Title: War Crimes: How Warlords, Politicians, Foreign Governments and Aid Agencies Conspired to Create a Failed State in Somalia (2014)
Foreign aid is a subject that has been written on by numerous authors. Giles Bolton called it a “dirty business.” Dambisa Moyo pronounced it “dead” and Alex de-Waal called the entire humanitarian aid world as a “disaster industry” involved in “famine crimes”.
But how has aid been used to put down Somalia since the early 1990s?
A new book by Nation columnist and the author of Mogadishu: Then and Now, Rasna Warah, indicts foreign aid further, terming it a “war crime”.
It is an analysis of how the international NGOs “manufacture” a cycle of famine so the international community can donate money.
But then this money rarely reaches those in need. For example, since most humanitarian organisations “serving Somalia” have headquarters in Nairobi, much of the funds they receive through donations are used for “administrative operations” salaries and allowances.
But Somalia, she argues, has also been eaten away by its own leaders. Politicians who receive aid for public use divert it to their personal accounts.
In one instance, Warah interviewed a Somali Whistleblower Abdirizak Fartaag, a former head of Public Finance Management Unit, who narrated how senior politicians in former President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed often diverted donor funds from the Central Bank to their own use.
Somalia has often been termed as a “failed state”. But the failure of Somalia’s statehood is beyond the ordinary Somali.
Politicians and warlords use clans to pursue their ambition. Then foreign governments and donors bring in aid, which in turn serves as an incentive for those clan divisions. In the end, everyone fights to steal or divert aid brought in.
Warah indicts foreign governments like Kenya, Ethiopia and the US who she argues may be benefiting from the anarchy in Somalia.
As such, it could be the imposition systems by outsiders that make it difficult for Somalia to stand on its feet.
This includes financial support to militia groups that broke away from al-Shabaab even when the Mogadishu government is also receiving the same support.
Warah bases her account on interviews with experts, background from media and expert reports on Somalia and her own experience while on a visit to Mogadishu in 2012.
Her narration runs from corruption within the Somalia leadership to how donors “feast on famine” to the so-called “double jeopardy” of Ethiopia’s incursion to Somalia, to Kenya’s involvement.
Her lesson is that Somalia can only be saved by Somalis. A former UN worker herself, Warah could be admitting to the limitations of imposing systems on a sovereign country.
Though in the end she admits: “I really don’t have the answer”…on how Somalia can liberate itself.