JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Human shields and drones, hunger and terrorists and China’s Belt and Road.
This is the toxic cocktail that is Somalia today, stirred by a superpower struggle dressed up in diplomatic niceties from Washington and Beijing. Somalia, a country where real agendas are hidden, has been struggling to find peace for decades and now stares a deadly famine in the face.
Not content with terrorizing the population, the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, strongly linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist movement, is now said to be actively and rapidly causing famine in Somalia:
“With international support, al-Shabab is facing some pressure. What they’re doing now is weaponizing the devastating situation we’re seeing, hastening the onset of famine,” Jasmine Opperman, former intelligence agent and now security leader. A consultant specializing in extremism and political violence, he told Fox News Digital. “They are intentionally displacing people who live under their domain.”
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Simply put, in the areas where al-Shabab operates, its militants are pushing villagers, mostly farmers, and their livestock off their lands and forcing them into situations where their animals starve to death in what the UN High Commissioner for Refugees calls the worst drought. The country has lived in 40 years.
The representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Somalia, Magatte Guisse, confirmed to Fox News Digital that refugees face “protection risks caused by armed conflict: indiscriminate attacks, family separation, forced recruitment for armed groups, destruction of property. Insecurity in some areas is making it difficult for aid agencies to reach people affected by the drought.”
Observers note that this means al-Shabab terrorists are, perhaps unwittingly, preventing agencies from establishing exactly how many are already starving. Some even say that famine may already exist in Somalia. Still, the official line, drawn from apparently incomplete data, is that the death toll should reach starvation levels within the next six months.
UNHCR’s Guisse told Fox News Digital Somalia is “on the brink of starvation.” Severe food and water shortages have left 7.1 million people in the country acutely food insecure. Millions of people have fled their homes in search of life-saving humanitarian aid. This year alone, more than 1.1 million people have been displaced within Somalia due to drought. In a massive operation, UNHCR has helped almost half a million people in Somalia this year.
Ummy Dubow, deputy country director in Somalia for programs at the aid agency CARE, which has supported more than 700,000 Somalis this year, told Fox News Digital that the organization is deeply concerned.
“We are witnessing an increase in the number of emaciated women and children visiting the health centers we support,” Dubow said. “It is unacceptable that more than half of Somalia’s population will face acute food insecurity by June 2023 without urgent funding. Famine or no famine, more support is needed to save lives.”
The timing of the Biden administration’s announcement in May that Americans were putting boots back on the ground after President Trump withdrew troops, the day after the Somali election results, raised suspicions among some.
After all, Somalia has oil. Seismologists claim there are as many as 30 billion barrels. And American companies want in.
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But America is playing catch-up with the panda in the room. China has never stopped supporting Somalia, but has developed more than 80 infrastructure projects such as hospitals and highways.
In return, Somalia has become the first East African nation to establish diplomatic relations with China, with Beijing creating a special envoy for the Horn of Africa. No such person has been named in Washington. Beijing views Somalia, located near the vital Suez Canal and with Africa’s longest coastline, as an essential part of its Belt and Road trade route.
Very different views are being pushed from Washington and Beijing.
“We see African countries, including Somalia, as partners in global and regional priorities,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital this week. “We remain committed to supporting Somali-led and African Union efforts to counter the threat posed by al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.”
China’s special envoy for the region, Xue Bing, claimed that “Chinese wisdom” suggests that foreign nations such as the United States should leave, and urged the Somali government to “get rid of the intervention external. We respect and support regional countries to resolve their differences independently.” “
And in the middle of the geopolitical struggle is the aggressive cancer that is the al-Shabab terrorist group. It is arguably even more dangerous because, thanks to a sustained offensive by the country’s new government, the militants have their backs against the wall.
Analyst Opperman concluded that al-Shabab has recently lost control of 80 percent of Somalia’s south-central regions.
“The government’s offensive is intense and continues to gain momentum,” Opperman said. “Shabab returns to human shields, returns to kidnapping”.
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There are signs that some sectors of Somali society, often silent in the past, are turning against the terrorist group, sometimes viciously. Hiran area governor Ali Jeyte has promised a $30,000 reward and amnesty for “any member of al-Shabab who kills a leader of the group” and urged them to cut off the militants’ private parts .
Al-Shabab has become one of the richest terrorist groups in the world, extorting money from villagers and operating roadblocks that allow most people to pass, but at a high price. This led Somali President Hassan Mohamud to attack this alleged faith-based organization during the recent US-Africa summit in Washington.
They are “hiding in Islam, which is not true,” Mohamud told delegates. “What they are propagating is not Islam and has nothing to do with Islam. They are a mafia group covering themselves with the brand of Islam. If the community rises, they have no choice but to flee “.
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At the request of the Somali government, the US Africa Command claimed to have killed 15 al-Shabab operatives in two drone strikes last week. The U.S. operations, involving about 450 U.S. troops, are helping government forces and the feared Danab Special Forces groups push back al-Shabab. But the militants still frequently roll back the gains, with some villages changing hands several times.