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Notes on Legal Notice No. 129/2017 and Peace in Somalia

1. Last week, the Bank of Eritrea issued Legal Notice No. 129/2017 “to limit the amount of Nakfa holdings for travelers exiting Eritrea.”

The notice limits travelers exiting Eritrea to a maximum of Nakfa 1000 and prohibits travelers below 18 years from taking “any amount of Nakfa.” Previously, there had been no laws or legal regulations outlining “the maximum amount, conditions and purpose for which travelers exiting Eritrea may be allowed to hold.” With the notice, Eritrea has joined numerous other countries which have established restrictions or regulatory measures on the amount of money that travelers may move across borders or put in place some form of cash declaration system (i.e. a legal requirement for those entering or leaving a country to declare cash in excess of a certain value). For example, in the past, many countries imposed restrictions on exporting their own currency for various economic-and fiscal-policy related reasons and restricted the importation of stronger international currencies to prevent the devaluing of the national currency.


Furthermore, many countries have implemented rules and guidelines in order to curb money laundering – the process of making money acquired by criminal activity look like it came from legitimate business activity – and the financing of terrorism. Around the world, financial institutions are generally required to report significant cash transactions, suspicious transactions, and all international wire transfers – all of which can leave an evidence or audit trail. This is problematic for criminals, since they naturally prefer anonymity. The introduction of extensive regulatory controls that require the reporting of certain financial transactions to government regulators has thus created an environment in which criminals who seek to engage in money laundering or financing of terrorism may try to avoid detection simply by moving undeclared physical currency across national borders. In order to curb these criminal money flows, many countries around the world have imposed limits and regulations on the amount of undeclared cash travellers can carry. While there are no fully reliable estimates for the amount of cash moved in this way, the figure would seem to be between hundreds of billions and a trillion dollars (FATF 2010; FATF 2015).

Of course, individuals move cash across borders for a number of different reasons, not only illegitimate or criminal ones (e.g. when visiting or travelling out of countries with cash-based economies). However, the establishment of these regulatory measures makes it more difficult to act illegally and increases the risk of getting caught when doing so (Smith and Walker 2010). Moreover, the movement abroad (and hoarding) of large amounts of physical currency may also contribute to shortages or be associated with speculation, which can have serious consequences on the national currency and, accordingly, the economy of the origin country.

2. Recently, it was revealed that last month the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, told US officials that Uganda was ready to deploy 5,000 additional troops to bolster military operations of the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) against al-Shabaab, the violent Islamist group which is an affiliate of al-Qaida. Uganda, with more than 6,000 troops in Somalia, is the largest contributor to the 10-year-old AU-led mission. The revelations of President Museveni’s offer arise after a series of devastating attacks took place in Somalia, including the horrific October 14 bomb blast in the capital Mogadishu, that killed 358 people and injured hundreds more, and this past weekend’s bombings in the capital.

However, increased troops, expanded military support, and more drone attacks alone cannot comprehensively defeat al- Shabaab. Recall that the deadly terror group is already heavily outnumbered, with well over twenty thousand AU troops – as well as Somali soldiers and American advisers – allied against the militants in Somalia. Moreover, those countering al-Shabaab have significant technological superiority, and benefit from considerable Western funding, logistics, and intelligence. However, as noted in last week’s edition of Eritrea Profile, despite years of concerted regional and international efforts – which have involved the Somali government, Kenya, Uganda, the US, AMISOM, and Ethiopia, among others – to stem terror in Somalia, al-Shabaab has forged increasingly strong links with al- Qaida and it retains the ability to mount large, complex attacks. Over the past three years, the number of civilians killed by insurgent bombings has steadily climbed as the group increases the size of its bombs, even while the territory it has controlled has fluctuated.

In many ways, the ongoing challenges in Somalia give rise to comparisons to the US project to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, where despite the US spending hundreds of billions of dollars over the past sixteen years and continuous calls for the deployment of more troops, Afghanistan remains a violent, unstable country with rampant corruption. Moreover, the Taliban controls vast swathes of the country.

Importantly, in order to crush al-Shabaab, other significant factors, such as socio-economics, politics, and governance must also be considered. For example, structural marginalisation, persecution, corruption, and youth grievances are key. Moreover, there is the need to establish and maintain effective security, justice, political, and socio-economic institutions.

It is also vital that the military approach does not lead to generating support and sympathy for al-Shabaab. Currently, many locals see the AU-led mission as corrupt and perceive the participating countries as being in Somalia for economic reasons. Notably, over the past decade, there have been countless defections of Somali government troops, while much AU military equipment has ended up on the black market. Moreover, after the October 14 attack, officials in Somalia announced that one of the men involved was a former soldier in Somalia’s army whose home town was raided by local troops and US Special Forces two months ago. Following the raid, in which 10 civilians were killed, including three children aged between six and 10, local tribal elders called for revenge against the Somali government and its allies. Notably, according to a recent UN study of extremism, in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa.” Of more than 500 former members of militant organisations interviewed for the report, 71% pointed to “government action,” including the “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group.

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