The World Today for November 11, 2022

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‘The Hungriest Place on Earth’


Photographer Misan Harriman was openly distressed after journeying to Somaliland to document how four years of drought – the worst in 40 years – has precipitated a food crisis in the region that is an independent part of Somalia.

“I saw tiny babies and children with swollen stomachs, peeling skin and incredibly thin limbs – some of the telltale signs of the deadliest form of malnutrition,” he wrote in Vogue’s UK edition.

Around 60,000 people in Somaliland are enduring famine while more than 1.3 million face acute hunger, according to Oxfam.

Describing Somaliland as the “hungriest place on Earth,” the Sydney Morning Herald added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated what was already becoming a problem. The war has disrupted food supply chains and hiked prices. Somalia imports 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

This small slice of East Africa has fallen far from its prior status as a bastion of peace and stability in an unstable, troubled region.

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, more than 30 years after Somalia earned its independence from Britain in 1960. As the Africa Report explained, the region has the “trappings” of a sovereign nation-state: a parliament, elections, an independent military, separate license plates and a currency, though US dollars are used widely. Somaliland has also long been more peaceful than Somalia, where security forces are fighting al-Shabab, an Islamic insurgency, and political instability has been the rule, not the exception.

Somalilander leaders, noting these conditions, have journeyed to Washington to press their case for independence and American recognition, Foreign Policy magazine noted.

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Writing in Salon, Mohamoud Gaildon, a Somali-American medical physicist, charged that the American advocates who have encouraged this idea are imperialists seeking to carve up Somalia. Joshua Meservey at the conservative Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, defended Somaliland’s independence as an expression of self-determination.

But as hunger grows, the country appears to be losing its ability to make democratic decisions.

Somaliland’s election authorities in September recently postponed a presidential election scheduled for Nov. 13 to July 2023, Reuters reported. The announcement came after protests resulted in clashes with security forces that left five dead and around 100 people injured. Protesters suspected President Muse Bihi Abdi wanted to avoid voters and extend his term.

A week after the election authorities announced the change, Somaliland lawmakers extended Abdi’s term by two years, Voice of America wrote. Now it’s not clear whether Abdi will face a reelection poll next year even though one is scheduled.

The move has also thrown Somaliland’s hope of independence into doubt. As Bloomberg reported, a free and fair presidential vote was a key factor in the region securing international recognition as well as potential loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Abdi might have abandoned his people’s dreams and unity for the promise of more power. The hunger, meanwhile, goes on.


The End


French President Emmanuel Macron formally ended France’s decade-long military operation to fight jihadist fighters in Africa’s Sahel region, part of the country’s shifting of its strategic priorities against the backdrop of the Ukraine war and China’s growing assertiveness, the BBC reported.

During a speech at the naval base in Toulon, France, Macron said some French troops will remain in the Sahel, adding that France is working with host countries there to set up new arrangements.

At its peak, Operation Barkhane saw about 5,500 French soldiers deployed to Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania. The operation’s goal was to help local governments fight an increasingly strong Islamist insurgency and to foster stronger partnerships with Sahel nations.

But the campaign was put on hold after the 2020 coup in Mali, which brought to power a military junta hostile to France.

In February, the French army began its withdrawal from Mali with the last troops leaving on Aug. 15. Currently, around 3,000 troops are expected to remain in Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso, although they can only operate in coordinated actions with national armies.

Analysts said the operation failed in large part due to France’s worsening image in the Sahel – a region it previously had colonized – following disinformation campaigns believed to be financed by Russia.

Meanwhile, Macron also called for European strategic autonomy and better cooperation with the United Kingdom.

His speech came as France’s defense ministry published a review this week that proposes to alter the country’s military strategies and goals.

The new National Strategic Review described a “fracturing of the world order” that requires new military responses: It proposed a new model for 2030 that would see France equipped with “the capacities to confront … an eventual return to high-intensity inter-state conflict, and the hybrid strategies deployed by our rivals.”

The review also calls for new efforts to boost national resilience and preparedness for a shift to a war economy.

Playing for the Competition


Australia is investigating whether China has tried to recruit former defense force personnel to provide military training, amid concerns that Beijing has been similarly approaching veterans including military pilots from other Western nations, Voice of America reported.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said the government will conduct a “detailed examination” into claims that China had approached Australian military veterans for training. He added that the probe would also involve other security agencies.

The move comes after allegations emerged last month that Beijing was recruiting former Australian soldiers. Australia’s center-right opposition found the reports alarming and urged the government to implement new laws to prevent such activity.

Marles did not confirm if any Australians had provided training to China but said authorities are currently probing “a number of cases.” He noted that the government was also considering amending legislation if there were any “weaknesses” in rules that apply to former defense personnel.

Officials running the formal investigation into potential Chinese recruitment are set to submit their findings to the defense minister by Dec. 14.

Meanwhile, last month, Britain’s Ministry of Defence announced it was taking steps to “deter and penalize” dozens of former Royal Air Force pilots who were being paid as instructors in China.

Further, New Zealand’s government is considering whether to impose laws to stop former military pilots from training pilots of foreign armies.

Sequestered, Not Silent


The Taliban this week banned women from entering the capital Kabul’s public parks and funfairs, the latest move to sequester females at home despite promises to the contrary, Agence France-Presse reported.

Officials introduced the rule just months after ordering access to public spaces to be segregated by gender. They said the segregation rules were being violated, adding that the wearing of the hijab has not been respected and there were instances of men and women mixing.

The decision infuriated many Afghan women.

“There are no schools, no work… we should at least have a place to have fun,” said Wahida, a mother. “We are just bored and fed up with being at home all day, our minds are tired.”

The Taliban have implemented rules that prevent women from traveling without a male escort and ordered all adult females to wear a hijab or burqa outside of the home.

Schools for teenage girls have also been shut for over a year across most of the country.

But the new ban also affected park operators, who have heavily invested in developing the facilities and attractions.

Habib Jan Zazai, co-developer of the Zazai Park in Kabul, fears that the ban will force him to close down a business that he has poured $11 million into, and which employs more than 250 people.

He warned that such edicts would discourage foreign investment and have an impact on revenue collection.


This week, Russia’s efforts to win the war on Ukraine took a heavy blow: It announced a troop pullout from the vital Ukrainian city of Kherson on Wednesday, dealing a huge setback to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort, NPR reported. Still, the declaration was met with skepticism by Ukraine’s leadership, which had previously warned that Russia could appear to withdraw from Kherson in order to entice Ukrainian forces into battle. The withdrawal comes as Russian troops have criticized an “incomprehensible battle” in Donetsk, claiming severe losses amid a week of intensive fighting in Ukraine’s important eastern region, CNN noted. Meanwhile, US military officials estimate that the Russian army has seen more than 100,000 of its soldiers killed or wounded in Ukraine, adding that Kyiv has possibly sustained a similar level of casualties, Reuters added. Also:

  • Russia and Iran’s security chiefs agreed Wednesday to expand military cooperation between the two countries, cementing relations that have seen Tehran contribute drones to Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal wrote. Officials of both nations pledged to fight so-called Western interference in their countries, and expand economic ties in a mutual effort to evade sanctions. Elsewhere, India also said it will expand economic ties with Russia and continue to buy its oil, noting that imports of discounted crude from Moscow have worked to its advantage, according to Voice of America.
  • In contrast, Ukraine signed a peace treaty with Southeast Asian nations Thursday, a primarily symbolic exercise as Kyiv strives to shore up international support in isolating Russia, the Associated Press said. At the same time, Putin said he will not attend a summit of leaders from the Group of 20 nations in Indonesia next week, CNN reported. Observers opined that Putin’s decision to skip the G20 conference saves him the embarrassment of being addressed – or boycotted – by other world leaders over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has indicated that he is ready for peace talks with Russia, softening his refusal to speak with Moscow as long as Putin is in power, while remaining firm on Kyiv’s key goals, the AP wrote. However, the preconditions listed by the Ukrainian leader late Monday look to be non-starters for Moscow, so it’s difficult to see how Zelenskyy’s latest remarks will advance any discussions, the newswire added.


Storm Riders

There is a consensus among animals to run and hide when a violent storm approaches.

One bird species, however, not only stands up to squalls, they dive right in and use them to stay safe, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

For more than 11 years, scientists have used GPS trackers to monitor the movement of more than 400 streaked shearwaters on Japan’s Awashima Island.

They explained that the bird species are highly adapted to windy environments and can thrive over water, where strong winds allow them to glide for long distances without flapping.

But they have a hard time staying on solid ground – except during breeding periods – which also puts them at risk of predation.

In their study, researchers noticed that 75 out of the 401 tracked birds would fly during typhoons or hurricanes, instead of taking shelter. The birds, they noted, would head for the tempest if they were caught between the storm on water and dry land.

The findings also showed that shearwaters were more likely to fly toward the eye during powerful storms – and would be chasing it for up to eight hours.

The team noted that the tactic would result in the birds drifting in the wind because their flight speed did not match the wind speed.

Still, they added that this was a better alternative than being blown by the storm onto land.

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