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International Peacekeeping

ISSN: 1353-3312 (Print) 1743-906X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/finp20

Humanitarian relief interventions in Somalia: The


economics of chaos
Andrew S. Natsios
To cite this article: Andrew S. Natsios (1996) Humanitarian relief interventions in Somalia: The
economics of chaos, International Peacekeeping, 3:1, 68-91, DOI: 10.1080/13533319608413597
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13533319608413597

Published online: 08 Nov 2007.

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Date: 04 November 2016, At: 03:35

Humanitarian Relief Interventions in


Somalia: the Economics of Chaos
ANDREW S. NATSIOS
The United States became involved in the crisis in Somalia for humanitarian reasons.
The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance attempted to reverse the process by which
the market price of food had become distorted and relief food was being looted for resale and the purchase of weapons. The US relief strategy had various aspects, but
increasing the flow of food in order to drive down the price whilst also selling some of
it through Somali merchants (monetization) and using the proceeds to fund employment
projects, had the greatest potential to end the economic chaos. However, monetization
was widely misunderstood and resisted by some in the relief community, and it only
made a significant impact over time when accompanied by military intervention.

Introduction
One of the unanticipated consequences of the victory of the West in the
Cold War has been the discarding of the reassuring analytical framework the
conflict provided to policy makers and analysts alike in making or studying
decisions. Even for the intellectual opponents of the policy of containment
the end of the Cold War meant that the foreign policy construct they had so
long opposed suddenly became useless: one cannot revolt from a tradition
if the tradition no longer exists, in this case a long-standing foreign policy
dictum. Without the principle of anti-communism to judge a president's
foreign policy, media coverage of world affairs has been set adrift in much
the same way. In the new world order how do we tell whether a given
foreign policy initiative is a success or failure? The answer: it depends on
one's stated objectives. Even then, without a larger framework, stated
objectives - however clear - may be insufficient. Media spin on events, in
the absence of a publicly-accepted framework for understanding foreign
policy, will determine whether an initiative is perceived to be successful or
not, perceptions which may well be inaccurate.
In the case of Somalia the objectives changed over time. I will argue that
judged by the more limited objectives set forth by the US Agency for
International Development (USAID) and by President Bush in his television
address announcing the Somalia intervention in early December 1992, the
Andrew S. Natsios is a Vice-President of Worldvision Relief and Development, Washington, DC
International Peacekeeping, Vol.3, No.l, Spring 1996, pp.68-91
PUBLISHED BY FRANK CASS, LONDON

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69

effort was a success. These limited objectives included restoring enough


order that the relief operation could be conducted without large loss of relief
commodities through theft and the restoration of food security so that
people could supply their own needs. The difficulty is that other actors
involved in the undertaking had other objectives, UN Secretary-General
Boutros-Ghali among others, which were much more elusive and much
more difficult to measure, such as disarmament, restoration of the Somali
state, political reconciliation, and formation of a coalition government.
Doctrines are beginning to form around our perceived experience in
Kurdistan, Somalia, Bosnia and a dozen and a half other complex
humanitarian emergencies now raging over three continents. These
unstudied perceptions may well be inaccurate and we may be in danger of
learning the wrong lessons, as Jim Kunder, the former Director of the Office
of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), has suggested.
Doctrines develop in foreign affairs as a response to challenges. The
doctrine of humanitarian interventionism has developed as one response to
the rising tide of ethnic and religious conflict spreading through much of
Africa, the Arab world, the Balkans and the former Soviet states. Of all the
humanitarian interventions undertaken since the end of the Cold War,
Somalia was one of the most visible, expensive, and debated. A good deal
of the Clinton Administration's reluctant response to complex emergencies
generally has issued from its unhappy experience with Somalia. Measured
by the number of lives lost in a relatively small geographic area in a
relatively short period of time, Somalia was the worst humanitarian tragedy
since the Ethiopia famine of 1984-85. In fact the US Center for Disease
Control reported that in the greater Baidoa area, the death rates were
proportionally the highest in recorded famine history.' Somalia has engaged
the attention of the senior foreign policy leadership of the US government
through two presidencies.
Unlike the Kurdish and Bosnia emergencies, the US role was based
entirely on humanitarian rather than geopolitical objectives. Studying it
allows us to subtract the geopolitical and geostrategic calculation from the
analysis. During one of the deputies committee meetings of the National
Security Council on Somalia, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, Admiral Jeremiah, remarked that there was nothing of geopolitical
value in Somalia that should engage US interest and that the intervention
therefore had only one motivation - humanitarian.2 A week following the
ground intervention President Bush told Phil Johnston, (President of CARE
and then acting as the director of humanitarian relief operations for the UN
in Somalia) in a conversation in the Oval Office that the last time he had
seen Johnston was in Sudan during the Sahelian famine of the mid-1980s at
a feeding centre for severely malnourished children.' Bush, clearly troubled

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by his memory of that feeding centre, drew a direct parallel between that
famine and Somalia, a parallel which spoke much about his motivation for
sending in US troops. In President Bush's address to the country
announcing the Somalia intervention he reasserted this motive for the effort.
This article addresses one of the central questions raised by the Somalia,
as well as other humanitarian interventions: what was the adverse or
salutary affect of the humanitarian relief effort on the political and military
situations? One study of the Somalia intervention concluded that the
conflicting objectives of humanitarian relief, political reconciliation, and
military security caused the discontinuities in the international response
which led to the killing of Pakistani and then American soldiers in the
summer and fall of 1993.4 These killings, President Clinton's decision to
withdraw American troops, and the subsequent withdrawal of all UN
peacekeeping troops in March 1995 has labelled the Somalia intervention as
a failure. Were there relief interventions which improved the security or
political situations which done earlier or more comprehensively might have
changed the tragic course of events in Somalia for the better?
Causes of the Humanitarian Crisis
Two circumstances led to the Somalia famine of 1992, one apparent and the
other less so. The inability of any single Somali clan or alliance of clans to
form a government following the removal of Siad Barre as dictator of the
country plunged the country into a convulsive civil war centred in
Mogadishu. Civil war might be too formal a term for what more approached
anarchy as the anti-Barre alliance quickly fell apart and the southern part of
the country descended into warlordism, loosely affiliated with clans and
their respective political parties. US-supported efforts to form a provisional
government failed twice as General Aideed, a major figure in the fight to
oust Barre, who believed he was entitled to be named the new president,
refused to support the reconciliation effort. He instead launched a protracted
battle against the choice of most of the clan leaders to head the provisional
government - a businessman from North Mogadishu, Ali Mahdi. This
fighting killed perhaps 20,000-30,000 people, most in Mogadishu where
the conflict was centred, but would probably have killed no more had not a
serious drought occurred at the same time in the southern part of Somalia
beginning in late 1991. This same drought devastated southern Ethiopia and
northern Kenya, though there were few deaths because relief efforts
succeeded in getting food to the vulnerable without incident. Somalia was
not so fortunate as the anarchy made delivering relief commodities a
perilous operation. Civil war and drought in Africa inevitably produce
starvation as access problems impede relief efforts.

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71

Hardest hit by these two deadly circumstances was the area in between
the Jubba River and the Shabeelle River further north. This inter-riverine
area contains the country's richest agricultural land and serves as its breadbasket. The area is inhabited by the Bantu and Banadir people who are
outside the clan structure and by the Rahanweyn clan; these ethnic groups
had the misfortune of being the weakest from a military perspective. They
died in the famine in numbers grossly disproportionate to their share of the
Somali population, a consequence of this military weakness. In Somali
culture, nomadic herders take a dismissive view of sedentary agriculture,
believing that farmers do not possess the noble fighting character of
pastoralists. Rahanweyn and Bantu farmers were caught in the clan feud
between Daarood and the Hawiye which traditionally controlled the area to
the north, west and south of this inter-riverine region. Barre's retreating
troops targeted the Rahanweyn for massacre. These warring clans took, then
lost, and took again this farming area from each other: each time the area
changed hands the supplies of food dwindled, hidden by the Rehanweyn
clan and Bantu fanners to keep people alive during the drought, as they
were discovered and raided by the occupying conquerors with disastrous
results. The atrocities against these militarily weak inter-riverine people by
more powerful clans were just as widespread and brutal as those against the
Bosnian Muslims.
Armatya Sen's groundbreaking research on famines suggests that they
are caused by the disparity between food prices, which rise rapidly during a
drought particularly when aggravated by civil war, and family income
which declines precipitously as traditional coping mechanisms are
exhausted during food insecure periods. Families typically sell off
household goods to purchase more food after they have consumed their food
reserves from the previous harvest, they then sell their animals, followed by
males migrating to find work in urban areas. Remaining family members
will migrate when all other coping mechanisms fail. Food prices in Somalia
had risen 800-1,200 per cent in some cities during the latter stages of the
drought in the spring and summer of 1992.5
Perhaps 80 per cent of Somali household income came from their animal
herds, herds which accounted for 74 per cent of export earnings of the
country prior to the collapse of government.6 As a result of the collapse of
the Barre regime the price obtained for animals exported to Saudi Arabia
and Yemen fell by as much as 50 per cent because there was no government
to inspect the animals and certify their health. This dramatic decline in
household income for herders seriously exacerbated the food insecurity
caused by the civil war and the drought. The fall in animal prices combined
with the drought in the south which drove up cereal prices led to a dramatic
increase in food insecurity over a very short period of time.

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The US Government Response


Given the controversy surrounding the military intervention it would be
instructive to provide a narrative account of relief program as it unfolded in
Somalia leading up to the decision to intervene in December of 1992.
Without this perspective over time the alternative courses of action
considered, the steps taken, and the successes and failure of each initiative
the atmosphere surrounding the decision making process will be lost.
The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), part of the US
Agency for International Development (USAID), is charged under federal
law with leading US government responses to natural and manmade
disasters outside the United States. From the beginning of the emergency,
OFDA actively supported relief interventions in Somalia with support from
the State Department's Africa Bureau. Within one month of Siad Barre
overthrow on 27 January 1991, OFDA had appointed a relief co-ordinator
based out of Nairobi to manage its programme of assistance. Two months
later, on 25 March, Assistant Secretary of State, Herman Cohen, made a
formal declaration that a disaster existed which formally activated the
OFDA response mechanism under USAID procedure. The early period of
the relief programme centred around providing assistance to civilian
casualties of the war or people displaced by its violence. Mass starvation
was neither an immediate problem nor one which anyone at this point
anticipated. OFDA relief interventions were made through a half dozen
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) then operating in the country. By January of 1991
the UN had withdrawn from the country because of security concerns.
The intensity of the fighting in Somalia swelled the population of
internally displaced and refugee populations attempting to escape the
violence. When people leave their homes they become much more
vulnerable as they congregate in squalid displaced and refugee camps where
poor sanitary conditions encourage epidemics, unaccompanied women are
subject to violence, and traditional ties to family and friends in the village
are broken in the chaos, eliminating the most important coping mechanism
of all. The people in these displaced camps regularly came under the control
of the local warlord who would recruit young men in the camps for their
armies, an attractive alternative to the terrible conditions and hopelessness
of the camps. It was in this context that deaths rates began to accelerate.
Southern Somalia was already traumatized by the civil war and when in the
fall of 1991 a severe drought struck the region: people simply could not
cope with multiple disasters simultaneously and that is why the starvation
took place on such a mass scale.
The OFDA and Food for Peace (FFP) interventions through NGOs and

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the ICRC were not of sufficient size to stop these ever expanding death rates
and so a two-pronged strategy was developed to respond to the growing
crisis in August and September of 1991. First, OFDA offered to second one
of its senior officers, Joe Gettier, to the UN Disaster Relief Office
(UNDRO) to co-ordinate relief efforts on the ground in Somalia. OFDA
made this offer because the UN argued that the security situation was too
dangerous to put a UN official in Mogadishu. While the UNDRO leadership
was enthusiastic about his secondment the UN Security Office in New York
vetoed it with the argument that they were paying too much insurance for
employees killed in conflicts in other areas of the world. Gettier never went.
Secondly, OFDA requested that the US embassy in Geneva petition the
ICRC General Secretary to expand its relief interventions in Somalia
dramatically in order to make up for the UN's absence. General Samaruga
agreed to this expanded effort contingent on funding, which the United
States pledged to support. The State Department requested other donor
governments to support the ICRC effort, which the other western
democracies did do generously. Somalia became the ICRC's largest relief
effort since World War II, dwarfing all other NGO efforts combined in
Somalia, consuming nearly 50 per cent of the ICRC world-wide budget.
In January 1992 at a Horn of Africa Humanitarian Conference convened
in Addis Abbaba to address the spreading crisis of drought, civil war and
epidemics in the Horn of Africa, senior USAID and State officials met as a
group with representatives of all of the political factions in the Somalia
conflict to give them a blunt warning: working in Somalia for the
international humanitarian organizations was becoming progressively
untenable because of the mindless violence, attacks on the relief effort, and
methodical destruction of the remaining infrastructure in the country. The
three US government officials explained that unless the Somali factions
began to co-operate on facilitating instead of impeding the relief effort,
limited US government relief resources would be diverted elsewhere
specifically to the looming southern African drought, the Sudanese and
Angolan civil wars and the food security crisis threatening the former Soviet
Union.7 Though the Somalis pledged their co-operation, neither they nor
most of the factions they represented were in enough control of events to
change their course.
In April 1992, the UN Security Council considered resolutions which
would place a force of peacekeeping troops in Somalia to protect the
humanitarian relief agencies. A contentious debate within the Bush
Administration took place with USAID, the State Department's Refugee
Office, and the Africa Bureau of State on one side and the Bureau of
International Organizations (10) on the other. The 10 argued that Somalia
was not a central strategic interest of the United States and that the UN was

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already over-extended in peacekeeping operations and unable to handle any


further pressure. USAID, the Refugee Program Office of State, and the
Africa Bureau of State argued that an immediate and robust UN intervention
was essential if the rising death rate was to be arrested, and a full scale
famine prevented. In the end the United States supported a modest and
finally ineffective proposal to send 500 UN peacekeeping soldiers to
Somalia, soldiers which had already been volunteered by the Pakistani
government, and the Secretary-General appointed Mohamed Sahnoun, an
Algerian diplomat and former Ambassador to the United States, to be his
Special Representative in Somalia.
The Center for Disease Control study of the famine from a public health
perspective suggests there were three successive waves of starvation, where
the death rates climbed, plummeted, and then climbed again. The last two
of these periods peaked in January 1992 and then again in September 1992."
In July 1992, the Director of OFDA, Jim Kunder, and a team of technical
staff accompanied Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kansas) on a visit
southern Somalia and returned to Washington with a troubling report of the
deteriorating security situation and rising death rates. At the same time, a
now-famous cable arrived at the White House as part of the President's
daily foreign affairs briefing book from the US Ambassador to Kenya,
Smith Hempstone, which he had headed: 'A Day in Hell'. In it he described
horrific conditions in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya, a description which
stunned President Bush. He wrote comments on the cable, demanded more
information, and wanted a report on what was being done about it.
A policy review began as a result of the two reports - from OFDA and
the Kenya Embassy - along with media coverage which led in August to
President Bush announcing a more aggressive strategy for addressing the
growing crisis. This included the appointment of a Special Co-ordinator of
Somali Relief within the US government, plans for an international donor
pledging conference to increase resources flowing to Somalia, an additional
pledge of 145,000 metric tons of food aid by the United States (the United
States had already delivered 88,000 metric tons), the dispatch of an OFDA
Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to the region and a US military
airlift of relief food to urban areas in the south of the country.
The Unintended Consequences of the Relief Effort
While some observers saw the diversion of food for non-relief purposes as
primarily an accountability problem, a proper cause for concern, it was the
least important of all of the reasons for focusing on the diversion problem
as the OFDA field reports were to show. The diversion of relief assistance
was in fact exacerbating the violence and reinforcing the power of the

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warlords who were destroying southern Somalia.


The OFDA field reports of the food and security situations in Somalia in
the summer of 1992 presented a more complex situation than may have
been readily apparent. This analysis aggregated the views of NGO staff in
the field, the OFDA team led by Kate Farnsworth, an experienced and
widely respected OFDA expert on African emergencies, and Fred Cuny, a
much-published author on disaster response and admired field manager who
had been hired to provide consulting services to the OFDA team. Food had
become the medium of exchange and a principal source of wealth in
Somalia. Because food was so scarce both from drought and civil conflict,
its absolute value had risen to an extraordinarily high level. This factor
combined with collapse of the economy causing mass unemployment and a
dramatic drop in family income increased the relative value of food. This
meant food imported through the relief effort became an enormously
attractive objective of plunder by merchants, by common working people
without a source of income, by organized gangs of young men, and by
militia leaders in need of the wealth represented by food aid which they
would use to purchase more weapons and to ensure the loyalty of their
followers.''
Cuny observed that food markets in several cities were receiving most
of their food for sale from looted stocks. Merchants would actually request
the local militia or bands of thieves to steal more food as their stocks
diminished each day. The relief effort was the cheapest and nearest source
of the commodity. The market demand was driving some of the looting,
though it was difficult to quantify its proportionate affect on the disorder. In
more stable social orders the merchant class supports law, order, and
stability because they are so essential to commercial exchange. The precise
reverse of this inherent disposition toward order was operative in Somalia
because markets were so distorted by the unnatural increase in food value,
the interruption of transport lines, and the collapse of law and order.
Merchants needed food and the relief effort was the most efficient source of
it.10
OFDA staff noticed that merchant food was seldom looted. There were
three reasons for this. First, Somali merchants were part of the clan system
which included a traditional and still sporadically functional legal system in
which a merchant from one clan aggrieved by the theft of animals or
commodities by someone from another clan could seek restitution of the
theft from the clan elders. This customary system was a traditional
mechanism for settling disputes before they deteriorated into clan blood
feuds which might last years. Clan elders who had to pay money to the
aggrieved merchant could discipline the men responsible for the theft,
acting as a constraint on illicit behavior. Second, the Somali merchants hired

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unemployed police to patrol the market places to prevent petty theft, even
under the most chaotic circumstances. These police, who one could see
walking the market-place even during the worst days of the chaos, were the
remnants of the old Somali police force, one of the most disciplined and
best-trained in Africa. Even in the days of the worst abuses by the Barre
regime they held the respect of the Somali population. Finally, when
merchants moved commodities purchased abroad by convoys over long
distances they hired small private armies to protect their investments from
those thieves who had separated themselves from the discipline of the clan
elder structure. Tampering with a Somali merchants wealth was a dangerous
undertaking under any circumstances. This informal system of private law
and order was maintained in most markets during the worst of the chaos and
protected the investments of the merchant class.
While I visited several cities in Somalia in late August and again in
September of 1992 I noticed that food prices were quite unstable, varying
widely from day to day, and discovered that prices would drop on days
when airlifted relief food arrived at the local airport and increase on
succeeding days. Stolen relief food was a notably unreliable and unstable
source of supply for the merchants: there was never enough and the price
varied according to how much was stolen. In some cities, merchants in
business partnership with powerful local warlords manipulated food prices
using large stocks of hoarded food. Rumours circulating among NGO
workers had it that hoarded food stocks of tens of thousands of tons stolen
from the relief effort were being maintained by the most powerful warlords.
These rumours took on greater credence when the US military airlift was
announced on the BBC. Overnight food prices dropped fairly dramatically
in the cities these warlords controlled as merchants dumped hoarded food
onto the market-place fearing their investment would loose value as soon as
the airlift was in full swing. Within a short time after the US military airlift
was fully operational food prices dropped in most cities because these
hoarded reserves were being released to the market." The airlift did not in
fact increase the aggregate amount of relief food in the country as it merely
replaced an airlift being run by the ICRC and WFP. (The military flights
limited by military procedure and security requirements did not carry the
tonnage that the private flights did, and so while the number of planes in use
increased, the tonnage moved did not.)12
Young men with guns were the principle source of most of the violence
in Somalia - given they had no jobs and could find cheap weapons on the
local markets. The Marxist Ethiopian regime had maintained the second
largest military force in sub-Sahara Africa until its defeat by the Eritrean
and Tigrayan rebel movements in the spring of 1991. When this massive
force collapsed, Ethiopian merchants purchased the huge remaining

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arsenals, both ammunition and weapons, and began selling them to the
Somali warlords moving shipments easily across the unpatrolled border
between the two countries. Most NGOs, indeed the US government, never
appreciated how massive and organized this arms trading was to become
during the course of the chaos. All the elements were there for major
weapons and ammunition trafficking: demand created by the warlords for
their private armies, by NGOs for their guard forces, supply from the
Ethiopian merchants, and cash generated by the large scale looting of food
stocks and infrastructure and protection rackets run by the warlords."
The best way in which to make up for the absence of a job was a
weapon, a traditional symbol of manhood in nomadic culture and now a
source of income as well. The relief agencies - UN, ICRC and NGOs were increasing the market for weapons and ammunition as they hired large
armies to protect their convoys and distribution sites. The ICRC was
reported to have 15,000 to 20,000 armed guards on its staff at the height of
the anarchy. This exaggerated demand drew ever more weapons and
ammunition from other areas of the Horn of Africa into Somalia for sale,
demand which would not have been present to such an extraordinary degree
without the massive hiring by relief agencies of these guards. The
economics of the weapons trade which made Somalia an armed camp has
not been widely studied and yet had a profound affect on the security
situation. It is indeed ironic that the very humanitarian organizations most
vocally demanding that US and later the UN peacekeeping forces disarm
Somalia inadvertently fuelled a good deal of the Somali appetite for
weapons both by their hiring of guards and by agreeing to the diversion of
food resources by the warlords in order to gain their protection who then
used the food to purchase more weapons.
These conditions created the chaotic situation which the relief agencies
faced as events unfolded. With no formal court system or police force relief
agencies had no way of protecting themselves from abuse: unrestrained
looting of convoys and warehouses, kidnapping of NGO staff for ransom,
demands for higher wages by Somali staff using their weapons to negotiate
with their NGO and ICRC employers, checkpoints on every road where
protection money was demanded, and warlord demands for a cut in the food
stocks going into their areas. NGOs were simply not prepared for the
extortion, looting and the protection rackets which they faced at every turn.
These private NGO armies created a demand for weapons and ammunition,
driving their price up higher than they would have been if only the civil
conflict were affecting weapon prices. These higher prices in turn attracted
more weapons from across the Ethiopian border. The NGOs created a
premium for armed men who did little all day but hold a weapon, making
high wages when there was generally massive unemployment.

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The drought, the chaos, and the relief effort drew large numbers of
farmers into urban areas and refugee camps in Kenya for protection from
the random violence in the countryside and for food aid to feed their
families during the drought. This meant that the farmers were not in their
villages to plant the next crop even if the rains were good. A significant
portion of the sedentary agriculturists were either displaced or refugees (or
had starved to death): entire villages across the lower Shabeelle region were
uninhabited. One study suggests that 50 per cent of the deaths in the famine
were of displaced people and the other 50 per cent of people who did not
migrate, but died in their home villages.
Pouring more food into this unnatural and corrupted economic system
would do more harm than good without a dramatic change in the security
situation. It would reinforce the power of the warlords by giving them more
wealth with which to keep their followers loyal, purchase more weapons,
and capture the loyalty of other unallied clans. Said Samatar, a noted Somali
scholar, would regularly observe in his television appearances in the US on
the Somalia tragedy that the young men who were drawn into the warlord
militias were living better than they had ever lived before, given that many
of them had been nomadic herders in the bush. This dramatic improvement
in life style once tasted by the militias would have been nearly impossible to
maintain if there was peace and stability. Stealing had become a way of life,
with an entire economic system built around it. The system would continue
to reward antisocial behaviour by young men with guns and continue to
corrupt both the militias and the merchant class, the latter of which could
have been a force for order and the restoration of some political authority. It
was dangerous for relief agencies to rely for their own protection on such an
unstable security system of undisciplined private armies.
The clan elders held in their traditional authority a means for restoring
some measure of normality to Somalia, authority that was not dependent on
violence for the settlement of disputes. This corrupted system just described
diminished at every turn the authority of clan elders. In Belet Twen a group
of a dozen clan elders in August 1992 told me of a group a teenagers who
had been raiding villages in the area and had come to their city to wreak
havoc. The most revered and respected elders of the sub-clan from which
the boys came were dispatched by the city to stop the boys from entering.
In the ensuing debate between the elders and the boys, one of the 13 year
olds went up to one of the old men, put a gun to his head, and shot him to
death. The community was so outraged a mob took the boys and dragged
them into a house and placed them under arrest. The elders were clearly
terrified that this scene would become more and more common as their
society deteriorated further and further into chaos. They were afraid to
exercise their traditional authority for fear of their lives.

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79

The chaos and relief effort together conspired unknowingly to create a


set of pernicious incentives which simultaneously corrupted the natural
instinct of the merchant class for some modicum of law and order, increased
the demand for weapons and caused an increase in supply as their price rose,
and reinforced the power of the most irresponsible elements of Somali
society, the warlords, by providing them with more wealth, taken by
extortion, protection rackets, and looting, for them to prosecute their clan
wars and maintain their tenuous hold on power.14 Mohamed Sahnoun told
me that he was not always certain that the warlords he was negotiating with
were in control of the militias they led, or prisoners of them, given the lack
of militia discipline and training. The tenuousness of warlord grasp on
power put a premium on providing their militias with booty to keep their
loyalty. Feeding the militias was not enough, the warlords were pressed to
maintain their militias in the lifestyle to which they were accustomed.
The acceleration of these destructive forces undermined at every turn the
natural stabilizing forces in Somali society - the clan elders. Never as
powerful in the south as they were in the northern part of the country, the
clan elder system restrained much of the more atomistic and contentious
aspects of the Somali national character. Demoralized by the violence,
eclipsed in authority by the warlords, separated from the communities they
led by the massive population displacement and deliberately subverted by
the Barre government over a period of years, what was left of the clan elder
class tried with modest success in certain areas to tie their fragmented social
order back together."
While it would be unfair and inaccurate to suggest that the relief effort
alone was responsible for the creation of these pernicious incentives, it is
the case that the relief agencies had been drawn into this social pathology
themselves, accidentally reinforcing its most destructive characteristics and
undermining the few stabilizing forces at work in the society. Absent the
intervention of an outside security force, some programmatic measures
needed to be taken to change the dynamic operating in Somali society.
One of the most intriguing yet salutary consequences of the relief effort
was an effort of Somali women to open the public schools in Mogadishu. At
one point an ICRC delegate while inspecting one of their many soup
kitchens, located frequently in abandoned school buildings, noticed that the
classrooms were full of children being instructed by teachers. When asked
for an explanation, the Somali women's committees which ran the soup
kitchens across the city for the ICRC, explained that they did not want their
children on the streets, loosing years of education because of the collapse of
their political system. They had diverted some of the food for the soup
kitchens to pay teachers to return to their old jobs, and had put 20,000
children back into the public schools under their initiative - which the

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women had started without any outside help or supervision. This would
have been difficult to have been accomplished without the ICRC food
which the relief effort had brought to Somalia.
This initiative had several salutary consequences. It improved the
security situation, though in an admittedly modest way, by getting children
off the streets where many had been getting into trouble. The effort created
500 jobs for teachers and thus, however modestly, contributed to getting the
economy moving again, since the teachers would sell some of their food for
work and buy other commodities with the proceeds. (The average Somali
who had a regular paying job at US$100 per month would support perhaps
100-150 extended family members) It sent a message that a person could
get a job without a gun. It returned some normality to a society devastated
by the anarchy of the proceeding two years. Schools in large cities
particularly, bring a measure of order and regularity to a child's day and
establish a sense of discipline and adult control. It proved that the women
were a force to be reckoned with and could serve a moderating influence in
the society without many moderating influences. Most importantly, it began
to reconstruct civil society even in the absence of government.
New Approaches to the Somalia Crisis
The humanitarian relief discipline traditionally placed heavy emphasis on
logistics and commodity distribution, such as food, clothing, and medicine.
This traditional approach began to change with the publication of a book
called Disasters and Development in 1983 by Fred Cuny who argued that
commodity-driven disaster responses saved few lives and could impede
people's long term development by destroying local markets given the
importation of large volumes of food. Cuny suggested that by studying the
operation of local markets in a disaster we could learn a great deal about
how the society was coping with the crisis and that markets could be
stimulated rather than impeded if a developmental approach to disaster
relief was taken.
Five years later Mary Anderson and Peter Woodrow took up the same
theme in an important book. Rising from the Ashes, which suggested
developmental interventions should be built into disaster responses using
arguments similar to those of Cuny. These books, and events such as the
cataclysmic Ethiopia famine of 1984-85, altered the established approaches
to disaster relief. NGOs began to see famines and wars, along with natural
disasters, in the context of markets, agricultural development, and economic
activity rather than simply commodity movement. To be sure food aid is still
needed in a crisis as severe as Somalia. But the mechanism for distribution
can have a profound affect on the social and economic order, as we have just

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seen, which can be quite counter productive.


In an unpublished essay Mary Anderson has suggested ten ways in
which humanitarian relief organizations may be exacerbating conflicts and
insecurity in unstable societies by unstudied and thoughtless interventions.16
Her observations in some respects parallel the OFDA analysis of what
happened in Somalia in 1991-92.
The OFDA strategy, designed to decisively influence the course of
events on the ground in Southern Somalia, set five critical objectives:

Stop the starvation by flooding the country with food, in order to drive
down and then stabilize food prices to the level prior to the drought.
While the regular NGO and ICRC distributions of relief food targeted to
the most vulnerable people would continue, a portion of the food was to
be monetized, the term used in the relief and development discipline to
describe the planned sale of food aid on commercial markets.
Increase the security of the relief effort by encouraging more soup kitchen
feeding and the replacement of rice, a highly valued commodity, with a
much less valued food such as sorghum or bulgar wheat for the relief effort.
Discourage the exodus of Somalis from their villages and encourage the
resettlement and repatriation of displaced and refugee populations back
to their homes so that the restoration of the animal herds and
rehabilitation of farms could begin as soon as possible, both essential
tasks if food security for the country was to be permanently restored. In
Somalia food security was tied to the animal herds more than too
sedentary agriculture, except in the inter-riverine area, since the society
at its economic heart remains nomadic.
Create mass employment programmes at a modest wage to get young
men off the street, get the economy moving again, and begin the
rehabilitation of the ruined infrastructure of the country. The local
currency generated from the food monetization would be used to pay for
these mass employment programmes. The decisions on how the
currency was to be spent in each area were to be made by the clan elders,
a mechanism for strengthening their position in Somali society. The
most stable areas in the south where clan disputes were settled by
negotiation rather than violence would be targeted to receive this
rehabilitation assistance as a reward for responsible behaviour.
Decentralize the relief effort to the smaller cities and villages, an effort
which for too long was concentrated heavily in Mogadishu and tended
to increase the importance of the two most powerful and destructive
warlords - Aideed and Ali Mahdi.

The first objective - flooding the country with food - was designed to
have to salutary affect on both the security situation and the rates of severe

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malnutrition. Since food had become a medium of exchange, devaluing it


would theoretically diminish the incentive for looting. Unlike money which
is easy to store and exchange in a purely physical sense, food is bulky and
therefore difficult to keep particularly if its value drops significantly. The
NGO, CARE, reported a fascinating experience along the Jubba River
where one of its food convoys had been attacked by a band of thieves. Upon
seeing that the convoy was carrying sorghum, the least-valued grain eaten
primarily by poor people, the thieves left the trucks and grain in disgust
without stealing anything. The value of rice on the markets was several
times the value of sorghum: it was not worth stealing the sorghum. Based
on this and similar anecdotal information the OFDA strategy was to flood
the country with maize, buglur wheat and sorghum in place of rice as the
principal cereal import for the relief effort.
A plan was designed to sell these cereals as well as pulses and cooking
oil to Somali merchants in northern Somali ports, in Kenya and in Djibouti,
and let them be responsible for the security of their own investment as it
made its way to market. More importantly, the share of food relief going to
warlords and their militias, as well as to the organized bands of brigands,
would decline, though would probably not be eliminated, thus diminishing
their resources for clan warfare. As the price of food declined nutritional
conditions would improve as people could afford to buy much more food
with their limited income. Instead of mass feeding programmes distributing
free food, people would have to pay for their own food, with money from
the economic activity stimulated by the monetization and mass employment
programmes, thus reducing the affect of the dependency syndrome. Finally
the monetization strategy forced on to the markets all the hoarded food held
by the organized criminal elements and the warlords. This pricing approach
to relief put into operational practice the research of Armatya Sen on the
true cause of famine: the disparity between family income and food prices.
At the same time these monetization plans were under consideration the
ICRC was methodically expanding its vast network of open air soup
kitchens; by November 1992 980 of these kitchens were feeding 1.17
million people a day." Using this approach the ICRC was able to feed
smaller groups of people at decentralized sites once or twice a day: food was
transported in small quantities so as not to draw attention to it and cooked
immediately, cooked food being unmarketable by the thieves or warlords.
The ICRC soup kitchens provided a measure of self-selection of the
recipients being served. The clan elders and more prosperous members of
the community found standing in queues for hours a humiliating experience
and did not want to be seen taking charity. Many asked for separate private
facilities in which to be served.
While this ingenious ICRC tactic partially addressed the security issue,

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83

perhaps the single most serious challenge for humanitarian agencies, it had
pernicious side effects with serious political implications. The ICRC soup
kitchen tactic acted as a magnet to draw people away from their farms and
villages into displaced camps - as a result they were not able to plant their
crops, tend their animal herds, or run their small businesses. The soup
kitchens did much damage to the agricultural economy and proved to be
socially and politically destabilizing, not to mention the catastrophic health
consequences of drawing so many people into displaced camps. Many of
the kitchens were located in areas held by General Aideed because that is
where the affected populations were. Thus the soup kitchens delivered
hundreds of thousands of Somalis into General Aideed's political influence,
providing a source of recruits for his militias and denying them to his rival
warlords. Both the ICRC soup kitchen scheme and the manner in which the
US troops entered Somalia unintentionally strengthened the hand of
General Aideed. Relief interventions have political and economic
consequences. This disastrous consequence of the soup kitchens was
exacerbated by the manner in which the US troops entered Somalia Mogadishu first and then gradually into the other cities - with little presence
in the rural areas. Large population movements took place toward each area
the US military controlled, in the order in which they occupied it. According
to Fred Cuny's reports there was a 25 per cent increase in the number of
soup kitchens in the immediate aftermath of the military intervention at a
time when dependence on the kitchens should have been diminishing. This
insidious affect began subsiding in the spring of 1993 as the ICRC began
reducing their use of soup kitchens: between January and June 1993 ICRC
food distributions through all mechanisms declined from 17,000 mt a month
to 3,000 mt. So this pernicious affect was relatively short-lived: it
nevertheless postponed the return to normality of Somali society by
strengthening Aideed's hand and increasing the number of displaced
persons, and yet it saved perhaps a million lives.
During this same period NGOs began moving food distribution and
health services to the remote villages, thus slowing the disastrous migration
of people from their home villages to the cities and displaced camps. Had
there been more security in the rural areas this decentralization of the relief
effort could have started earlier and over a much wider area. Seed and tool
programmes were initiated in the sedentary agriculture areas to ensure that
the inputs needed to plant the next crop were available. Using grant money
from OFDA and local currency generated by the monetization scheme,
some NGOs designed innovative public employment programmes. Save the
Children (US office) employed 12,000 farmers at modest wages to
reconstruct the massive irrigation ditches in the lower Shabeelle valley that
had fallen into disrepair during the preceding three years. In fact the project

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was so successful that the irrigation ditches were extended beyond their
former limits, increasing agricultural yields in those areas. The farmers
working on the project were able to feed their families with their wages
while they worked on the irrigation system, planted the next crop and
cultivated their fields until the harvest in August of 1993.
The strategy with the greatest potential remained monetization.
However, its execution was quite another matter. I had seriously
underestimated the barriers to the fast implementation of this strategy.
Barriers to Innovation
While these OFDA objectives were widely publicized among the actors US military, the State Department, NGOs, UN agencies and the ICRC - the
monetization innovation was generally misunderstood, given that it was on
the face of it counterintuitive. The notion that humanitarian organizations
would sell food in a famine to anyone, mystified some and appalled others.
State Department diplomats initially opposed the monetization scheme, then
offered support after it was explained and re-explained. OFDA received
calls from some members of Congress who found the idea very troubling.
The media raised similar objections, though after repetition of the concept,
several opinion columns and television interviews by OFDA senior officers,
the controversy surrounding the concept dissipated.
At the donor-pledging conference held in Geneva, Switzerland called for
by President Bush, I explained the concept to the assembly, and
Ambassador Sahnoun, the senior UN official in Somalia, gave it his hearty
endorsement. At an autumn 1992 meeting of the World Food Programme
governing board, I again explained the concept and proposed that WFP
policy be changed to encourage the use of monetization as a famine
response intervention. While most of the large food NGOs and the World
Food Programme (WFP) had used monetization previously in development
projects, this was their first attempt in a complex emergency for very
different purposes than in the past. The senior NGO and UN executives
understood the concept quickly. However, their field staffs split over it. The
UN field staff of the World Food Programme and the UN Development
Programme initially resisted the concept in three ways: they opposed the
scheme because they thought it abusive to sell food to starving people
(which of course was not what the plan proposed to do), they were
uncomfortable with the practical mechanisms for carrying it out, and they
slowed the implementation down in its formative early months because of
this discomfort. Months later the World Food Programme Staff accepted the
idea and aggressively facilitated the programme. CARE and the
International Rescue Committee (IRC) endorsed the notion, though the IRC

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85

showed the greatest energy early in the effort in implementing their


programme along the Kenyan border including a programme to monetize
veterinary medication for animal herds. CARE attempted to carry out a test
monetization sale in the stable northeast region of the country using
European Community food which was available, though the experiment
failed when a gang of looters stole all the food before it was sold.
Initially, volume was one barrier to CARE and the IRC expanding the
programme in the south: there were simply not enough Somali vendors
willing to make large purchases (there were many interested in small
purchases) which was what we needed to affect market prices and produce
enough currency to begin using it for rehabilitation projects. We expected
Somali merchants would not have enough local currency to make volume
purchases; this proved not to be a problem at all. All of this is to say that the
timing of the monetization scheme became skewed. The novelty of it and its
potential consequences politically (for the warlords), managerially (for the
NGOs and WFP), and in terms of security (for the merchants) were
beginning to be calculated by all of the actors.18
While the ICRC, the major food distribution agency in Somalia,
supported the monetization scheme, it stubbornly resisted the substitution of
bulgur wheat, sorghum and maize for rice, arguing that rice was more
nutritionally balanced and more acceptable to Somali tastes. When USAID
pressed the ICRC too strongly to make the change they threatened to the
European Community for food aid. Eventually the ICRC accepted the
change in commodity mix and agreed to distribute bulgar wheat instead.
UNICEF reported in the second week in September that one of its
medical doctors was murdered in the northeast part of the country. The staff
believed that it was the work of Somali merchants disgruntled by the
monetization project, which UNICEF was told was designed to drive down
market prices for food. This would of course profoundly affect their profits
for existing stocks of food and profit margins of future trading. Later
investigation cast serious doubt on the accuracy of these stories, but the very
existence of the rumours was nevertheless troubling. The merchants who
OFDA staff spoke to indicated an enthusiasm for the project, but some
merchants were concerned that moving away from rice to sorghum might
put the them at the risk, which they were willing to take, of being killed by
warlords angered by the prospect of principal source of wealth being
diminished in value. The actors were calculating the political consequences
of the monetization effort on their own personal security rather than on the
country as a whole, a barrier we had not originally contemplated.1''
Food prices did begin to drop significantly by late October, more
because of the increased distribution of relief food and the dumping of
looted food onto the markets than from monetization. It was at this point

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that the law of unanticipated consequences became operative. In a dramatic


turn of events, Fred Cuny reported in late October that the reduction in the
value of food had the exact opposite affect from what we had intended.
Instead of reducing the level of violence, the drop in food prices increased
it as warlords and thieves alike stole a greater volume of food to make up
for its diminished value. This was not what we had intended. The reduction
in food prices did affect nutritional conditions as families could buy more
food, but within the distorted mindset caused by the chaos, the absence of a
judicial and police system, and the political dynamics of warlord rivalry,
lower food prices increased rather than restrained the violence. One goal
had been achieved - flooding the country with food to reduce the rates of
severe malnutrition - but the other - the security situation - had been
exacerbated even as the first goal had been achieved. The two objectives
may have been mutually exclusive in the absence of a disciplined security
force: doing more of one objective may have reduced the achievement of
the other.
The monetization scheme did expand sufficiently by early 1993 to affect
market prices and to produce enough currency to fund significant
rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. Some warlords with substantial
hoarded stocks which would have been devalued by the monetization effort
may have had a vested interest in seeing to it that the monetization
programme did not work, a factor which should not be discounted in future
monetization schemes in complex emergencies. This, however, was after
the introduction of 27,000 US troops, which profoundly changed the
dynamic at work in Somalia. We have no way of knowing whether
monetization alone would have transformed the merchant class into
advocates of stability and order, since military intervention took place
before monetization had proceeded to such a degree that it could affect
merchant behaviour. For the warlords and gangs of thieves, lower prices
encouraged more looting. It is theoretically possible that if enough food was
forced onto the market and its price depressed enough, a different outcome
might have resulted. However, the lower the price the less likely merchants
would find it profitable to participate in the monetization programme in the
first place. Ultimately changing the market dynamic was insufficient to
improve the security situation alone, without the intervention of outside
military force.
Attempts to provide security in the villages to give sufficient comfort to
displaced and refugee populations to return to their homes ran up against
one immovable impediment. US military commanders became increasingly,
some would say exclusively, focused on the security of US forces and
refused to consider creating secure corridors so that people could return to
their homes, particularly refugees in Kenya. They repeatedly opposed

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87

OFDA requests to move their forces into the countryside in the lower
Shabeelle valley to improve security in these rural areas. Repatriation of
Somali refugees in Kenya would have required the military to expand
operations into the area between the Jubba River and the Kenyan Border
which some reports indicated held some risk. This the US military
steadfastly refused to do, arguing that it amounted to 'mission creep', the
phrase most feared among US commanders. Some people who did try to
return through this corridor without security were killed, robbed or beaten
by the gangs of thieves in the area, word of which instantly got back to the
remaining population in the Kenyan refugee camp. Lacking security, people
were more reluctant to leave their displaced and refugee camps. Over time,
people did go home, but clearly their return would have proceeded much
faster if security had been provided. Military reluctance to define its narrow
mandate constructively may have prolonged rather than diminished the time
its services were required. In future complex emergencies, mission
statements and operational plans should be directed toward measurable
relief indicators such as morbidity and mortality rates, agricultural harvest
cycles, and repatriation and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.
While security did not improve for many NGOs after the military
intervention, it was to a great degree a function of their own inability to
discipline themselves, to change their working arrangements and life styles.
The military considered providing them with security details on the
condition that they would consolidate the over 500 NGO facilities in
Mogadishu alone into a much more manageable number, and live in
compact facilities, even if perhaps more crowded, with more rigorous
security procedures. NGO autonomy made this difficult - they refused to
agree to the consolidation and the military in turn refused to provide
protection.
The military intervention allowed the monetization scheme to proceed
with much greater dispatch and efficacy: transport routes were much safer,
middle men could be dispensed with reducing the merchants overhead, and
wholesale food could be sold closer to markets. The US military
intervention did secure food warehouses and distribution centres, food
convoys by relief agencies, the port and airport facilities, ending protection
rackets and massive food diversions. The private armies of guards were no
longer as necessary and many, though not all, were laid off by the relief
agencies. This ended perhaps the most pernicious element of the relief
effort: the strengthening of the power of the warlords through the diversion
of food and relief equipment. This led to a substantial reduction of income
to Aideed which had an affect on his political power. This warlord income
was to rise again when the UN infrastructure was set up in Mogadishu with
its contracts for commodities, Somali workers, and the increased rental of

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homes (many of which Aideed and his allies took, for the area was under
the control of his subclan). Perhaps the most instructive recent trend in
Somalia has been the precipitous decline in the power of General Aideed
now that the UN has completely withdrawn from Mogadishu and relief food
shipments have declined as the agricultural system has recovered, events
which are not unrelated. A committee of Somali businessmen from various
clans are having some success in taking back the port and airport facilities
in Mogadishu from warlord militias to bring some discipline and order to
the transport infrastructure so critical to their commercial transactions. The
merchant class is reasserting itself as an independent force in Somali
society.
Conclusion
Innovation is difficult during crisis, particularly when time is a critical
factor. While the weight of research and analysis strongly supports the
proposition that stabilizing markets and prices ought to be a central
objective of relief efforts in a food security crisis, convincing all of the
actors at the field and central headquarters level that the proposition should
be transformed into a programmatic initiative proved frustrating and time
consuming. The humanitarian relief response structure for dealing with
complex humanitarian emergencies is enormously complex, with such an
array of actors - NGOs, the ICRC, UN Agencies, donor government aid
agencies, and now military peacekeeping forces - each with conflicting
mandates and interests, each of which report to separate headquarters, that
getting agreement on a single strategy for dealing with a crisis is difficult
particularly in a short period of time. The market interventions attempted by
USAID during the summer and autumn of 1992, however appropriate and
innovative, fell foul of this complexity. The fact is that the existing structure
of relief response - NGO, UN and ICRC is a blunt instrument for carrying
out any coherent strategy which might change the course of events on the
ground for the better. Organizational autonomy and complexity are enemies
of speed and strategic coherence. This reality profoundly affected the
capacity of the US government to implement any non-military strategy for
dealing with the Somalia crisis.
The absence of a general agreed upon strategy for relief efforts in
complex humanitarian emergencies effectively hands over control of events
to chance or to the combatants who will have a strategy for using the wealth
represented by the relief agencies to serve their own military and political
objectives.
Markets, including weapon markets and the pricing of food, affect not
only food security but military security, the balance power among political

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89

factions, the way in which merchants behave, and the respective authority
of armed and unarmed elites within the clans themselves. The more chaotic
the security situation and the more traumatized the social order, the more
likely this axiom of complex emergencies will be operative. In the absence
of the mediating and value forming social and religious institutions, which
had been most damaged by the anarchy in Somalia, the more military force
and economics determined people's behaviour. Neither diplomats, military
officers nor humanitarian relief agencies have shown any particular skill in
understanding the economics of chaos and the role they play as
organizations, deliberately or accidentally, in making matters more chaotic
with their unstudied relief interventions. Simply providing life saving
interventions - food, water, sanitation, medical care and shelter - is no
longer enough in the relief discipline particularly during conflicts.
This analysis suggests a painful proposition: the more sides in a conflict,
the more uncontrollable and undisciplined actors in a conflict, the more
dangerous humanitarian interventions may be absent an outside military
force to protect the relief agencies. It may be that humanitarian relief
agencies should consider not intervening in a conflict without military
security to protect them in the future, unless the sides to the conflict exercise
enough control over their own forces to ensure that relief can be provided
to non-combatants and that relief can be secure from looting by combatants
which would be used to fuel the conflict. Saving lives over the short term
may increase deaths over the longer term and the damage to civil society.
If anything the Somalia intervention has taught us that restoration of the
state is a difficult task requiring a much longer period than the local
restoration of law and order and the rehabilitation of the agricultural
economy. Political settlements have not taken place in most of the other
complex emergencies of the past six or seven years. Those that have were a
result of one side or the other winning militarily (Eritrea and Ethiopia), of a
peace settlement which took four or five years of negotiation to achieve
after a decade or more of civil war (Cambodia, Mozambique and Angola)
in which the contestants were completely exhausted. If we are to insist on
political settlements in each complex emergency before we withdraw
peacekeeping troops, we should prepare for lengthy stays, which we can not
sustain militarily, politically or financially. A much more feasible strategy
would be to delink military and humanitarian objectives both of which can
be achieved within a year or two in most emergencies from political
objectives which require much longer periods of time to accomplish. Under
this approach military intervention would serve humanitarian objectives
only, with no political goals.
The reality is that complex humanitarian emergencies are so different
that no one strategy will work in each case: each must have its own carefully

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fashioned plan which considers the unique circumstances of the emergency.


In some instances where the humanitarian crisis is entirely political (Sudan,
Bosnia and Rwanda) and will not end until there is a political settlement,
delinking would be inadvisable, but in some instances the humanitarian and
militiary efforts can be separated from the political and still make sense.
Countries can survive without national government, even prosper.
In the end the Somalia intervention did restore food security to much of
the south: crop production has returned to pre-chaos levels, in fact sorghum
production was 10 per cent higher in 1994 and 1995 than the late 1980s
before the conflict. A million people do remain partially dependent on food
aid distributed by relief agencies mostly in the large cities, which will have
trouble sustaining such large populations until economic activity has created
more urban jobs. While 465,000 Somali refugees remain in neighbouring
countries and another 300,000 remain internally displaced, this is down
from the nearly two million people who were driven from their homes at the
height of the crisis.20 Morbidity and mortality rates have returned to normal
levels. Public schools have opened up sporadically across southern Somalia,
with the support of elders, women's groups, and NGOs. The open of
schools, if it had been accomplished more broadly in the large cities, might
well have measurably affected both the security situation and urban
economies. The merchants class has begun to reassert itself and civil society
is reconstituting itself at the local level.
One report has it that the Rahanwyen elders using the proceeds from a
particularly bountiful crop in August 1994 have purchased weapons and
organized a 2,000-man militia to protect their relatively defenceless farms
in the inter-riverine area. This balance of militia power might provide
sufficient protection for this militarily weaker clan to avoid the atrocities
and starvation they experienced in 1992.
In the end Somalis can survive without government, but they cannot
survive without food, water and shelter. Civil society has begun to repair
itself and the social order has gradually been sewn back together by the
Somali people themselves. The Somalia intervention did meet these more
limited rehabilitative objectives without a political settlement or the
establishment of a national government which may take many years to
accomplish. Though it remains to be seen how the health and food security
of Somalia will fare now that UN peacekeeping forces have fully
withdrawn. I suspect the Somalis will cope without a central government for
some time to come and that the starvation of 1991-92 will not recur.

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NOTES
1. Center for Disease Control, Mobility and Mortality Weekly Report 41, No.49, 11 Dec. 1992,
pp.913-17.
2. The author attended most of the Deputies' meetings of the National Security Council during
the Somalia crisis.
3. The author attended this meeting between Philip Johnston and President Bush in the Oval
Office.
4. See Refugee Policy Group study on Somalia, 'Lives Lost, Lives Saved', Nov. 1994.
5. These data come from informal market surveys conducted by the author in Southern Somali
cities during two field trips at the end of August and then September 1992. See Andrew
Natsios, 'Feeding Somalia', Christian Science Monitor, 11 Sept. 1991, p.18.
6. Letter from Fred Cuny of Intellect Corp. to Andrew Natsios, 14 March 1995.
7. Princeton Lyman, Director, Refugee Program Office, US State Dept., Jim Kunder, the
Director of OFDA and the author were the three American officials who met with these
Somali representatives.
8. See Refugee Policy Group Study on Somalia (n.4 above), p.12.
9. Upon the arrival of the OFDA field team in late August 1992, daily situation reports were
sent back to Washington which aggregated data from other NGOs, the ICRC, UN officials
and their own observations. See Jan Wescott, 'The Somalia Saga: A Personal Account
1990-93', Refugee Policy Group Study, Nov. 1994, p.30.
10. This is taken from telephone conversations between the author and Fred Cuny, Oct.-Nov.
1992.
11. See Nastios, (n.5 above).
12. USA1D was unable to get the DOD to waive its airlift standard operating procedure to
increase the volume of food being moved.
13. Letter from Cuny (n.6 above).
14. During the civil war in Sri Lanka between the Tamils and Sinhalese, merchants who had been
encouraging widespread theft of food as a source for their markets became advocates of
peace, putting heavy pressure on political leaders after a monetization programme was begun
to sell food to the merchants on a more regular and legitimate basis.
15. The Somalia scholar, Said Samatar argues persuasively that the clan elder system was a
major stabilizing force in Somali society (and throughout the Somali crisis publicly
advocated strengthening it). Nation in Search of a State, Boulder Col: Westview Press, 1987.
16. See, Mary B. Anderson, 'International Assistance and Conflict: An Explanation of Negative
Impacts', unpublished essay, Collaborative for Development Action Inc., Cambridge, MA,
n.d.
17. See, ICRC report, Nov. 1992, on the Somalia Kitchen programme, Geoff Loane project
direction.
18. See Refugee Policy Group Study, 'Hope Restored? Humanitarian Aid in Somalia
1990-1994', Nov. 1994, p.99.
19. Memo from Cuny to Natsios, 12 Sept. 1992, p.4.
20. See OFDA situation reports: Aug. 1992 and Dec. 1994.