News Release

Somalia Famine: Politics and Global Warming Causing Disasters


AP reports: “‘Somalia is facing its worst food security crisis in the last 20 years,’ said Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s top official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia. ‘This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives … it’s likely that conditions will deteriorate further in six months.'”

JAMES JENNINGS, jimjennings at
Available for a limited number of interviews, Jennings is president of Conscience International. Now in Ethiopia, he is scheduled to be in Kenya tomorrow organizing a medical response devoted to saving the most vulnerable children affected by the famine in Somalia and those two countries. He is scheduled to be back in the U.S. early next week.

ABDI SAMATAR, samat001 at
Samatar is a Somali-American professor at the University of Minnesota who has done extensive research on African and Somali political economy. He is also vice-president of the African Studies Association of North America. Samatar said today: “The famine is a politically and militarily induced affair and the culprits are: the U.S. (and its allies’) ‘war on terror’ strategy and involvement in Somalia, IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] and its Ethiopian instrument, al-Shabaab — and most clearly the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] — which has yet to make any effort to come to the rescue of the population.

“Here is what I think should be done immediately and in the long run: bring food and medicine to the villages where people are so those who are still there need not move. Secondly, set aside resources for livelihood reconstruction as it has begun to rain. Finally, thoroughly revamp the TFG so a more legitimate and effective national government can be brought about, which is the best defense against terrorism and famine.”

CHRISTIAN PARENTI, christian_parenti at
Parenti is author of the just-released book “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence,” much of which deals with east Africa including Somalia. He said today: “The famine in Somalia is a tragic human catastrophe. But is the drought that is driving the famine really a natural disaster or has it been in large part produced by bad policy? Scientists believe this drought fits the pattern of climate change — increased drought punctuated by extreme flooding — that we will see spread across the world if emissions are not cut. But the famine is also the product of bad economic and military policies in the recent past, all of which helped cause state failure in Somalia and continue to cause famine to spread in other countries.

“The international community must respond with aid to save lives now. But we must also think about the warning that is offered by the Somali famine. What history produced this crisis? What future crises might our policies today be producing?”

Parenti’s most recent piece, “Reading the World in a Loaf of Bread, Soaring Food Prices, Wild Weather, Upheaval, and a Planetful of Trouble,” examines the geopolitics of food.

Background: “Several rich governments are guilty of wilful neglect as the aid effort to avert catastrophe in East Africa limps along due to an $800 million shortfall, Oxfam said today.”

The Guardian reported on June, 30: “The U.S. has conducted its first drone strike on Islamist militants in Somalia, marking the expansion of the pilotless war campaign to a sixth country.”

Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill recently wrote the piece “The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia.”