In this environment, it is likely that the people of Somalia would welcome the devil himself if he was carrying food and water, and these circumstances have not been lost on those who would exploit them for their own political agenda.
Historical Role of NGOs in Somalian Reconstruction.
The experiences of the United Nations and other relief agencies in Somalia are proof positive that even the best intentioned humanitarian efforts cannot succeed if nongovernmental organizations are targeted by political forces that deem their presence counterproductive for their political agendas. According to Boulden (2001), "The UN response to the Somalia crisis ran the gamut from the extreme of total disregard to total involvement then back to total disregard. During the first year of anarchy, the situation within the country became so dangerous that most nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and UN humanitarian agencies left the country" (54). This author reports that with the sole exception of the UN agencies, most NGOs had transferred their headquarters to Nairobi while continuing to attempt to deliver aid and assistance programs in Somalia; in August 1991, a skeleton staff from various UN agencies returned to Mogadishu, Berbera, and Borama in August 1991 but departed in November 1991 after the conflict escalated once again (Boulden 54).
Furthermore, Boulden reports that the UN Security Council first included Somalia on its agenda January 23, 1992, only after being requested to do so by the then-Prime Minister of Somalia and the representative of Somalia at the United Nations; at that time, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 733 that called on all states to "immediately implement a general and complete embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Somalia until the Security Council decides otherwise" (cited in Boulden 54). In addition, the Security Council resolution declared a cease-fire and mandated action needed to forge a political settlement, and called on all parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance during the process (Boulden 54). According to this author, "The Security Council resolution was made possible not only because of the impetus for action from the United States, but also because of a newfound post-Cold War atmosphere of enthusiasm in the Security Council for the possibilities of significant and important Security Council action" (Boulden 56).
Thereafter, beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort that was directed mostly in the south of the country was successful in alleviating famine conditions; however, when the UN withdrew in 1995 after suffering significant casualties, civil order in the country had still had not been restored (Somalia 2). In fact, during 1993, a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in the Somalian capital in which eighteen U.S. soldiers died and one was captured; the event was memorialized in a popular movie, "Black Hawk Down" (De Waal 132).
Furthermore, in August 2003, the mandate of the Transitional National Government (TNG) of August 2000 developed in Arta, Djibouti, expired and a 2-year peace initiative headed by the Government of Kenya under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), ended with the election of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as Transitional Federal President of Somalia and the formation of a transitional government, known as the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) in October 2004 (Somalia 2-3). The Somalia TFIs include a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA), a transitional Prime Minister, Ali Mohamed Ghedi, and a 90-member cabinet. The TFIs are currently divided between Mogadishu and Jowhar; however, discussions to co-locate the TFIs in one city remain underway (Somalia 3) but their future appears increasingly uncertain given recent events in Somalia.
In fact, recent events suggest that the country is moving away from its previous anarchist state, but the transition will likely not be seamless nor will the outcome be favorable to Western interests. According to a report from Mogadishu on July 15, 2006 ("Somalia: Parliament defies govt., decides to negotiate with UIC"), "Somali lawmakers will begin reconciliation talks with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) that controls large parts of southern Somalia, defying the weak transitional government that has ruled out talks with radical members of the group" (1-2). The report indicates that this decision represents a major setback for the interim government whose authority has already been weakened by the rapid rise of the Islamic group that secured control of the capital and large parts of southern Somalia from a U.S.-backed alliance of warlords in June 2006 ("Somalia: Parliament defines govt." 2). The report also noted increasing conflict between the current parliamentarians and that the interim government that was established with the help of the United Nations had been powerless outside the government's base in Baidoa; in addition, more and more government troops were defecting to the Islamic forces, taking their equipment and weapons with them: "At least 100 fighters loyal to once powerful warlord Musse Sudi Yalahow surrended their weapons Saturday, including nine prized trucks mounted with heavy military hardware - further cementing the radical Muslims' position as the undisputed power in the Somali capital" (Somalia: Parliament defies govt., decides to negotiate with UIC 3).
Even more recently (July 16, 2006 at 13:41:30), reporters from Banadir City note that Islamists in Mogadishu commandeered militiamen and technicals that had been previously owned by Muse Sudi Yalahow, former strong warlord in Mogadishu, especially in the northern district of Karan. At the time of the report, nine such armed vehicles (including four Anti-Aircraft carriers) had been turned over to the Karan Islamic Court (Somalia: Islamists take control of the last district in the Capital 2). According to Sheik Nuur Ali, chairman of the newly established Karan Islamic Court, the people of Somalia would enjoy peace and prosperity after the departure of the former warlords; "The Rule of Muse Sudi and his fellow gangs has finished and Islamic era has begun" ("Somalia: Islamists take control" 3). The report concludes by noting that the militiamen who surrendered would be mobilized and integrated to the Islamists ("Somalia: Islamists take control" 3).
From Evans' perspective, though, observers today should not be surprised by the ongoing events in Somalia because they represent the continuation of an iterative cycle that began decades ago. According to this author:
One of the things we now understand most clearly about conflict is that the countries and regions most likely to lapse into it are those that have been there before. There is not a straight line sequence between the anticipation of conflict and attempts to prevent it breaking out; the resolution of conflict, by negotiation or force, when it has broken out; and post-conflict peace-building. Rather there is a cyclical process, in which each post-conflict environment contains the potential seeds of the next round of destruction (emphasis added). (Evans 7)
The research showed that Somalia has been wracked by turmoil, violence, war and famine for decades, and the country now appears to be falling into the hands of Islamic extremists whose plans for the country can reasonably be expected to be contrary to Western interests. The research also showed that in spite of their best intentions and efforts, the United Nations and other humanitarian relief organizations have been largely ineffective in their attempts to bring order and stability to this country, due in large part to the ongoing interference of those who most stand to gain by their absence. In the final analysis, it would seem reasonable to assert that nongovernmental organizations may be an increasingly important actor in the delivery of humanitarian relief and assistance in many parts of the world today, but that their effectiveness is mediated by the political agendas and internal dynamics of countries such as Somalia where no substantive government exists to assist them in their efforts. Although this assistance is not formally required by the dictionary definition of nongovernmental organizations, it is clear that elements such as the rule of law and a basic civilian infrastructure are required to successfully deliver these humanitarian services to the people who are most in need of them.
Black's Law Dictionary. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1990.
Boulden, Jane. Peace Enforcement: The United Nations Experience in Congo, Somalia, and Bosnia. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.
De Waal, Alex. (1998). "U.S. War Crimes in Somalia." New Left Review a (230):132.
Doh, Jonathan P., Hildy Teegen and Sushil Vachani. (2004). "The Importance of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) in Global Governance and Value Creation: An International Business Research Agenda." Journal of International Business Studies 35(6):463.
Evans, Gareth. (2005). "Conflict Prevention and Resolution: Gareth Evans Outlines the Role of the International Crisis Group." New Zealand International Review 30(2):6.
Feldman, Stacy and Brian Slattery. (2003). "Living without a Government in Somalia: An Interview with Mark Bradbury Development Processes in Somalia Exist Not as a Result of Official Development Assistance,…