So yes, the move. As for the new job, I’m overseeing our program in Somalia, based in Nairobi. The expression that often comes to mind is “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. It may be the case but I’m actually quite happy so far and now that I’ve been through a lot of briefings and security training, it seems to be a good fit. The staff have been very welcoming and all indication is that they are quite talented, both those based in Nairobi and those in Somalia. I will be taking trips periodically into various parts of the country and I look forward to seeing the good work we are doing. The first trip will likely be in the next couple of weeks.
Though there are drastic differences between the two contexts, there are some interesting comparisons that can be made between Burundi and Somalia. Both have populations that are around 10m people. Both were launch into nasty, protracted civil wars in the early nineties until about ten years ago. Both generated hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries (Burundi of course was able to get the refugees back into the country by 2012 only to have a security nose dive last year to quickly generate another quarter million displaced. Somalia’s are mostly still in exile but the announced closure of the largest Somali refugee camp may start generating large numbers of returnees over the next couple of years). Both countries are still dealing with the legacy of these conflicts – though Somalia seems to be making more of an effort to move on. Time will tell.
|looking older than her five years|
There are obviously some stark differences as well. Somalia has generated some international interest for geopolitical reasons. Burundi has made little headway in this regard. No oil. Few minerals. No bastion of international terrorism. Not much to make Western countries devote serious resources to fix the problem.
Somalia’s power has traditionally been based on a complex clan system. That system of elders and traditional leaders is the basis upon which a parliamentary government is being overlaid. I don’t understand the context well yet but it seems that many would like to see the clan structure completely supplanted by a federal parliamentary system but it seems that such a profound change may take a generation (or two). Expectations will need to be realistic, particularly with other challenges plaguing the country such as drought, Al-Shebaab and, more recently, ISIS.
While most bilateral aid has been suspended for
Burundi’s government, aid is increasing for Somalia. It seems unfair
that Burundi, the hungriest country on the planet, is receiving so
little humanitarian attention. I will no doubt continue
to follow the situation, even though I move on.
|view of downtown from my office|