NGOs and other climate profiteers treat Somalia as a poster child for global warming.
Somalia has suffered catastrophic floods displacing between one and two million people and killing more than 100. In a recent video, Somalis wade through flooded streets, sleep, and sell produce on the banks of floodwaters. I spoke to Somali American Jamal Abdulahi, who has joined fellow Somalis to fund a flood relief effort.
Ann Garrison: Jamal, why do you think this flooding happened?
Jamal Abdulahi: There are a number of contributing factors, both natural and man-made. El Niño certainly brings more rain, but equally important are man-made factors. For example, both of Somalia’s main rivers, Jubba and Shabelle, start in the hinterlands of Ethiopia, and Somalia is downstream from Ethiopia. Ethiopia built dams that are out of compliance with international transboundary waters rules. They often close dams during the dry season, contributing to drought, then open them during the rainy season, leading to sudden enormous volumes of water flowing downstream into Somalia. El Niño rainfall combined with this sudden release of water from upstream dams led to catastrophic floods in Somalia.
AG: How bad do you think the ongoing damage will be?
JA: Lack of robust land-use management and infrastructure maintenance exacerbated the impact. For example, in the western region of Gedo where the Jubba River zigzags through many communities, water has reached as high as eight feet in some places. Two of the three main bridges have been completely washed away, and the third is hanging by a thread after being submerged in water for over a week. It will take significant investment to reconstruct and repair this critical infrastructure, and it’s an effort that Somalia is unable to afford.
Farm crops and livestock have been completely destroyed. Some communities have seen waterborne disease. So the ongoing damage is terrible and expected to last a long time.
AG: And doesn’t Somalia have a very weak state, barely more than a flag and a UN seat, that isn’t capable of intervening to control the flooding or respond to the emergencies?
JA: That’s a perfect description of the Somali government. Somalia is fractured. The government in Mogadishu, the capital, is mired in rampant corruption and nepotism. The current administration has been grossly incompetent and has politicized aid. Much of the aid has been stolen. Corrupt officials have also hindered aid efforts by the diaspora by demanding bribes.
AG: The US has a great deal to do with the weakness of the Somali state, doesn’t it?
JA: The US left Somalia after the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993 but returned with a vengeance after embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The US used Ethiopia’s army as a proxy to overthrow the Islamic Courts Union in 2006, and that led to the birth of Al-Shabaab, a brutal terror group which rules many parts of the country. This has been one of the most destabilizing events in Somalia since independence in 1960.
AG: Press and NGOs were quick to blame the flooding on global warming, as they do every time Somalia suffers extreme weather. What do you think of that?
JA: Climate profiteering has become big business. Mega foundations and carbon credit brokers push a narrative in which global warming is the root cause of all weather disasters in countries such as Somalia. Mainstream media are an echo chamber for the NGOs pursuing big donor money by blaming everything on global warming and climate change, but this narrative is extremely inaccurate. While climate change is serious and deserves immediate action, Somalia is not the climate change poster child that climate profiteers would like us to believe. Man-made factors contribute more to the misery of Somali people than climate change.
AG: Jamal, thank you for speaking to Black Agenda Report.
JA: Happy to do it.
Ann Garrison is a Black Agenda Report Contributing Editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann(at)anngarrison.com.