Mo-ving in the right direction on Somalia

With UK aid stolen by jihadis, a campaign supported by Mo Farah grows in importance

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I wonder what Mo Farah thinks about a comment our Prime Minister made last week.

You might have seen the Somali-born distance runner grit his teeth and send those long, thin legs into warp-factor on Saturday to take the 10,000m world title - adding to the case of those who believe him to be the greatest British athlete of all time.

Go back two days though, and, speaking to the BBC Breakfast show, David Cameron was doing his best to drive a wedge between the two nations that make up Mr Farah’s heritage. The reason for sending aid to countries like Somalia, said Cameron, was essentially to keep Somalis out of Britain. By investing, the Prime Minister claimed, doing a decent-ish impression of a Ukip MEP, “we can stop them ending up on our shores”. Maybe it’s wrong of me to bring Mr Farah into this (the man probably deserves a rest), so here’s why Cameron’s comments strike me – a short-distance jogger - as fairly to majorly venal.

There are many, many better reasons for investing in Somalia than preventing immigration - and Cameron knows this. We might start in 2010, when the failure of rains, coming on top of two decades of absent government, lead to a famine that over the next two years would kill 258,000 people, roughly 5 per cent of the population. Or you might instead emphasise the need to build security and quell Islamic jihadist group Al-Shabaab, who have issued threats against Britain in the past. Somali immigration? That’s really quite far down the list. To mention it at all betrays the work of those aid agencies out there, as well as Cameron’s supposed “compassionate” agenda.

Then again, though Mr Cameron would be loath to admit it, you could argue that the main reason we invest in Somalia is in fact to fund Islamic extremism. It was revealed this weekend that £500,000 worth of supplies from the Department for International Development has been stolen by Al-Shabaab. We’ve been here before. In 1993, so much aid was ending up in the hands of Somali militants that it contributed to the US-led ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the country, a disastrous failure which ended after Black Hawk Down.

That DfID have owned up to this latest loss, albeit quietly, is a fine thing. They must learn from it. And perhaps we should too. Mo Farah is currently campaigning to stop Barclays shutting down its money-transfer services to Somalia, a service upon which 40 per cent of the country is said to rely and through which £100m is sent from Britain every year. Since the UK government is not perfect at helping Somalia, closing a route through which Somalis can help themselves seems crazy. Farah’s campaign should be backed to the hilt.

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