Somalia crisis still persists

Carly Mckinney

Starvation, famine, drought, disease and anarchy run rampant throughout the sub-Saharan African country of Somalia, which is in the midst of its worst crisis in 20 years. The crisis has been fueled by a severe drought and intense political instability, and is now leading to a major diaspora — a group migration or flight from a country or region.

Abdi Kusow, associate professor of sociology and Somalia native, has done extensive research in the area of the Somali disaster. He emphasizes that the people of Somalia need financial support to get back on their feet, but this money needs to go directly to the people in need.

Kusow said a mechanism needs to be put in place for distributing this money to the people, whether formulating a policy or working with the relief unions in the area to distribute the money.

Another way Kusow has gotten involved in the relief project is by assisting in forming a small university in Somalia, called the University of Southern Somalia. Now, he acts as an adviser for the university. The university is up to 40 students currently, and focuses on producing students who will be able to go into the teaching and health fields.

“[Relief is] not just about feeding people dying right now, but preventing it in the future,” Kusow said.

He also believes that producing teachers and health professionals will help their society to prepare for the future. 

“Part of the problem with Somalia is that as a state, its society is very clan-based,” said Shane Day, lecturer of political science.

There are multiple small clans throughout Somalia that have different beliefs and cultures, making it difficult to have a unified country. Prior to 1961, while the country was not completely unified, it was stable. The government was nearly Democratic and a political movement toward a greater Somalia began.

In 1969, Mohamed Siad Barre took control of the country following a military coup. The leader ruled with an “iron thumb,” Day said, and strove for a Somali sense of identity. Siad Barre’s power did not last long, however, due to instable relations with the former Soviet Union.

Both Somalia and Ethiopia were client states of the former Soviet Union at the time, meaning both were being provided arms and support by the large country. The two countries went to war in the 1970s, and with Ethiopia’s stronger military, Siad Barre began to destabilize.

Finally, it was made clear the clans were not prepared to mesh. The military attempted to suppress the colonies to form a unified Somalia, but the action simply led to a civil war in 1991. The civil war led to an “era of warlord politics, a time filled with clan leaders attempting to take power.” Day said there has been a “stable condition of anarchy ever since” the civil war.

An Islamic group with ties to al-Qaida called al Shabab has led an insurgency throughout the country since the civil war. The group has recruited many members, including Somali refugees who had fled to America. Because of al Shabab’s ties to al-Qaida, the group has led to further instability and uneasiness throughout the country.

Now that the country is in the midst of a terrible famine, the situation is only being exacerbated by the lack of a stable government. Because of the lack of stability and security, much of the willpower in the developed world has dwindled. Day said this phenomenon is “unfortunate, but understandable.”

Both Day and Kusow agree that while immediate aid is important, working on the issue of a stable government and national security is of the utmost importance.

However, they agree that the developed world is hesitant to partake in the relief effort in Somalia, and they also agree that time would be well-invested in the area because it needs international support.

Somalia is on the border of the Red Sea, one of the most important global trade waterways, meaning that many U.S. goods are transported through the area. If the area is not improved and a strong government implanted, U.S. goods would have to be shipped around Africa — creating more than an inconvenience.

Kusow believes students can help the cause and can be as simple as coming together and raising awareness about the disaster. Students also can donate money to the area in need.

“I am also willing to talk to students, too,” Kusow said.