Posts tagged ‘Somalia’

07/26/2011

Somalia Should Pipe West African Water

A drought responsible for the lowest amount of rain in 50 years has caused a return of famine in the Horn of Africa, in Southern Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. There was a similar episode 20 years ago, and a solution is needed for this recurrent problem.

While there is an immediate need for relief, work must also begin now on pipelines to redistribute the overabundance of water in West Africa to the dry regions of Northeast Africa. Four of the top 15 wettest nations on earth are in West Africa, including: Guinea, which ranks #1, Sierra Leone #3, Gabon #4, and Nigeria #15.

Guinea has a 200-mile Atlantic coast (9 N) and a rainy season from May through Dec. Sierra Leone (8 N), bordering Guinea, also has a swampy 210-mile Atlantic shore, which receives 195 inches of rain each year (April-Dec.) These poor states could benefit greatly from the sale of rain water to the dry regions. Gabon, in the elbow of West Africa (0 N), and also on the Atlantic, has Sep. through May rains. Nigeria, located on the West African south coast, has rain from April through Oct.

Gabon and Nigeria, both rich from oil revenues, have money to finance water pipelines, and experience from pumping oil. They could join with the Economic Community of West African States (ECWAS) to finance two water pipelines, one along a northern route, from the Atlantic at Guinea and Sierra Leone, due east through Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and into Somalia. A southern equatorial pipeline could start in Gabon and go east through the Congo, DRC, Uganda, Kenya, and also into Somalia.

Pipelines would bring a more permanent solution to the recurrent problem. The last time Somalia needed aid, Operation Somalia was authorized in 1992, but relief could not be delivered due to fighting in Mogadishu. President George H. W. Bush decided to prevent mass starvation by authorizing a U.S. Marine airlift. When President Clinton took office in 1993, he increased the size of the mission, under Operation Somalia II. When the U.S. started seizing weapons, however, they were accused of neo-colonialism, causing a Mogadishu mob to down two U.S. helicopters and murder U.S. soldiers, bringing the relief mission to an end.

The drought stricken area should not have to rely on airlifts for relief. Pipelines can and should be built. It’s just a matter of leadership, intergovernmental cooperation, and willpower.

03/28/2011

Yemen: Where Will Change Take You?

As the people of Yemen started protesting this year, their leader, Ali Saleh, said he would not seek re-election, hoping this would satisfy the crowd. When the protests continued, the police used tear gas. Saleh then promised a new constitution, but that was not enough, and the unrest intensified. Saleh’s men then opened fire on the crowds, causing injury and death. Saleh’s response was to discharge his cabinet, but the crowds wanted more; they wanted Saleh gone. Following the mutiny of some high-ranking generals, Saleh finally offered to resign, but not until next year. That offer, of course, was too little and too late.

Yemen is now in a state of emergency, as Saleh suspended basic constitutional rights. It appears that after 31 years, Saleh will be gone soon. Yemen is about to go through change. The question is what will it be? Who will replace the 31-year regime?

The situation in Yemen is not like Tunisia or Egypt. Yemen is at risk of going from bad to worse. It has history of civil war, a poor economy, a large population of 24 million and an almost equal  Sunni-Shiite mix. It is located in a very troubled part of the world. If the crisis is not resolved, Yemen could easily slide into conflict.

Yemen previously had internal strife. North Yemen experienced an 8-year Civil War (1962-70), which pitted royalists against rebels. South Yemen (Aden) battled British colonial rule (1963-67). Following independence, the South (Aden) and the North (Sana) struggled with each other at times, before creating one republic (1990). Four years later, a part of the country tried to secede, leading to another Yemen Civil War (1994).

Yemen is a place where there has been violence against the U.S. The port city of Aden is where the USS Cole was bombed and 17 Americans died in 2000. Sana is where the U.S. Embassy was attacked and another 18 perished in 2008.

The Yemen economy is one of the poorest in the world. It is not like Libya or one of the Persian Gulf states, where protesters can be placated with oil money. Here, poverty exists, which is the fuel that often ignites revolution. Neighboring Saudi Arabia actually built a wall to keep the flow of impoverished Yemenis out.

Yemen’s population is 50% Sunni Muslim and 50% Shiite. Unlike the North African states, where 99% were from the same Islamic school, Yemen is closer to the Iraqi model, where divisions between the two Islamic branches may be exploited.

Yemen is geographically located in a troubled neighborhood. Somalia, the poster child of a failed state, is located just across the Gulf of Aden. In this part of the world, pirates captured 49 ships in 2010 alone, and there is a certain degree of lawlessness here.

While no regime should continue beyond 31 years, particularly if the people are opposed to it, we can only hope, given what Yemen is up against, that what follows will be an improvement.