The premier British faith-based charity, Muslim Aid, urges the Lancaster House Conference on Somalia to devise and implement a Humanitarian Marshall Plan. “The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s initiative is timely and welcome” said Muslim Aid Chair, Sir Iqbal Sacranie. “This blighted country has been a victim of two different kinds of political interventions; seemingly well-meant yet producing unmitigated disaster.“
Somalia had emerged as a ‘model’ African democracy when its ambitious army chief, Siad Barre decided to re-model his traditional, tribal and deeply conservative country along the lines of scientific socialism. That meant a forced programme of massive social and political engineering; which endangered the lives of those who dared to demur or dissent. In January 1991, with an increasingly alienated populace, Siad Barre was overthrown by another warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Sadly the end of the Barre regime did not bring an end to the agony of Somalia. Instead it became deeply polarised along tribal lines and made it a veritable battlefield with warring militias fighting for control of their patch of the territory.
Against this background in 1993 the former President Bush (senior) became involved with his own humanitarian intervention. An exercise scheduled to take less than an hour became a bloody battle against armed and ferociously radicalized Somalis, resulting in the tragic Black Hawk legend. Instead of a fault finding exercise or even pious declarations of help and charity, we need to move forward and mobilise all our humanitarian and development resources towards finding a holistic solution. With the arrival of the British Ambassador in Mogadishu and the prior presence of Turkey on the ground, we have two credible powers to help guide the implementation plan and build on the present respite in the famine situation. It is worth noting that for all that has been going on in the rest of Somalia, the quasi independent former British protectorate has remained peaceful.
For the Humanitarian Marshall Plan to succeed, the trust of the Somalis needs to be won by giving them ownership of any plan devised for their betterment. This is why the suggested Humanitarian Marshall Plan is best led by the 57-state Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Funding of the Plan should not be difficult if the OIC mobilises its own development wing, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), who in turn set up a consortium comprising all the sister Arab development funds. Given efficient management of the funds and the trust of the people, the funding could turn into a profitable humanitarian investment that Somalia can return to the investors in the form of small grains, animal protein and, above all, peaceful shipping lanes and peaceful neighbourhoods.
“With the world giving Somalia a chance, the light will surely brighten other parts of the so-called ‘Dark Continent’ as well” said Sir Iqbal. “On our part, we at Muslim Aid, are willing and ready to contribute our best to help implement the proposed Marshall Plan on the ground.”
Notes to Editors
• Muslim Aid is a relief and development agency set up in the United Kingdom in 1985 to provide humanitarian assistance to disaster affected countries and to help poor and vulnerable communities overcome poverty. Over the last 26 years, Muslim Aid has delivered services in over 70 countries worldwide. Muslim Aid works with all communities irrespective of faith, ethnic origin or political system. Muslim Aid programmes include emergency relief, capacity building through water, sanitation and health programmes, education and skills training, micro-finance and income generation and orphan care. As well as giving practical assistance, Muslim Aid tackles poverty by developing sustainable solutions, advocating for a more just and sustainable future.
• Muslim Aid has a field office in Somalia and has been actively working there for over 20 years.