|Matovu Abdallah: When West donates drones in Horn of Africa|
|In this piece, I am arguing that for its own good and image building, the West has to clean its approach of handling every issue with an iron fist, especially in the Muslim world.
The simple example is on Somalia and its regional neighbours, an area called the Horn of Africa (HoA). While a number of Muslim countries are competing to donate cash, food and medical assistance, some in the “very powerful” West, are busy sending drone planes or picking the bill for their proxy countries fighting the Al Shabaab opposition: Burundi and Uganda. Forget that these two countries are in Somalia under the aegis of the African Union.
Remember, the cash raised from anywhere by anyone has to be vetted by the UN’s Financial Tracking Service (UN FTS) “lest it goes in the hands of terrorists.”
Anyway, the Al Shabaab opposition fighters were not lucky like the Libyans, for the former were simply designated a terrorist group by the USA, UK and of course the UN. This is not to insinuate that aid that goes to Somalia is intended for the Al Shabaab, but it is for the Somali people – many of them are living in Al Shabaab controlled areas.
You need to pause here and reflect on three issues. One, those who donate have to be almost grilled for their donation while the beneficiaries are at the mercy of those who vet donations, the UN FTS.
Two, the trapped Somalis who are in need but in the areas controlled by Al Shabaab have either to starve to death or the donors have to be escorted by the partial “peacekeepers”, Burundi and Uganda who abuse all the rules in the books of peacekeeping under the guise of “clearing the way.” Meanwhile, fighting continues.
Three, can’t there be a solution to this stalemate? It is possible, that is by having the International Community (read the US and the UK) swallow their pride and engage the Al Shabaab opposition fighters into negotiation. It took them ten years to resort to the same with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is not too late to save over seven million people from dying of hunger.
What I am writing about here is political morality as opposed to political correctness. The Founder and President of the UK based Humanitarian Forum, Dr Hany Al Banna, shares my view.
“The Al Shabaab fighters should not be labelled terrorists. We [humanitarian agencies] can deliver where the government has failed to deliver if we take a neutral and positive approach. We should advocate negotiation.
“What we need is culture and wisdom to stay as permanent players in areas such as Somalia, Chechnya or Kosovo. We need the West’s wisdom and art of negotiation but not money because that we can raise.”
Doesn’t this approach tally well with what the UN Under Secretary General in charge of Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, noted on Sept.12?
“2011 has been an extraordinary year, presenting aid workers with unprecedented challenges – many of them in the Islamic world,” she told aid agencies from the Middle East and the Muslim world who were sharing information for better humanitarian action in Kuwait City.
“Effective partnership means working closely together to identify needs and determine ways to best meet them for the benefit of the affected communities.” So, the affected communities in Somalia are not interested in hearing more drones sent to them, but aid that reaches. It can only reach when there are peaceful political steps taken.
Unfortunately, like Abraham Maslow observed, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail,” the trapped Somalis have little chance of surviving hunger even in the presence of food because the opposition fighters are still viewed as “terrorists unworthy to negotiate with.”
Forget that the current President of the “Interim government of Somalia”, Ahmad Sharif, is among the founders of Al Shabaab which metamorphosed from the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU) which, when still in charge of the country, a foreigner could peacefully drive throughout Somalia. The ICU’s problem before the International Community was: it was too Islamic and “wanted to rule by the Islamic law” in a country where 100 per cent are Muslims.
Now Sharif switched to the interim government, he is a good guy. Again never mind that, like the Eritrean Consul General in Dubai told The Gulf Today in August; “Somalia is for all the Somalis. It does not start and end in (the interim government-controlled capital city of) Mogadishu.” Surely, Al Shabaab has to be brought to the negotiating table when there is still life to protect.
The author is of Ugandan origin and a UMBS forumist