Category Archives: Somalia

Food Insecurity

This report indicates there are 108 million people facing extreme food insecurity. Famine is possible in North (Muslim) Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. Security issues are driving hunger in Iraq and Syria. Less familiar to me are the troubles in Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Somalia’s troubles are due to persistent drought and there is similar news for Malawi. Zimbabwe, the perpetual poster child for poor governance, also has drought driven food troubles. Rapidly developing South Africa declared drought disaster in five of its nine provinces two years ago.

People do things when they don’t get enough to eat, as we saw in the Maghreb in 2010. The link between water, food, and conflict is one that appears here fairly often. We noted that Syrian Wheat Becomes Strategic back in 2013 and Lebanon’s Record Drought appeared in 2014.

The Mideast and North Africa are full of fragile states, places where too many humans have too little water.

The grim (but necessary) calculus of Functional Triage is still a forbidden topic; we can’t admit that boundless growth in our sealed environment of a single planet is a bad idea, and with that fundamental ideological barrier, we are cut off from discussing everything else that flows from that simple, objective fact.

I don’t hate any of the 400 million people in North Africa, nor and of the similar number of folks in the Mideast. But we are at a place where we must stop pretending and start dealing with reality. This is a troubling paragraph to write, because the areas where there will be trouble happen to align with … Trump’s laptop travel ban.



Muslim Ban? Fragile States?


Here’s Trump’s list of banned Muslim countries in red, and the ones where he has business interests are in gold. The unlabeled one at the uper right is Azerbaijan.

Trump's Muslim Ban Countries

Trump’s Muslim Ban Countries

And here’s a fragile states index for the region.

Fragile States Worst

Fragile States Worst

The banned countries are places where the governments have basically collapsed. People are complaining about the relationship between Trump businesses and the presence or absence of a ban. I’m not justifying, nor am I criticizing, I’m just noting that here is some data that hasn’t commonly appeared in conjunction with the coverage of the issue.

This map originally appeared in Fragile States Index 2016.

Fragile States Index 2016

The Fragile States Index 2016 was just mentioned on beBee and I saw a nice dataset to visualize in Tableau. Here is the original high resolution image:


And here is the image that resulted from my very simple import of the data into a Tableau workbook:


The states of the Mideast, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa have been an interest of mine for the past several years. Here’s a nit with Tableau, but it’s probably a deficit on my part – the only way I could make Syria visible would be to suppress the appearance of Lebanon. Tableau also treats Western Sahara as Terra Nullius, when it’s an ongoing problem between Morocco which administers it and Algeria which hosts many refugees.


Here are the grimmest of the grim, seven states with fragility scores in excess of 110. Iraq is one bad summer away from joining them.


I’ve made a copy of the Fragile States 2016 workbook available. I really should start pulling in other data, but what I want here would be food and water security information, and that’s often scattered and dated.

Somalia’s al-Shabaab Has A Coup

Six months ago I wrote Clearing Somalia Of al-Shabaab. Today I was reading Will Somali Islamist Purge Strengthen al-Shabaab? and I see they have not updated their map of who controls what since then, even though the situation is clearly changing.

Somalia 2013 July

Somalia 2013 July

One of the BBC reporter’s sources was Somalia: The Godane Coup And The Unraveling Of Al-Shabaab, which led me to African Arguments, which is new to me. This site is a product of Britain’s Royal African Society.

Africa has long been the locus and the focus for the most impassioned and intellectually-informed debate. But for many years, specialist Africa coverage in the world’s media has been in decline, alongside the withering of many African journals and magazines that used to provide a forum for debate and opinion. African news and views have moved to the web, but there has been no comparable Africa-wide movement which provides in-depth analysis and debate of the issues and controversies that animate the continent today. With African Arguments Online we intend to fill this gap.

I was lamenting the lack of good sources of the region in my post from December, and now I have the dubious benefit of having found an excellent one for background. Things like this are a resource … and a trap. The British Empire ruled Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, and the relatively peaceful far northwest of Somalia, the self governing Somaliland. The site has detailed information on Sudan, which it seems to be using in the inclusive, pre-separation sense of the word, meaning both the current country of Sudan and the recently independent South Sudan, as well as Kenya and its concerns over the condition of Somalia.

Africa Partition-1885-1914

As my writing on North Africa, the Mideast, and Central Asia has gained audience I have had the pleasure of speaking to people who are either military or intelligence service for the former colonial masters – the U.K., France, and Italy. It is interesting to me to see the ongoing economic ties and the differing sense of responsibility each country has for their former colonies.

Somalia is in sad shape and their chaos radiates all around. Just across the Gulf of Aden we see Yemen is coming apart. Plans by upstream nations to dam the Nile have Egypt and Sudan greatly concerned. Troubles in the Horn of Africa are neither as near nor as hazardous as those in the Mideast when seen from the west, but disorder breeds illicit networks and their reach can dramatically exceed their notional geographic range. We should take a long, hard look at the problems here, and then do what we can to reduce the instability and associated violence.

@KTF_press : Cyberwarriors Of Kenya

Kenya Tweet Force

Kenya Tweet Force

I get a lot of strange stuff in my inbox that’s just not appropriate here, but today was an exception. Someone asked a question and part of the answer was “Kenya Tweet Force”, an irregular cybermilitia supporting the Kenyan government against al Shabaab in Somalia. Their Twitter account, @KTF_press, was only following five others, so this was a good starting clue.

Kenya Tweet Force & Associates

Kenya Tweet Force & Associates

@kdfinfo is actually the Kenya Defense Force and @MajorEChirchir is their spokesman, Major Emmanuel Chirchir. @IntelligencNews belongs to Nairobi based Intelligence Briefs. yahyarmy2010 (brother army in Arabic) is a Sufi – a practitioner of a contemplative practice of Islam similar in temperament to some Buddhist practices or Kaballah. @JustOneBullet relentlessly trolls whatever account the oft banned High Spirit Mission is using at the moment – today it’s @HSMPRESS1.

Kenya Defense Force Official Account

Kenya Defense Force Official Account

The @kdfinfo account was the least talkative of the bunch – as one would expect for a formal role account for a military organization. The others each had an average of about forty nodes each which they addressed via @ references. As I examined things I became curious about Kenyan Anthony Ngige @ngigeh, with only 172 followers, but whom everyone addressed. Colonel Cyrus Oguna @ColonelCOguna came out against the now suspended fake @KDFspokesman. KDF head General Julius Karangi was also spoofed with @GeneralJKarangi, and this was suspended, too.

As an official account, @MajorEChirchir‘s demeanor is quite different from that of an official account for a western military officer. He is seen actively seeking information on someone of interest in Somalia and he validates @KTF_press, addressing them in a friendly, personal fashion. The rest of his feed is a fascinating read – everything from handling bomb threats to good natured ribbing of @KenyaPower regarding an embarrassing outage.

MajorEChirchir Seeks Info

MajorEChirchir Seeks Info

@MajorEChirchir & @KTF_press

@MajorEChirchir & @KTF_press

The KKL, short for Küberkaitseliit, is an all volunteer Estonian organization created in response to Russian cyber attacks in 2007. This is the first instance where a state sponsored cybermilitia was created. @KTF_press has this to say about its status:

KTF is a #KOT initiative to help KDF to wage a successful cyber war against Al-Shabaab
DISCLAIMER:KTF is not owned/controlled by KDF or any of its members.

So KTF denies a direct connection, but as we can see with the major’s account, things are rather informal and he acknowledges them as a friendly actor. If I can get a bit of assistance from those who know the region one of my next posts will provide a similar view into this High Spirit Mission group and any al Shabaab accounts I can locate.

Those just arriving may wish to examine The Horn Of Africa and U.S. Military In Africa which contain the only mentions of Kenya I have made thus far. Clearing Somalia Of al-Shabaab is something I wrote six months ago, and maybe now I will get some answers to outstanding questions from those who are in the region.

Mali Is Neither Afghanistan Nor Somalia

Afghanistan Topography

Afghanistan is the size of Texas and half the area is above 5,000′. Opium poppies are a major cash crop and the terrain consumes any empire that makes the mistake of wandering into this land.

Somalia Topography

Somalia is also the size of Texas but at 1,800 miles its coastline is longer than that of all the U.S. states on the Gulf of Mexico. The largest cash crop here seems to be pirates.

Mali Topography

Mali is about the size of Aghanistan and Somalia combined. There isn’t an easily transportable cash crop like the Afghan opium, there isn’t a busy shipping lane in the area like the Gulf of Aden.

Mali Land

The unrecognized state of Azawad is the area north of the thin blue line on the map, which is the Niger river. This is the Sahara, fairly flat and almost devoid of vegetation.

Mali Population

The area is almost devoid of people as well. Azawad has about the same geographic area as Texas, but it has fewer people than the city of San Antonio.

There isn’t anything to grow or mine, there aren’t any trade routes to pillage. There aren’t any mountain hideouts, there isn’t even a forest canopy to conceal comings and goings, and the population is tiny. Mali’s breakdown is a problem in the country itself, for its immediate neighbors, and for the region in general, but it lacks any of the features required to make it as much of a headache as Somalia or Afghanistan.

Libya Breaking Up Just As Sudan Did?

I saw Battle Of Control For Southern Libya this morning and I went digging. Recall that Sudan: Africa’s Yugoslavia? provided background on the breakup of Sudan, and in Nightwatch: Syria, Jordan & Mali briefly described the north/south split in Mali.

I found a high quality map of African ethnic groups and cropped the area of interest from it.

Africa Ethnic Groups

Libya Toubou Ethnic Group

And then I found a Libya specific map, which disagreed a bit on the extent of inhabited areas in southern Libya. White in the crop from the larger map indicates the area is uninhabited.

Libya Ethnic Groups

Then I found the oil map. This seems to me to be a bright spot – the Toubou were marginalized under the Gadaffi regime so they have neither a geographic claim on Libyan oil nor would it seem they’d have any expectation of benefit from it. The nature of the situation would seem to indicate that oil revenue was used to make their lives harder.

Libya Oil Map

Starting with Nigeria and Mali in the west and ending with Sudan and Somalia in the east, Africa is in chaos as the old dividing line between Arab Muslim Norther Africa and black animist or Christian Southern Africa.

The colonial lines on the map, created only a hundred years ago, are also becoming blurred, as both U.S. military power and European development funds dry up due to a variety of factors. The ethno-linguistic map above may be a better guide to understanding happenings in Africa than the formal lines on the map, which have been shifting and blurring since European colonialism’s peak a century ago.

Africa Partition-1885-1914