UK wastes money on failed Somalian state

The foreign aid Somalia gets to rebuild the country and keep the peace in the Horn of Africa is often siphoned off to clan militias. Now the UK – one of its key donors – is reviewing how it can continue its support of the East Africa

The money that is supposed to be used to strengthen security and democracy in Somalia seems not to be serving the correct purpose.

Somalia has been in chaos since 1991. It has no central government and the weak transitional federal government, or TFG, survives on foreign donations.

The British Department for International Development is the second largest donor, after the European Commission, to UN programmes supporting the TFG, having committed 11 million pounds to date.

The British money is financing a police force to keep the peace. But a report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia cited numerous allegations that the police had recruited clan militias so that they could collect salaries provided by international donors.

“There are no morals there anymore. They just enlist people, militia, anybody who has money can do anything about Somalia,” says Omar Yusef, Director of Somalia Community Centre in London.

Members of the Somalia Community Centre in London say everything is in the hands of former warlords.

“There are no warlords as they call them but the government itself consists of warlords, but they don’t operate as individual warlords at present,” believes Abdulkadir Farah, Secretary of Somalia Community Centre.

Abdulkadir Farah is convinced that less than 10% of the money meant for Somalia will actually reach people on the ground.

The UN report gives details of mismanagement with examples such as police taking part in military engagements or selling weapons at Mogadishu’s main arms market. Other UN reports detail allegations of torture, indiscriminate shooting of civilians and harassment of journalists.

“Somalia has been an accountability free zone now for over a decade and this is part of the problem, one of the reasons why Somali warlords, Somali leaders feel that they can get away with very serious human rights abuses is because there has been no accountability for so many years. And it seems to us that the Americans and the British and other external actors including the Ethiopians have been legitimising and empowering exactly those leaders who have been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Somalia over the last decade and a half,” says Tom Porteous from Human Rights Watch, London.

So the question is whether British taxpayers should continue funding the current regime in a far away African country.

“Main impact of the South on the UK is that we’ve had many refugees coming here looking for safety as a result of what is happening in the South – it is in the interests of Africa and Europe and the world as a whole that there should be order and stability in Somalia,” says Hon Alun Michaels, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland Chairman.

But some in Britain believe there is always an option of withdrawal.

“The kind of good, decent, law abiding liberal democratic forces, about which some Western media, and intellectuals, and some government people like to fantasize, do not exist in these places, or if they exist, they are too weak to make any difference. Everything we do should be done in the awareness that one day we will go home and the people on the ground will be left to do as best as they can,” says Anatole Lieven from King’s College.

Although everyone in the UK agrees that there are only two options – either to work with the existing allies or walk away – Human Rights Watch believes that the UK should think more carefully about putting its weight behind a policy leading to serious human rights abuses in the name of counter terrorism, and that British officials should speak up about it, if they want their taxpayers feel that their expense is justified.