Letter: Somalia's suffering met by silence

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sir Ian Scott (letter, 17 August) criticises the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) for failing to help the United Nations resolve the crisis in Somalia. As a Somali, I agree.

In addition to the Arab League and the OAU, Somalia also belongs to the Islamic Conference (IC). None of these organisations has taken the necessary political or humanitarian initiatives to tackle the disaster in Somalia.

Some of the richest countries in the world belong to the Arab League and the IC. The Emir of Kuwait recently gave pounds 1m to London Zoo; he has given nothing for the starving millions in Somalia. Nor have Arab countries given anything to Yemen to help it absorb 60,000 Somali refugees. The IC talks of military intervention to save the Muslims of Sarajevo. Muslims as victims seem to interest the Muslim world only when they can be used as a political football with the West.

No one expects the leaders of impoverished countries in Africa to mount a massive humanitarian operation. But they are expected to provide the moral and political leadership that would encourage the UN and other donors to treat Somalia as a priority.

Muslims and Africans accuse Europeans of focusing too much on Yugoslavia at the expense of Somalia, calling it racism. This is hypocritical.

Certainly, racism has played an important part in the failure of the West to give a timely and adequate response to the crisis in Somalia. But their own silence and lack of interest in Somalia fuels that racism, and thus deprives them of the moral right to criticise Europe.

Yours sincerely,

RAKIYA OMAAR

Executive Director

Africa Watch

London, SE1

19 August

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