Somalia: Problems Retrieving Abducted Journos

24.08.08

Categorie: Africa, Diplomacy, Reporters |

nigel-200x0.jpgTwo foreign journalists, Aussie Nigel Brennan (pictured) and Canadian Amanda Lindhout, have been kidnapped outside Mogadishu while reporting on refugees. The Australian Herald Sun‘s coverage is hopelessly optimistic:

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said the Government was “urgently investigating” the reports. “The Australian high commissioner has made contact with Somali authorities to seek further information about the incident and to confirm the welfare of Mr Brennan,” she said. 

There are no real “Somali authorities,” especially in Mogadishu. The Baidoa-based alliance calling itself the “Transitional Federal Government” has little sway in Mogadishu, a city contested by no fewer than four different armies: the TFG, their Ethiopian sponsors, the African Union and various loosely allied insurgent groups. The TFG can’t do much to help Australian authorities.

Australian Federal Police will be sent to Nairobi within 24 hours to help officials from DFAT.

Nairobi is a long, long way from Mogadishu. The distance isn’t just literal. Nairobi is a comparitively orderly, civilized place. Moga eats people.

The Somali Government confirmed it was trying to find the pair. One media outlet said Islamist group Al-Shabaab was the culprit. 

Again, what can the TFG do? They’re not even the most powerful party in Mogadishu. Without the Ethiopians to provide firepower and the A.U. to lend a measure of international credibility, the TFG can do very little. Getting all the relevant parties to agree to a realistic plan of action for finding and securing the journalists’ release, if possible at all, will take time and major diplomacy.

Indeed, since the abduction reportedly took place on the Afgooye Road, which for the most part is Ethiopian controlled, the Ethiopian army might have the best information on the abduction. But the Ethiopians are the biggest thugs in Mogadishu. Good luck dealing with them.

As for Al Shabab … sure, they might be behind the abduction, but that’s really just a guess. What’s more, Al Shabab is not a rigidly hierarchical group: there are factions and subfactions and unoffical groups bearing the same brand. The best course of action to retrieve Brennan and Lindhout might be to speak to an Al Shabab representative. But even so, the rep for one Al Shabab sub-group might not know what’s happening inside other sub-groups.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Somalia and the DFAT website said its ability to provide consular services was extremely limited because of the dangerous security situation.

And that’s the bottom line. Because foreign journos are worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom, Brennan and Lindhout might very well be alive and even in perfect health. But freeing them means reaching their abductors through some agent based in Somalia. Identifying the abductors and enlisting an agent with real power … these are huge problems.

(Photo: Herald Sun)

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12 Responses to “Somalia: Problems Retrieving Abducted Journos”

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