The ongoing-civil war that erupted in Yemen in early 2015 has caused the death of 10,000 lives, many of them civilians. The core issue of the conflict is which fraction makes up the legitimate Yemeni authorities. The Houthi-Shia forces took control of Sana’a while forces loyal to President Hadi took Aden. As the Houthis gained more and more land with the technical and material support of Iran, the Saudis, leading a coalition of larger Sunni-countries, intervened in Yemen in an attempt to reinstall President Hadi. Nothing but anger, hunger, cholera outbreaks and a disastrous humanitarian situation looms in the background as the war enters its second year.
The operation was called Decisive Storm but changed to Operation Restoring Hope. For Somalis, the name rings a bell, and it’s not a very pleasant one. Several ceasefires have been negotiated, agreed upon and broken again between the rebels, the government and the coalition forces. Somalia was rather in a hurry to pledge support to the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. Former President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and foreign minister Abdisalam Omer allowed the Saudi-led coalition to use Somali land, airspace, and territorial waters.
Is Somalia an accomplice to the suffering of the Yemenis or too dedicated to the Saudis?
Somalia has been used by Saudi-Arabia as a part of its larger geopolitical vendetta towards Tehran. Geographically it makes sense for Saudi-Arabia to involve Somalia. Aden is closer to Berbera or Boosaasoo than Riyadh. Even so, Somalia is not a completely passive participant. How much money Somalia has received from the wealthy Gulf nations remains a secret. Sudan alone received 2,2 billion to join the war. The greatest shame of all is Yemen being misused as an arena by the opposing powers Iran and Saudi Arabia in their proxy war against one another. It’s not for Saudi Arabia to install a government of its liking, however, they ought to leave that to the people of Yemen, Shias and Sunnis alike.
For Somalia to act out of sectarian solidarity is a national betrayal. Somalia needs to look within and put its own house in order. On the other hand, there have been several arm-deliveries seized off the Somali coast used by Iran to deliver arms to Houthi-militias. Whether or not individuals of Somali origin have dealt in this remains a secret. It appears to be a lucrative industry for some. At the same time, it exposes Somalia lacking ability to secure its territory. In that case, how can Somalia justify partaking in a war when it can’t even secure its own shores?
The Yemeni dilemma
The world has turned a blind eye to Yemen and its people, making the crisis a forgotten crisis, and adding insult to injury. The Yemeni crisis is not as visible as the Syrian. People are not making their Facebook-profiles red as they are in commemoration of Syria. The same enthusiasm for Yemen is deficient. Perhaps is it easier for the world to portray Russia as the big ugly wolf than to realize that The West is actively supporting and providing logistical and material support to The Coalition in their bombings of Yemen. The very same atrocities that are taking place in Syria, of bombings, starvation and lack of proper sanitary conditions, are also manifesting themselves in Yemen. While the international community is cleansing their conscience in Syria, by condemnation or resettling Syrian refugees, the world has failed and forgotten Yemen.
Iran and Shiism- force to be reckoned with
The war in Yemen is greater than Shia-Sunni divide, though it is very much present. Among the contributing factors were marginalization and discrimination of the Shiites, foreign hands interfering in domestic issues and widespread dismay with the Sunni-leaders. Shiism positions it self as a political and theological force to be reckoned with. A force so near, real and close to incomprehensible for Saudi-Arabia and neighboring Sunni countries. Therefor Riyadh is doing everything in their might to silence it- by any means necessary.
Bombing won’t stop the Houthis. Drones won’t kill Shiism. In fact, bombings will only make matter worse. The only thing bombs will breed is an entire angry, bitter and revengeful generation of Yemenis. The grievances of the Shia against the Sunnis, and the Saudis, in particular, are growing. The Sunni-coalition needs to battle this intellectually and attack socioeconomic inequalities that are destroying Yemen and larger parts of the Islamic world. Yemen is probably going to become one of the very first countries in the world to run out of the water. Instead of bombing, The Coalition should have supported the people on the ground, neutralize and make themselves allies of the people rather than their enemies.
The real price for the Somali support
The humanitarian situation is truly dire. The Coalition was been accused of war crimes and arbitrary bombings of hospitals and funerals alike. The consequences of the bombings are millions of refugees and IDPs, a country whose economy and infrastructure are shattered. Yemeni children are extremely malnourished and for every 10 minutes, a child dies in Yemen.
Considering that there lives up to 500,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, the notion of Somali children dying in the very same conflict their leaders are supporting is not too hard to believe. Somalia ought to withdraw their support and resume control of their territory. It is very disturbing that Somalia concerns it self with another crisis, especially considering how a great many crises they have of their very own.
The death of Somalis on the shores of Yemen due to the bombings of the Coalition should cause an outcry and make Somali leaders think twice about this silent support of theirs. The forced drowning of Somali refugees on the shores of Yemen should also make Somali leaders think in a long-term perspective in terms of to how to curb migration across the sea.
On that note, we are compelled to ask Somali leaders:
Was is worth is, is it worth it?
In spite of all of this, Somalia needs to be commended for one thing in this crisis. The Yemeni crisis reached a point where Yemenis and long time residents of Somali origin, found Somalia a safe haven. The Somali authorities in Puntland opened their doors and welcomed refugees and so did Djibouti. All in all, Somalia’s role have been mixed, sometimes leaning too much on the side of the Saudis and other times demonstrating solidarity.
Why you should care
As Somalis, we have to care. The Somali government has allowed Somali territory to be used in order to bomb a deprived nation. As Somalis, we ought to inquire the Somali authorities why foreign countries were allowed to use Somali territory without the consent of its citizens. Also, Yemen and Somalia have a long history of tight bonds, culturally, politically, historically and geographically. As members of the Muslim Ummah, we ought to take a stand against injustice and a stand for lasting peace, even when our own country is part of the wrongdoing.
Lastly, as Somalis, we know all too well the real price hunger, war, and exploitation from neighboring countries.
Khadra Yasien Ahmed.
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