“What Somali government?” you might be wondering. I know that I did. That’s why the article in the Dutch religious daily Reformatorisch Dagblad – “Government in Somalia about to collapse” – turned out to be so educational, as well as directly relevant to what recent readers will recognize as my continuing concerns about what we’re going to do about all those pirates (. . . arrrrr, matey!).
The current “Somali government” is called the Transitional Federal Government (“TFG” for short). It was established in 2004, with backing from the UN, the US, and Ethiopia, but basically had to stay in Kenya for a while until the 2006 invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian forces drove back various Islamist insurgent groups and so enabled the TFG to set up shop in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. You can even see a picture of the current TFG prime minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, accompanying that Reformatorisch Dagblad article – so are you satisfied, doubting Thomases? He’s of course the guy on the right.
But Hussein and his government aren’t doing too well these days. Yes, we already knew that they were essentially powerless to hinder in any way the many pirates operating from their shores, but it’s even worse than that. Not that anyone from that government itself would bother to let us know, mind you: the alarming tidings come instead from Dumisani Kumalo, the South African head of the MGS, or “Monitoring Group on Somalia” which reports to the UN Security Council. Probably the most alarming bit of Kumalo’s report is that the TFG has lost more than 80% of its soldiers and policemen and of course their weapons as well, most of which it would seem have been sold on to various armed bands. Anyone thinking about simply contributing more funds to buy new weapons for the TFG should also be aware, Dumisani’s report adds, that most of that government’s defense budget (which of course takes up the lion’s share of its over-all spending) seems to be regularly lost to corruption.
More bad news: Ethiopia has had troop contingents remaining within Somalia ever since it invaded in 2006, but has announced that it will withdraw them with the new year. That leaves only 3,000 outside peace-keeping troops there, under the flag of the African Union (AU) but originating mainly from Uganda and Burundi. Unfortunately, according to current AU head Jean (“Ping me!”) Ping, those countries are also currently reconsidering their participation. Both are themselves uncomfortably close to the current armed hostilities raging in Eastern Congo.