In the summer and early fall of 2011, the Horn of Africa experienced the worst drought in over half a century. Southern and Central Somalia are the epicenter of a famine that is reported to have killed tens of thousands of people since it began and threatens up to 750,000 more lives, according to the United Nations. Since the latest drought, roughly 150,000 have fled their homes seeking assistance in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps inside Somalia and in refugee camps located in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.
While the drought is devastating, the ongoing conflict and insecurity in southern and central Somalia are also major causes of the famine. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by the international community, allows food into the capital, Mogadishu, but there are reports that some food aid is being stolen. However, al Shabaab, a violent Islamist extremist group, which controls central and southern Somalia, does not have a consistent record for working with humanitarian organizations. At times it has allowed groups to contribute food and other emergency equipment and supplies, at other times it has not.
Somalia has been without a government since 1990, when the autocratic government of General Mohamed Siyad Barre was expelled. Since then, Somalia has been in an ongoing state of civil strife, with various armed militias fighting each other, with civilians getting caught in the crossfire, and sometimes targeted. The conflict has spillover effects in the Somali-inhabited regions of Ethiopia and Kenya. Somalia has an estimated 1.4 million IDPs, and neighboring Kenya has the world’s largest refugee camp, with a population of at least 300,000, almost exclusively Somalis.
The TFG is supported by African Union (AU) troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). At present, troop contributions come from Uganda and Burundi. USIP’s Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding is training AMISOM peacekeepers in Uganda and in Burundi prior to their deployment, to understand the Somali context, including history, politics, society, culture, and to learn non-violent conflict resolution skills, such as conflict analysis, negotiation, mediation and the protection of civilians in peacekeeping missions.
- Somalia and Operation Restore Hope by John L. Hirsch and Robert B. Oakley / Chester A. Crocker, Foreword | Discusses reflections on peacemaking and Peacekeeping in Somalia. In launching Operation Restore Hope, the multinational coalition faced a complex, tense, and rapidly unfolding situation. The authors detail how the carefully limited mission achieved its goals, including mutual understanding with the Somalis, by combining political, military, and humanitarian actions. But the authors also describe how different U.S. and UN concepts of the mission and subsequent changes in the mission’s scope led almost inevitably to confrontation.
- Somalia: The Missed Opportunties by Mohamed Sahnoun | By 1992, starvation, disease, and death had engulfed Somalia and its people. Plagued by the violence of civil war, Somalia had become a country with few resources and great despair—electricity, communications, transportation, health services, and food were all in short supply. In this compelling volume, Sahnoun describes his first-hand experience in Somalia and argues that if the international community—and specifically the United Nations—had intervened earlier and more effectively, much of the catastrophe that unfolded could have been avoided.