What is happening in Somalia ?
The name Somalia can’t pop in your mind without the image of pirates, civil war, Islamic militants, and smugglers, among others, coming into your mind. True to your thoughts, Somalia has suffered social injustices, and it has been one war after another, which made it impossible for the country to have a stable government until 2012. But even after then, things haven't been so rosy for this country in Africa's horn. So, it is still dangerous to go to Somalia as a tourist.
However, there is a safer place to visit and stay in Somalia- the northern districts of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland. This state broke away from the rest of Somalia, making it a bit safe for visitors. You should, however, take caution before visiting any other area in Somalia.
So, what knowledge should you have before you set out for Somalia? Let us find out below.
1. The State of the Crisis in the Country
The crisis experienced in Somalia today is a complex humanitarian crisis that has lasted almost the longest in the whole world. The Somalis are faced with armed conflict and worsening climatic shocks that hit the countrymen with varying intensities. This combination has resulted in massive displacements within Somalia and even across the borders.
Statistics have it that in 2018, more than 880,000 Somalis were displaced from their homes with 300,000 fleeings from fear of violence and attack. Another 500,000 farmers and pastoralists had to move from their homes due to climatic impacts like floods and drought. The displacements keep recurring every year, and that's not encouraging news to someone who wishes to pay a visit to the country.
2. The Weather Conditions
If you thought adverse weather conditions do not kill, you should think again before getting yourself ready for Somalia. In 2011, 260,000 people died from famine in Somalia, with half of those who died being children. After five years, another prolonged drought hit the land again and displaced over a million people.
When droughts cease, and it is time for the land to enjoy some rainfall, floods become unforgiving. In 2017 around October, over 273,000 people were displaced by widespread flooding. Many communities are still at risk of exposure to heavy rains that damage their farmlands and kills livestock. This is what is happening in Somalia most of the years, and you couldn’t stand such scenes comfortably even if you were to visit for a day.
3. The Islamist Armed Group- Al-Shabab
It is a good thing that the Somalia government is trying to reinstate peace and bring the country to a state of productivity and stability. But whenever they try to do this, the Islamist terror group, Al-Shabab, invades and launches attacks within and at the country's borders. This alone has scared potential investors and tourists alike.
You could be planning your trip to Somalia for any reason, and before you know it, an attack is being launched in the city you are visiting. This poses a high-security link since you do not know when and where they will be attacking next. If the terrorists don’t kill you, they may hold you hostage and subject you to harsh treatment and forced recruitment into their militia.
4. Minimal Protection from the Government
While you would expect the government to extend a hand in protecting you, especially as a visitor, the government fails. There have been cases of the government unleashing unlawful killings to its citizens, especially in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The government itself frets the Al-Shabab attacks since the militia group has killed most of its officials.
So whether you want to stay in the Somalia capital or tour other towns in the country, you will still need to worry about your protection. The one the government offers is limited and one which you can never rely on.
5. The Pirates of Somalia
Even the movie titled ‘the Pirates of Somalia' is based on true life events on Somalia's shores. It is such a simple act in the Somali shores, and beyond that, a movie on the same had to be created to warn the world of this cowardly act. It is estimated that Somali pirates were responsible for about 44% of the world's seas' total piracy incidents in 2010 alone.
To bring the numbers even closer, of every 39 ships that were attacked, Somali pirates were responsible for 35. Worse still, there are claims that the Somali pirates are gaining courage by day and are encroachingly carrying more attacks far from their coasts. This means it is obvious that your chances of arriving safely into the Somali coasts are minimal with these increasing piracy threats. The piracy in Somali coasts may not be ending soon since it is a conglomeration of many factors.
6. Abuses against Children
While child abuse is not a new occurrence in most countries in the world, the cases in Somalia are a bit worrying. The Al-Shabab takes the lead in this act, where they forcefully recruit children into their militia and use them to achieve unsuspecting attacks. Most often, children are harassed sexually, maimed, and even killed in worse conditions.
It wouldn't matter whether it was a foreign child or a child from within the country, when the group comes to strike and capture children, whoever they find would serve just fine. Visiting such a place with your children could be a great risk for them and you as well.
7. Poor Infrastructure
In Somalia, travel and communication have always been dealt a heavy blow with the incessant state of insecurity and wars. In return, it has become impossible for the tourism industry to flourish as good roads and proper communication channels are the backbone for successful tourism. The tourism system in the country is on its death bed. There is no tourism board, and the hotels are very few. The available ones are also at risk of being attacked anytime.
Despite having a potential of tourism growth, Somalia's travel and tourism have remained below standard due to the risk of insecurity, making it hard to gather enough from the industry to develop the transport and tourism sectors.
8. There are Safer Cities
You would undoubtedly want to know the safe cities in Somalia before setting out on a journey there. In as much as Somalia is considered generally unsafe and popularly insecure, you can have yourself rest in some safer cities within. Las Anod and Hargeisa are considered some of the safest cities in Somalia. They have welcomed more foreigners in the recent past than any other cities and are considered quite modernized.
Staying safe in Somalia may not be a walk in the park, even in the purported safe cities. It will be ideal if you maintain a safe distance from where you hear gun fires or where you see armed men. Some may turn out to be the army, while in most cases, they always are not.
9. Local Communication Styles
Everyone is suspicious or seems so in Somalia until proven otherwise. You will not know what the locals would think about you anytime you walk along the Cities streets. Learning the verbal and non-verbal cues of the locals could go a long way toward solving this problem. In Somali streets, when communicating with Somali men and women, you will have to approach them in two different ways depending on your gender.
When people of the same gender communicate, it is acceptable for them to move closer to each other and pass whatever information they have to share comfortably. The two can make eye contact and even touch each other when talking without any troubles arising. The case is different when unmarried men and women are having a conversation. They must avoid touching and must maintain a professional and respectful demeanor in their discussion. Both can still make eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions so long as no one touches the other.
Learning this in advance keeps you safe as it helps you identify with the locals and protects you from unnecessary attacks.
10. Poor Health System
If you are going to stay in Somalia for work-related duties and other obligations, it is crucial to note that there is no one to rely on in the health system. Healthcare in Somalia is majorly based in the private sector, which means it is expensive for the locals to access and afford the services. Most of the time, it is the help rendered by the WHO and other humanitarian organizations that have seen the health system survive throughout the years.
The government has done well to try improving the health system by launching the Health Sector Strategic Plans (HSSPs), aiming to provide universal essential health to all citizens. Till that is achieved, it may be a steep road to take on your side.
We hope that what is happening in Somalia right now is only for the betterment of the country's state in the future. The armies that have been deployed to help bring back sanity like the Kenyan army will someday succeed in restoring peace in this war-torn country. Wouldn't it be all joy to have a safe Somalia where people can walk in and out of fear? We all look forward to that new dawn.