Food riots, anti-U.S. protests erupt in Somalia
The unrest follows reports of atrocities by militants and US-backed Ethiopian and Somali forces, as well as a recent US strike on an alleged Al Qaeda leader there.
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Meanwhile, an Amnesty International Report released Tuesday alleged that Islamist militants, as well as US-backed Ethiopian and Somali government troops, are committing widespread atrocities against civilians in the capital, Mogadishu. And a recent US strike against what it says was an Al Qaeda leader in Somalia has sparked further protests.
The Associated Press reports that Tuesday saw a second day of protests over rising food prices, with hundreds of youths burning tires, throwing stones, and blocking roads.
Somalia is just the latest country to see riots over rising food prices, after others including Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. The Financial Times has a map of the civil unrest sparked by the food crisis here.
The protests began when shopkeepers refused to accept some bank notes, over fear of counterfeiting. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Monday, and troops fired into the crowds.
The Times reports that soaring inflation is taking place against the backdrop of a civil war that has raged since 1991, when the government collapsed and a bloody power struggle began.
A sharp rise in counterfeit currency over the last year, and the rise in global food prices, has fed skyrocketing inflation. The devaluing of Somalia's currency, the shilling, has exacerbated the problem.
Prices for basic cereals such as rice and sorghum are up between 100 percent and 400 percent from last year; the price of a sack of rice has risen from US$32 to US$52 in just one month. Adding to the problem, Somalia's local crops were devastated by drought and flooding. Somalia imports 60 percent of its grain.
The Agence France-Presse reported today that Islamist militants are urging shopkeepers to accept Somali shillings instead of US dollars to help curb inflation. They also said they would "punish" those who refuse to comply.
Inflation began rising early last year when Somali government and Ethiopian forces began a push to drive out Islamic militants.
Voice of America interviewed Cindy Holleman, the chief technical adviser with the Food Security Analysis Unit of Somalia, about the country's worsening humanitarian crisis. In the past three to four months, there has been a 40 percent increase in people who need assistance, from 1.8 million to 2.6 million, Ms. Holleman says:
"There are three main factors that are driving it. One is the skyrocketing food prices within the country. The second is parts of the country are being affected by a drought, which is deepening because the rains have failed and haven't appeared yet. And the third reason is civil insecurity, which is increasing," she says.