Ethan Zuckerman has a great post up about American involvement in Somalia:
Counterintuitively, the best thing the US might do to prevent Somalia from becoming an operating base for Al Qaeda is to disengage, limit involvement to targeted strikes on international terrorist leaders and to providing humanitarian aid. That’s the case governance expert Bronwyn Bruton makes in this interview with the Council on Foreign Relations. She notes that a divided, clan-ruled Somalia was an environment Al Qaeda previously found impossible to operate in – the level of inhospitality of the clan system appeared to “inoculate” Somalia from foreign engagement. She suggests that allowing the TFG to fall and Al Shabab to rise will lead towards Al Shabab fracturing as a coalition, and eventually a return to clan politics and conflict, which is ultimately the only stable basis for a future functional Somali state.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi makes a similar case in an article in the American Thinker titled “What To Do About Somalia“. He urges a containment strategy – ensure that Al Shabab doesn’t act outside of Somalia, and cut off external supports. He also suggests the US and the international community recognize Somaliland, the comparatively stable north of the country, as an independent nation, creating another potential ally in stabilizing southern Somalia.
(Side note – while looking for Al-Tamimi’s article, I searched for “what to do about Somalia”. Google returned a wonderful result from Trip Advisor, titled “Things to Do in Mogadishu“. I love that Trip Advisor wants to find me a cheap flight to Mogadishu and to help me find a cheap Somali passport.)
What I find most interesting about Bruton’s arguments is her argument that the US is incorrectly framing the situation in Somalia as a conflict between religious ideologies. She argues that the TFG and Al Shabab are both ad-hoc, opportunistic groups looking for power, not advocating for a particular religious ideology. Because TFG is seeking funding from western governments, it argues that it’s a bulwark against terrorism. Al Shabab looks for support from Al Qaeda in the hopes of support from extremists in the Middle East. But the ideology is secondary to the search for power. (Some groups in Somalia have expressed concerns that the TFG includes a large number of Wahabbists, which seems incompatible with a pro-US orientation… and supports Bruton’s case that ideology is trumped by opportunity.)
If we take the conflict in Somalia out of the “extremist Islam versus the world” frame that the US often falls into, Bruton argues, we might be able to see that increased outside intervention will likely worsen the conflict. Perhaps then would make the decision to disengage. This doesn’t mean ignoring Somalia – it means watching borders closely, and being willing to strike against foreign fighters should they take shelter under Al Shabab. But it means giving up a failed strategy of nation building on the cheap and by proxy.
Katrina Manson has an interesting piece on the Retuers blog about the wealth of Lumumbashi, DRC.
LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Membership at the governor’s new gym costs $300 a month, the gastronomic menu at the new $350-a-night hotel is going down a treat and traffic guided by lemon yellow-uniformed police runs smoothly under sunny skies.
While Congo is more often associated with rebel killings, labelled by the United Nations as the world’s rape capital, filled with red tape and river journeys into the depths of jungled gloom, Congo’s copperbelt, in the southern Katanga province, seems a world apart.
Buoyed by mining income for more than a century, Katanga’s provincial capital Lubumbashi shows little sign that nearly 80 percent of Congo’s 67 million people live on less than $2 a day.
“We are proud that we are the richest province, that we have jobs and that life is much easier than in (the capital) Kinshasa,” said Kabwita Ipanga, a street vendor who sells chess boards made of polished malachite, a mottled green stone from which the copper that has made the province rich can be derived.
Katanga has rebounded since the global financial crisis saw copper prices plunge and mining operations suspended, putting hundreds of thousands out of work. Congo estimates it will double output by 2012 to 850,000 tonnes of copper and 90,000 tonnes of cobalt.
Today expatriate miners can count on swimming pools, game-watching and bowling to amuse themselves, and London-listed Lonrho said it opened its smart hotel to serve those drawn by the $12 billion being invested in Katanga’s resources.
Bombastic Element (which is one of my favorite blogs for links to interesting articles, issues, photos, music, and more) posts about a project at Luz Gallery by photographer Devin Tepleski that looks at a community in Bui, Ghana, whose residents are threatened with relocation by a new hydro dam.
Tepleski purposely situated his subjects in the very river that will flood their homes. In the photos the only discernible remnant of the river exists as a reflection of the human, a memory.