THEWORLDTODAY.ORG DECEMBER 2007
With no safety equipment, ventilation or even roof supports, accidents are common: Rajaonson Hughes, General Secretary of the Ministry for Energy and Mining estimates that two to three people die each day. Paradoxically the incentives remain high: rumours abound of miners that have found ‘the big stone’ and moved up the ladder to become patrons themselves, yet in reality such genuine success stories are few and far between. Instead, temporary village communities spring up around new sites, and mining has become a subsistence economy for those on the lowest rung, albeit with occasional access to western ‘luxuries’, like soap or cooking oil. These people live completely outside the formal economy, migrating every year or so, utterly dependent on making a find. These are the same stones that sell in Bond Street and Fifth Avenue, yet lack of access to the market means the miners are as far from the profits as they are from the stores. The lack of communications forces them to rely on an extended network of traders, selling first to a middleman, who will then pass the stones on to either other traders or exporters. The middleman trade is fiercely protected, and even though Thais or Sri Lankans may own the mines, they do not visit the sites to buy, but will instead be offered first refusal on the day’s take and negotiate a price. At each step the stones value will multiply several times. Whereas Malagasy people operate at all stages of the domestic industry, it is virtually assured that a foreign buyer will export the stones to be cut and polished – the stage where the vast majority of the profit will be realised. As was the case with blood diamonds – the nature of the trade means smuggling is both easy and rife. It is estimated Madagascar loses 95 percent of its stones, with most exporters paying lip service to regulations and taxes, at a cost of around $180 million in lost revenue. A significant amount for one of the world’s ten poorest nations. Cushman has been working with the Malagasy government to remove some of the bureaucratic hurdles that drive the industry underground. Progress has been made – but with established illegal practices and smuggling routes, allied to the fact that many in the rural police and local government are either corrupt, or have business in the trade, there is little incentive for either miners, or traders to take a legitimate route. But there is some hope. With the support and investment of the government, the World Bank, and some legitimate exporters, Madagascar is trying to develop a local value-added market, cutting and polishing locally. Still in its infancy, the jury is out on its success. Sapphire mining should be an important source of much needed revenue for the economy, and has the potential to bring wealth to both the government and the miners. But the challenges for policing gemstones are much more difficult than diamonds, as the international trade is more fractured and diverse. Taking a lead from the pioneering Kimberley Agreement, a triumvirate of interested parties: industry, governments along the supply chain and the final customer, needs to develop new strategies to alleviate the hardship of some of the world’s poorest people.
| INDEPENDENT THINKING ON INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
SOMALIA AND ETHIOPIA Harun Hassan and Leslie Lefkow Caught
For most residents of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, this has been a catastrophic year. The country’s longstanding crisis has moved into a new, chilling cycle of foreign intervention, relentless insurgency and brutal response. People who survived sixteen years of war, statelessness and ruthless warlords are fleeing. Civilians are daily victims of the violence, including mass arrests, targeted killings, indiscriminate bombardment and attacks similar to those common in Iraq – remote-control explosives and suicide bombings – with even less reporting and international attention. THEWORLDTODAY.ORG DECEMBER 2007
HARUN HASSANis Somalia Researcher and LESLIE LEFKOW is Senior Researcher on the Horn of Africa for Human Rights Watch’s Africa division.
ın a Quagmıre
sOMALIA’S CRISIS HAS BEENEXACERBATEDBY external factors and actors, and the threat now extends far beyond its borders. If the conflict in Mogadishu is not adequately and urgently addressed, it could fracture the brittle stability of the entire Horn of Africa. A year ago, Ethiopian troops ousted the Islamic Courts Union and helped the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia establish itself in Mogadishu. Since then, intensifying conflict between Ethiopian and government troops on one side and a growing insurgency on the other, has shattered the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians and dashed hopes of short-term political stability. After the collapse of the last Somali government of Siyad Barre in 1991 and the bitter clan fighting of the 1990s, Mogadishu fell under the control of warlords who terrorised civilians. Early last year the Islamic Courts Union, a coalition of businessmen, Mogadishu clan elders and militant Islamists, mainly drawn from the capital’s dominant Hawiye clan, unexpectedly defeated many of the warlords, some of whom were members of the Transitional Federal Parliament.
Many Mogadishu residents welcomed the security brought by the Courts, but the bellicose, Islamist tendencies of some of its leaders and the threat they posed to the weak Transitional Federal Government alarmed regional and international observers. The United States claimed that some were
sheltering suspects responsible for the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, stoking fears that Somalia was fostering Islamic radicalism. A US-backed Ethiopian offensive swiftly ousted the Courts, but its radical military wing, Al Shabaab, quickly regrouped. Drawing on strong nationalist and traditional anti-Ethiopian feelings, Al-Shabaab and other anti-Ethiopian insurgents managed to recruit many of Mogadishu’s clan-based militiamen. This brought the conflict into the capital’s densely populated neighbourhoods. Fighting between Ethiopian forces and the Courts escalated in March and April. Following a series of attacks and bombings of their barracks, Ethiopian troops mounted a massive offensive, involving sustained artillery, rocket and mortar bombardment of civilian neighbourhoods suspected, in some cases correctly, of being insurgent strongholds. Neither the insurgency nor the Ethiopian forces have made any apparent effort to distinguish between civilian and military targets and hundreds of people died or were wounded in indiscriminate attacks by both. Up to four hundred thousand people fled Mogadishu in a matter of weeks. Those too poor to pay for transport flooded the main roads on foot. Although the insurgency and Ethiopian forces were mainly responsible for the war crimes committed during March and April, the government’s own force, mainly drawn from Puntland militias loyal to President Abdullahi Yussuf, also committed serious abuses, including widespread looting, mass arrests and the mistreatment of detainees. The government declared victory in Mogadishu in late April, but the insurgents soon launched a new round of attacks, while Court’s leaders, many now based in Asmara, Eritrea, continued to call for Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia. The insurgents still attack Ethiopian and government targets daily. The relentless ambushes using remote-controlled explosive devices echo tactics used by insurgents in Iraq, but without the accompanying international attention. Western governments, as well as many major media outlets, have failed to address publicly the human rights dimensions of the crisis, while many Somali journalists, who brave shells and shrapnel to continue reporting, have received death threats. Eight of them have been killed this year, raising concerns that this underreported crisis will become even less visible. Mogadishu was wracked by renewed clashes in September and October, and another ninety-thousand people fled. Humanitarian aid agencies increasingly complain that efforts to reach civilians are regularly hampered by insecurity as well as obstruction from government officials. The situation could get even worse. Mogadishu has always been the barometer of Somali political tensions, and there are fears that the violence convulsing the city – and the resulting
NANCY OKWENGU/WORLD VISION