeda recruiters the chance to conflate the two
  • Al Qaeda is as much a philosophy as a terrorist organisation – and you can’t bomb philosophies out of existence

It is failure to observe these points that leaves Somalia so messed up. Yemen starts from a different position. As has been widely pointed out, it is not (yet) a failed state. Fingers crossed it doesn’t follow Somalia into failed, and then post-failed.


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