Somalia has intermittently had a significant affect on world politics and global decision-making. In antiquity, it was an important trading area and since it has been the subject to a multitude of different political systems that include British-rule, Italian-rule and Communism.
As a country, Somalia has suffered greatly from the affects of drought and famine, and this has meant much political and social upheaval over the years. In 1991, the government collapsed. What ensued was a civil war. An ethno-religious based power struggle leading to the collapse of infrastructure, of governing processes and terrible internal strife. A horrifying famine followed and UN and US actions in response helped to alleviate these problems to a degree. However, for those of you who have seen Black Hawk Down, US attempts to capture rebel-leader Aidid and restore order led to a military embarrassment and US and, eventually, UN withdrawal from a country still crippled by divisions and broken infrastructure. Another consequence of all these problems was, as many of us are aware, the emergence of piracy in the unpatrolled Indian Ocean waters off the coast of Somalia.
In 2011, there were two consecutive missed rainy seasons and this led to the worst drought seen in East Africa for 60 years (although we didn’t hear a great deal about it). As a result, there was both large-scale emigration to neighbouring countries and an influx of people to Mogadishu, in the hope of shelter, aid, work, market and protection. Makeshift camps were constructed to hold these people, many often in the now empty shells of once grand and beautiful buildings, and have been reported to be constructed simply of plastic sheeting draped over stick frames.
Since the fleeing of Al-Qaeda-linked fighter from Mogadishu, the installment of a new central government, and increased aid from various governments, attempts are afoot to bring some stability to this ravaged country. However, in the efforts to rebuild Mogadishu a recent Amnesty report states that “large scale” human rights abuses are happening. The vast tented camps are simply being cleared for development with those living there being forcibly evicted. Many of these people are now having to move to less-protected and far more dangerous areas on the outskirts of the city. They came to the capital for the protection that is their right from their own government but the Somalian people are seemingly, yet again, the last concern of the ruling powers.
The fact that Somalia is rebuilding and is stabilising to a degree is amazing news after the many ills that it has suffered. However, we must not be willing to simply settle for the bare minimum and for a flawed process. For a durable solution to be found, the Somalian people need to be an essential part of their country’s rebuilding process and their rights must be respected.