War and Famine?

Another food crisis looms in Somalia after a recent upsurge in fighting among the country’s southern clans and a generally poor harvest. The Panafrican News Agency (PANA) of Dakar, Senegal, reported on Nov. 5 that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that the warfare will disrupt not only the distribution of limited local crops but also the delivery of international aid.

The failure of the year’s primary cereal crops follows six consecutive poor harvests, PANA reported: The U.N. hopes to raise some $65 million in donations, but as of mid-October, only 55 percent of that had been contributed.

Reporting for the Paris-based international news service Agence France-Presse on Nov. 5, Ali Musa Abdi wrote, “Despite the absence of national infrastructure, local economies based on livestock, agriculture, fishing, and arms are far from defunct.…Interclan violence has intensified…, fueled in part by the clans’ desire to gain the maximum power and territory —the best possible bargaining position—as mediation efforts shimmer on the horizon.

“Food convoys, by necessity escorted by gunmen, are fair game for rival groups,” Musa Abdi continued. “Meanwhile, ordinary Somalis are ravaged by food shortages and disease.”

As for the future, Musa Abdi’s outlook was pessimistic: “Although numerous peace initiatives for Somalia since 1991 have failed, faction leaders never tire of seeking mediators, realizing perhaps that international peace efforts can be lucrative.…Peace-broking states do not always see eye to eye, and their efforts are tied up in their own foreign policies, a point not lost on opportunistic warlords.”