He didn’t look much like Mad Abdi, the famed Mogadishu warlord whose arrest by Delta Force was portrayed in the film Black Hawk Down. No, by the time I met him in a smart Nairobi hotel in 2008, Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdiid was one of ours. He was dressed in a smart military uniform and ran Mogadishu’s police force, all paid for with millions of pounds of European and British money.

This was how it was supposed to work. Somalia was a failed state and the best way to help it rebuild was to pour millions of pounds into law and order, providing security for future development aid. Some £15m of donor funding – including more than £3m from the UK’s Department for International Development – was being spent via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

There was just one problem. No one really knew where the money was going. Somalia was too dangerous for UN officials to visit. There were reports of 4x4s were being converted into battle wagons and evidence the cash was being used to pay salaries of Brigadier-General Qeybdiid’s own militia.

I put all this to a friend at one of the embassies in Nairobi. His response was typical of those I received in any discussion of aid and development. “An element of a leap of faith is required,” is what he told me. “Otherwise we have to walk away.”

Fast forward five years and one could be forgiven for thinking walking away might have been the better option. As a new book, Al-Shabaab in Somalia by Stig Jarle Hansen (published by Hurst), sets out, ill-conceived donor programmes in part created the conditions for Somalia’s takeover by the hardline Islamists of al-Shabaab.

Starting in 2005 with just 36 fighters it grew to become 5000-strong in 2009 – probably the peak of its power – filling a security vacuum and making life all but impossible for Somalia’s internationally-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Mr Hansen’s detailed account sets out how al-Shabaab set aside the clan divisions that stymied other movements and offered its own form of law and order:

The UNDP, supported by Norway and the United States, trained the police, but failed to ensure its payment, over and over again. In fact the desertion rate of the unpaid police and soldiers of the TFG was growing above 100%: the number of defections was actually larger than the total amount of policemen scheduled to be in the police force. A majority of the policemen just stayed some months in the force before they defected. Donors and supporters failed to understand the seriousness of the situation before it was too late.

The police that were left engaged in systematic pillaging and fought among themselves. The same thing happened in the army. The donor cash had not just failed to bring about security, it contributed to growing lawlessness and a key condition for the rise of the Islamist extremists. The book concludes:

TFG policies, as well as the failed rule of law project managed by the UNDP, had more or less prepared the stage for al-Shabaab by creating a highly corrupt and predatory police force despised by many Somalis.

While there are few universal rules of aid or foreign policy, there are clearly lessons to be learned. As the world ponders once again how best to rebuild Somalia and donors continue to pour money into Afghanistanto shore up local security forces riddled with desertions, it is clear that doing something is not always better than doing nothing. In the case of al-Shabaab, despite being pushed back from the Somali capital, their influence across Africa means they remain a deadly threat.

Source; telegraph.



  1. Actually Al-shabab was a spin-off to the Islamic Courts. After the Failure of UNISOM missions, the 'West' basically turned the back on 'Somalia', which meant that for a decade South and Central Somalia was controlled by Ruthless Warlords. The Somalis came together under the banner of the Islamic courts and without the help of the 'West' managed to achieve what some thought was impossible. They defeat All of the Warlords. I believe the Somalis can do this again in defeating Al-Shabab, who still control large chucks of South and Central Somali.

    People need to understand that Somali problems can ONLY be resolved with Somali Solutions. Placing ALL of Africans military in Somalia will not bring about peace or stability in the long term, it just stores problems for the future. Somalis have got to own their problems. Its sad to see that Foreign ministry is seen more important to the Ministry of the interior and that the President, like his predecessors, would much rather be globe trotting rather than fixing his broken country.



  2. MADeria,

    If SOMALIS specially those reside MOGADISHU and surrounding areas could solve their problem AMISOM would not there today.

    In your words " The Somalis came together under the banner of the Islamic courts and without the help of the 'West' managed to achieve what some thought was impossible. They defeat All of the Warlords". you should know most islamic court leaders were member of warlords within couple of weeks all ex warlords join Islamic court example Indha cade one of them.

  3. if mind does not work and people fail to use their brains, millions of dollars will not make a sense and shape things. A life with intellect will not shape itself. Somalis can only solve their problems No force can put Somali house in order unless somalis come under one banner and put their differences aside and get their things done.
    The thought that UNO or Unisom will bring peace back to Somalia is totally a dream that will not come true.

  4. @Ahmed

    its true some Warlords got incorporated into the UIC, but there power was taken away, their road blocks were dismantled etc…Most of the warlords who had been defeated aligned themselves with the TFG that was created in Nairobi.

    My point is that the warlord, who had defeated the USA, UN and others. Were only defeated by Somalis. I believe the same applied to Alshabab. And I believe Somalis are upto the task. When the TFG used Ethiopian troopers to crush the UIC, I believe that set a precedence, where it became OK to use foreign troopers to settle scores and unfortunately the mentality is still very much prevalent.

  5. MAD Deria,

    To honest warlors did not defeated US or UN that is the reality. the US WHICH had almost 19,000 Marines in Mogadoshu and surrouding areas, do think groub of warlords can defeate them? the answer No, forget about few Marines been dragged on the streets if the US wanted to stay somalia those days they could since they give the fire power. and even looking now they are the one who's paying all these UNISOM forces station in Mogadisho, baladweyn, baydhabo,jowhar, balcad etc. so, now indirectly they are incharge.

    I said many time if Somalis specially those folks reside Mogadishu could figure out how to solve their problem they could have peace.

    I believe peaceful areas in Somalia should go head and develop instead of waiting and watch the outcome of Mogadishu admin no need for that.

    • point of correction it was not the marines they left after ensuring the food got to the people it was the US Army that f****ed things up.

  6. Folks…the Article is about Somalia and Afghanistan. Now that the Taliban has been allowed
    to open political office in Qatar and the US recognizes the Taliban how about the Alshabab
    also opening Office in Qatar which should be recognized as well. IMO Dahir Aweys has a good
    chance here since his top Alshabab Wing Hisbul Islah, a close allegiance to the Muslim
    Brotherhood of Egypt. The Taliban is sure to to be giving a hard time to the weak Afghan Govt
    and the Alshabab is also giving a hard time to the SFG weak Somalia under President HSM???