UK NGO Seeks US Army Funding: Somalia Opportunity, Shadow Anthropology

File Photo
by John Stanton

(February 11, Virginia, Sri Lanka Guardian) “I recognize that this two year project, which overtly maps rural communities, trade connections and key local stakeholders with pastoralists around Hargesisa and Berbera, could be used as a resource for building Human Terrain Maps of this critical region of the Horn of Africa. We would be happy to do this in partnerships with [you]… As such there can be overt collection of Human Terrain data which opens the door to sensitively tailoring more in depth data collection. The project and Sazani Associates have a high level of buy in from the indigenous NGOs and will deliver tangible local benefits.”

“I have close personal ties to the security sector and I am aware of both the precarious nature of Somalia and the value of HTS for operationalising [a] military response. I am interested discussing the matter with an appropriate entity regarding the securing of resources for delivery of the project and would be grateful if you could forward this email on to someone within your company who may be interested. What we are look for is the funding to deliver the project and costs to support more in depth HT data collection and we are hoping that will be made easier when we finish registration as a IPVO early next month.” Sazani Associates

No wonder governments and indigenous populations around the globe are skeptical about the motives and practices of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) operating in their countries.

Take, for example, Sazani Associates, an NGO based in the United Kingdom. A representative named Mark Proctor from Sazani is looking to expand into the national security arena via the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). They seek funding to MAP the HT in East Africa/Somalia.

Who knows how many other NGO’s have jumped on the cultural-human terrain mapping effort being funded out of OSD/TRADOC, AFRICOM or any of the other US Combatant Commands. Or, perhaps, they are turning their data over, at a price, to elements the US national security apparatus to include academia.

“We are a UK based NGO who have offices in Tanzania and Belize and the majority of our work is around sustainable livelihood development and various forms of education. One of our areas of expertise is Zanzibar--our associates have a long history there, one being a fluent Kiswahili speaker. Islamic east Africa is therefore a place we are very comfortable to operate in. Having spent a little bit of time in northwest Somalia I was pleased to find the largest concentration of the Diaspora community in Europe in Cardiff, our local city (and capitol of Wales-semi autonomous region of UK). Over the years we have worked closely with this community and made the links to ensure a project could actually deliver in northwest Somalia.

This project was designed with three partners, the Universities of Somaliland (GOLLIS), Somali Progressive Society (UK) and Consortium of Somaliland Non Governmental Organizations (CONSOGO)(Somalia) all of which will be involved in delivering. The main contact for the UK Somali entity is an honorable man who is the president of the Somaliland Chamber of trade in UK, so he has access at the governmental level in Somaliland, which has proven helpful. As I said we have worked with him for a number of years. The project [called YES] is an enterprise-training and civil society engagement project developed with Somali partners by Sazani Associates. Sazani designed a $1.2M aid project with local NGO partners in Somaliland. Working with local Universities and a large Somaliland Government registered umbrella NGO, the project is aimed at supporting rural people to develop sustainable businesses, critical awareness of media and linking that to an export hub.”

The sales pitch goes on to say that the program is focused on “young people in their rural communities (pastoralists surrounding two main towns), developing businesses and creating a network of producers and an export centre. Mapping community interests, trade connections, key stakeholders and establishing relationships with them are central to the project delivery.”

Shadow Anthropology: And the Oscar Goes To…

The Human Terrain System was the subject of a play recently performed in California. “…an outstanding ensemble,” said LA Weekly.

The play is titled SHADOW ANTHROPOLOGY: A Post-9/11 Comedy. It was written and directed by Dr. Rick Mitchell of California State University, with music by Max Kinberg. There is even a song available from the show with lyrics by the playwright, music by Max Kinberg, and vocals by David Lee Garver.

Here is the story line: As a poor Afghan family struggles to hold onto its farm in spite of a drought, a warlord offers possible solutions, including a more profitable crop, as well as an odd marriage proposal for the farmer's young daughter. Soon thereafter, an idealistic anthropologist from Puerto Rico teams up with an opium-loving American mercenary as part of a U.S. Army Human Terrain Team. While the visitors attempt to create a more "culturally sensitive" military occupation of Afghanistan, various characters and bawdy shadow puppets battle it out for who controls not only the story, but also the land. A satirical examination of the U.S. military's "new" post-9/11 strategy to win Afghan hearts and minds, this dark comedy features original songs, Turkish-style shadow puppetry, and Spam.

And the Oscar(s) for best ensemble performance in a drama goes to….General Martin Dempsey (USA) the new US Army Chief of Staff and his chain-of-command whilst at TRADOC. Their character acting as “leaders” was stunningly convincing even as the initial HTS program suffered casualties, mismanagement and burned to the ground on their watch.

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security and political matters. Reach him as
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