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Drought And Counter-Terrorism Threaten Livelihood Security For Hundreds Of Thousands Of Somalilanders
Hargeysa, March 15, 2008 (SL Times) – The effects of America’s so-called war on terror and drought have combined to threaten the livelihood security of hundreds of thousands of Somaliland pastoralists who are already suffering from the Deyr rains failure coupled with the commercial blockade that has been imposed against their livestock exports to Saudi Arabia.
The wells and birkas dried up as early as January due to the loss of the Deyr rains with the Somaliland vice-president Ahmed Yusuf Yassin declaring earlier this month that the country was in drought and in need of rapid humanitarian assistance.
Water-trucking has already started in all over Somaliland. But many nomads are unable to buy water for their livestock and families because their purchasing power has been drastically weakened by a decade-long Saudi ban on the entry of Somaliland livestock into the Kingdom.
The ban which was originally imposed on livestock from all countries of the Horn following the outbreak of Rift valley fever disease in Saudi Arabia in 1999 – 2000, was however later lifted except for Somaliland.
In the aftermath of September 11, Djiboutian president Ismael Omer Gelleh after leasing his entire small country to western forces trying to track down alleged Al-Qaida fighters in the Horn, became the new darling of Washington in the region.
The Americans and their Saudi allies rewarded Gelleh for his collaboration in the so-called war on terror with an estimated 500 million dollars in annual aid (one dollar for each Djiboutian citizen).
Gelleh was also eager to take over the traditional livestock exports route from Berbera to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis lifted the ban on entry of Somaliland livestock on the condition that the animals are routed through Djibouti. USAID helped Gelleh establish holding grounds for livestock animals Djibouti prior to export to Saudi Arabia.
Last year Somaliland president Dahir Riyale had struck a deal with a Saudi businessman called Al-Jabiri whereby the latter was given monopoly on livestock exports from Berbera to Saudi Arabia via Djibouti port.
Riyale who for his role in regional counter-terrorism efforts receives at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash annually, also accepted that Al-Jabiri buys the Berberawi lamb for a fixed rate of $35 per head, which is at least $75 less than the market price per head when trade was free.
With Gu rains not expected before late April, there are genuine fears that the drought situation will get worse in the days and weeks to come.
Neither the Somaliland government nor the international community has come forward to help in alleviating the devastating impact that the drought has already brought on the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of their livestock.
According to observers, Somaliland has never been confronted with a situation as dire as the one it finds itself in today.
Both Mr. Riyale whose monthly salary is estimated at US$50,000 (fifty thousand) and his minister for Water and Minerals Qassim Yusuf, have so far remained silent on the looming catastrophe.
The Somaliland government hasn’t moved to repair a single bore-hole let alone help in trucking water to some of the affected communities.
However nothing will mitigate the situation in the long-term as long as Somaliland’s pastoralists are blocked from freely trading with other nations and the US policy remains focused on counter-terrorism alone without its root-causes.
Source: Somaliland Times