Alex de Waal


3 October 2013

How Not to Help Somalia

A former prime minister of Somalia, Abdiweli Ali, tells a story that demonstrates the pervasive influence of al-Shabab, even in areas ostensibly controlled by the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Al-Shabab collects taxes – reportedly as much as the government, and certainly more efficiently. This includes a payroll tax, described as a ‘contribution’, which salaried personnel – government staff among them – are obliged to pay. Abdiweli describes how a defector from al-Shabab who went to work for the government received a visit from a man who told him to pay his ‘contribution’. ‘How will I know whom to pay?’ he asked. ‘You will know,’ the messenger replied. At the end of the month, he went to collect his salary from the cashier at the bank. The cashier said: ‘Now let me receive your contribution.’