Fighting between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Ethiopian troops, and regional militias has exacerbated food shortages, as TFG and Ethiopian troops target local markets, including the Bakaara market in Mogadishu, in retaliation for militia attacks. With drought “killing off livestock and reducing harvests in farming areas” and the economy crippled by violence and an outbreak of counterfeiting, food prices have skyrocketed.
Although Menkhaus rightly mentions a few of the situation’s environmental aspects, such as the drought’s role in the food crisis, he neglects the role population growth has played. The 2008 Failed States Index ranked Somalia as the state with the most demographic pressure – a significant indicator of state instability – (tied with Bangladesh). According to the Population Reference Bureau, Somalia has a total fertility rate of 6.7 children per woman and an annual rate of natural increase of 2.7 percent. With 45 percent of the population under 15, Somalia’s youth bulge increases the likelihood of continued violence; in addition, if Somalia ever does find peace and stability, its government will be hard-pressed to meet the needs of all its citizens for jobs, health care, and education.
Somali piracy has made humanitarian shipments to sea ports a treacherous task. According to Albin-Lackey, Somalia’s second-largest port, Kismaayo, fell to al-Shabaab militants last week after weeks of fighting between the Islamic group and TFG security forces, cutting off a crucial delivery point for humanitarian shipments. According to Menkhaus, with human insecurity worsening, Somalis who would not otherwise support fundamentalism will become more vulnerable to recruitment from criminal gangs and terrorist cells, including al-Qaeda. And although the Djibouti Accord was signed last month between the TFG and a faction of the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, experts are pessimistic that it will do anything to end the violence.
Photo: Internally displaced people (IDPs) flee the escalating violence in Mogadishu for IDP camps on the outskirts of the city, where newcomers build their own makeshift shelters. Courtesy of Abdurrahman Warsameh and ISN Security Watch.