David Cameron’s reason for sending troops to Somalia is absurd, here’s why


Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom has pledged to send more than 300 British troops to Somalia and South Sudan to combat terror and poverty and to reduce the impact of the migration crisis in the UK.  He made the pledge in New York during the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

The deployment process would begin with 70 troops for Somalia and up to 250 to 300 troops for South Sudan. The troops will be tasked with providing combat training as well as medical, logistical and engineering support.

While Somalia and South Sudan are certainly in need of assistance, the Prime Minister‘s pledge could be interpreted as ridiculous because:

Somalia and South Sudan do not significantly contribute to the UK’s migrant population

Linking Somalis and South Sudanese to the problem of migrants in the United Kingdom is odd because a good percentage of people who migrate to the UK are Europeans (just over 12 percent). In fact, Somalia and South Sudan do not contribute as much to migration into the UK as countries like India, Poland, Pakistan and even Nigeria.

According to a 2013 briefing by the Migration Observatory in the UK, Nigeria is the only African country in a top ten list of countries of birth of migrants in London. She ranks seventh. The chart below stresses this fact.


Soldiers are terrible development workers

Seeking an end to poverty is one of the reasons why the British PM intends to send peacekeeping troops to Africa, but  are soldiers really the right people to help with development work? Military units can do a fabulous job of ensuring short term stability in periods of crisis, but long term development solutions that will eventually stabilize migration flows from Africa to Europe require a whole different skill set.  On the issue of poverty, the Brookings Brief states that the World Bank anticipates the number of poor people in Africa will remain close to 400 million until 2020, despite a forecast of ongoing robust economic growth. Three hundred troops from the United Kingdom won’t fix this any time soon. Finally the  British forces have clearly defined goals, none of which include poverty reduction.

Funding for existing peacekeepers could prove more effective than sending British troops

South Sudan and Somalia each have troops from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). These missions  need financial support. A report from the Council of Foreign Relations, stipulates that the United Nations (UN) fares better than the African Union for its peacekeeping missions. This is because the former has a regular peacekeeping budget, but the latter continually seeks out donors like the UN, the European Union and the United States, to fund its missions. Only 2.3 percent of the AU’s budget comes from AU member states. Money earmarked for the overall maintenance of British troops could be used for the maintenance of already existing peace keeping forces like AMISOM in Somalia and UNMISS in South Sudan.

For instance, AMISOM peacekeeping forces have been criticized for lacking tools to effectively fight against Somalia based terror group, al-shabab. Both countries might fare better with extra funds to better equip existing peace keepers in their work. During the 70th General Assembly, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, called delegates’ attention to the swollen price tag on the maintenance of peacekeeping forces, which rose to $8.3bn in 2015 from $7.9bn in 2014.

David Cameron sounds good and is exactly the sort of statement that world leaders are fond of making at the United Nations. He may have missed the mark on this one because Somalia and South Sudan don’t really contribute to the UK’s migration issues, and because 300 troops aren’t really going to solve the underlying developmental roadblocks that are hurting these countries.

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