Since the beginning of this year, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia have been experiencing one of the most severe draughts in the last 60 years affecting more than 10 million people. Earlier this month, Antonio Guterres, the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), visited a refugee camp in Kenya stating, “I have no doubt that in today's world, Somalia corresponds to the worst humanitarian disaster. I have never seen in a refugee camp people coming in such desperate conditions.” A UN report released this year stipulated that the situation in Somalia has, “drastically deteriorated due to the combination of drought, increasing food prices and conflict.
Geography & Resources
Somalia is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west. The country occupies the tip of a region that, due to its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros' horn, is commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa. Somalia occupies a very strategic position along the Indian Ocean and has the longest coastline in Africa running 2,720 km (1,700 miles). Somalia has two stretches of coastline, one running along the Indian Ocean to the east and another running to its northern side along the Gulf of Aden towards the Bab el Mandeb and the Red Sea. Thus, Somalia is strategically placed as the gateway to Southern Africa as well as the Arabian Peninsula – a location that can be used to control these territories. Based on geological studies conducted Somalia is also very rich in the resources of uranium, natural gas, and oil.
How Islam Came to the Region
The history of Islam in the region dates back to the time of RasulAllah (saw). In the 5th year of Prophethood, as the oppression increased by the Quraysh, RasulAllah (saw) permitted 12 men and 4 women to leave for Habasha (Ethiopia) which included Uthman ibn Affan (ra) and his wife Ruqaiyah (ra). During the Khilafah of Abdul Malik ibn Marwan, parts of modern-day Somalia including Mogadishu, came under the shade of the Islamic State. Other factors that contributed to the spread of Islam in Somalia include commerce and the migration of Muslims to the coastal cities of Somalia. Mogadishu became the center of Islam on the East African coast. The local merchants expanded commercial ties to Mozambique, which included mining gold from the Monomopatan mines in Sofala. In northern Somalia, Adal was in its early stages a small trading community established by the newly converted Muslim merchants.
After the Berlin Conference in 1884, European nations agreed on the invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of Africa. Britain, France and Italy all laid claims to various parts of the area now known as Somalia.
For 40 years, the British controlled northern Somalia because of its access to the Red Sea, and the Italians ruled southern Somalia while the French had little impact on the region but controlled neighbouring Djibouti.
Both British and Italian territories gained “independence” in 1960 and merged to form modern-day Somalia. However, the country suffered from a tumultuous political atmosphere. For example, Somalia's sitting president was assassinated in a military coup in 1969; just 9 years after the Europeans left. Muhammad Siad Barre became Somalia's new president in 1969 and founded Barre's Supreme Revolutionary Council as the sole political party in Somalia. Barre also abolished the National Assembly and the country's constitution.
In 1991, Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted from power, and a power struggle ensued between clan warlords. From 1992 to 1995, through the so-called “Humanitarian” delegations under the auspices of the ‘Hope Again’ project, America deployed approximately 30,000 troops in Somalia to “restore order and protect the supply lines”. The mission was a failure and it resulted in a humiliating withdrawal for the US.
In 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took control of Mogadishu and other parts of the south after defeating clan warlords. After years of lawlessness, the UIC worked to bring some law and order based on implementing the Shariah of Allah (swt). In 2007, backed by American support, Ethiopian and African Union troops entered Somalia and dismantled the UIC. Today the country remains in conflict between As-Shebab and the Transitional Federal Government supported by the West and African Union troops.
Impact on the Muslims in Somalia
It has been estimated that between 350,000 and 1,000,000 have died as a result of the conflicts that began in 1991. This number can only be further magnified by the number of people who have been injured and displaced in the conflict. Furthermore, with the region being in constant conflict for 20 years, this has further exacerbated the plight of the Muslims.
Regarding the impact of the drought on the Muslims, a report by the UN published last month highlighted the following:
- At least one in three Somali children is malnourished in parts of southern Somalia. Malnutrition rates among new arrivals in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya are alarming, ranging from 30-40 percent. Three in five children arriving in refugee camps in Ethiopia from southern Somalia are malnourished. In refugee camps in Kenya, more deaths were recorded among Somali children in the therapeutic feeding centers in the first quarter of 2011 than in all of last year.
- Because of lack of food in southern regions of Somalia, thousands are being forced to flee to neighboring countries Kenya and Ethiopia for assistance. An average of 10,000 new Somali refugees arrives in Kenya’s Dadaab camps per month and 5,000-6,000 at the Doolow Ado camp in Ethiopia. At the end of June, a total of 60,200 Somalis were registered in Kenya this year – more than a 100 per cent increase compared to the same time in 2010.
- UNICEF said earlier this week that at least 500,000 children were at risk of death in the Horn of Africa, while the International Committee of the Red Cross has said one in 10 children in parts of Somalia could die from starvation.
What is the Solution?
When we examine the major factors that are causing the crisis in Somalia it is clear that it is linked to the absence of the Islamic system of governance - the Khilafah. Applying the Islamic system would address the issues affecting Somalia in the following manner:
Internal Conflict – Throughout the history of the Khilafah, there were many attempts by the disbelieving colonial powers to forge alliances with Muslims living in the Islamic State with the hopes of creating a wedge between Muslims. For example when Ka’ab bin Malik (ra) was awaiting his judgment from Allah (swt) on missing the Battle of Tabuk, the King of Ghassan sent him a letter stating, "To proceed, I have been informed that your friend (i.e. the Prophet ) has treated you harshly. Anyhow, Allah does not let you live at a place where you feel inferior and your right is lost. So join us, and we will console you." Ka’ab (ra)’s response was to burn the letter as he knew what the King was intending to do.
Many of the internal conflicts in Somalia arose as a result of foreign influence and intervention. Allah (swt) has clearly forbidden Muslims from seeking military assistance or support from non-Muslims:
Applying the Islamic system will mean the establishment of authority and security in the hands of the Muslims. This will allow the affairs of the Muslims to be decided based on the interests of the state (i.e. seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt)) and not the interests of any foreign power.
Drought and Food Prices – the first time the Muslim Ummah witnessed famine was in the year 18AH – during the Khilafah of Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra). Bedouin people began to die because of hunger and epidemic diseases. People from all over Arabia gathered at Madinah (the capital of the Khilafah) where food was rationed. Soon the reserves of food in Madinah began to decline, and Umar (ra) wrote to the Wulaat (provincial governors) of Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Iraq for aid who responded by sending caravans loaded with food and supplies. Umar (ra) dispatched his men to the routes of Iraq, Palestine and Syria to take the supply caravans to the desert settlements deeper into Arabia, which in turn saved millions from starvation. For internally displaced people, Umar hosted a dinner every night at Madinah, which according to one estimate had an attendance of more than one hundred thousand people. By early 19AH, conditions began to improve as precipitation resumed in the drought-affected areas. Umar personally supervised the rehabilitation of the displaced people.
What Umar (ra) did can be applied to drought-affected areas such as Somalia and the surrounding regions today. Having a Khilafah for the whole Muslim Ummah and implementing the ruling system of Islam in the Muslim lands will allow the Khalifah to co-ordinate the rich and abundant resources available in one area to areas that are poor and depleted of resources. Each area of the Khilafah will be under his control and the Wulaat (provincial governors) of each region will work with him to solve problems such as droughts. Implementing these relief efforts will also eliminate the sharp rise in food prices we are witnessing in Somalia today as there will be more food available for the population to consume. As a result, the local sellers who have access to food supplies will have little incentive to raise food prices to exorbitant levels.
Reflecting on Those Who Died
Many of us may know, or be related to, someone who is personally afflicted by the drought in Somalia. While it is a tragic time for the grieving families, we should also remember that a believer is never at loss, regardless of the tremendous trials that befall him/her. We ask Allah (swt) to raise the ranks of those who have suffered and for them to be in a more comfortable place.
Just as Allah (swt) is testing our brothers and sisters in Somalia with hardship, He is testing us in our response. In this time of need and immediate crisis, we should help where we can and give sadaqa to those in Somalia whom we know personally.
The drought or any other natural disaster that befalls the Muslim Ummah exposes the current despotic rulers. They should be a reminder for us that the work to resume the Islamic way of life, by re-establishing the Khilafah Rashidah in the Muslim lands, needs to be undertaken with urgency so that we may seek the pleasure of Allah (swt). Only with a constructive and coherent effort at re-establishing the Khilafah Rashidah will this problem be addressed. Only with a comprehensive elimination of the current constitution, judiciary and systems, and their replacement with the constitution, judiciary and systems based on the Hukm of Allah (swt) can the direction of all Muslim lands including Somalia be comprehensively changed for the better. It is only the Khilafah Rashidah that has the track record of uniting Arab, Asian and African, of uniting white, brown and black under the Islamic Aqeedah. It can only be the Khilafah Rashidah that can be trusted with key resources which would be utilized in a manner allowed by the Shara’ and not circulated among the few. Only the Khilafah can end foreign occupation and political interference and bring stature and respect back again to the whole of the Muslim world.