Somalia will become "the new Afghanistan" unless Western nations give its U.N.-backed government the necessary tools to prevent al Qaeda from getting a foothold in Africa, the EU's humanitarian chief said on Wednesday.Of course, unlike land locked Afghanistan, Somalia is easy to get to . . .
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's fragile administration is facing a campaign by Islamist insurgents who killed at least 12 people and wounded 17 others on Wednesday during an attack on African Union peacekeepers in the capital, Mogadishu.
The Shabaab insurgents, who have links to al Qaeda, also hit the AU's main military base in Mogadishu with twin suicide car bombs last Thursday, killing 17 peacekeepers.
"We are in a very, very difficult situation. But we cannot leave Somalia to the extremists. There is an al Qaeda influence in Somalia ... which is growing, seeking a foothold and we have to stop them somewhere," European Union Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Karel De Gucht told Reuters after meeting with U.N. diplomats and officials.
"If we let this happen, then the next question is what is the next country. We have to be resilient and to stand firm. It is extremely difficult, risky, but we have no choice.
"They (al Qaeda) are looking for strongholds ... in failed states. That's what happened in Afghanistan. The government did a deal with the Taliban and we cannot let that happen or we will have a new Afghanistan," De Gucht added.
But it is a mess - as is much of East Africa. A grim report here:
A combination of problems from failing crops and drought to civil war and rising food prices threatens to engulf East Africa in a 'perfect storm' of humanitarian crises. Aid agencies on the ground are struggling to cope.Quick, come up with a good solution.
The African continent is no stranger to humanitarian disasters. Climatic changes, war, financial hardship and infrastructural chaos seem to regularly take turns in plunging one region or another into desperation. The latest crisis is centered on East Africa, where countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are currently experiencing a 'perfect storm' of suffering.
These countries and others in the Horn of Africa are facing a combination of below-average rainfall, the prospect of serious crop failures, increased instability through regional and civil wars, and the overburdening of less severely hit areas through the displacement of populations.
A report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also warns that an already serious food insecurity situation in the region could worsen. The FAO report ominously predicts that if El Nino, the oscillation in ocean temperature which usually brings heavy rains towards the end of the year, delivers as expected, floods and mudslides could add to the misery by wiping out existing food stocks, killing livestock, damaging infrastructure and making thousands homeless.