w w w . S o m a l i T a l k . c o m

Somali Center for Development Research presents

A brief report on



Utrecht, Netherlands

June 4, 2005

Somali version .. Guji halkan


In the last decades Somalia has been facing a multitude of problems ranging from political violence to protracted civil war, from extreme poverty to unprecedented environment degradation. Apart from naturally occurring environmental problems such as recurrent droughts, the man-made environmental emergencies facing the country are particularly severe. They include, inter alia, an alarming rate of deforestation fueled by an extensive, indiscriminate and inefficient charcoal burning, intensive illegal foreign fishing as well as large-scale dumping operations of hazardous, radioactive and highly toxic chemical wastes. The latter problem seems to be the most alarming environmental emergency with which Somalia has to confront both in the short term and in the long run for it poses huge risks for the human health, natural ecosystem and for the local livelihoods’ system.


According to countless reports Somalia has been used as dumping ground since early 1980s by western industrialized countries. In this regard, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched its first high profile official warning in 1992 whereas it was confirmed that certain European companies had been taking advantage of the political chaos and civil war in Somalia in order to dump illegally hazardous wastes onto the country’s long coasts. Likewise, in September 1992, Green Peace Italia had made it known to the world the names of some of the involved companies. Since then, attracted by lawlessness and lack of coast guard authorities, foreign countries and their companies, sometimes in collusion with local mafia-minded individuals, have shipped every kind of hazardous toxic wastes and subsequently dumped their deadly cargo in Somalia. Among other official documents, a report released by the Italian Parliament in the year 2000 confirmed also that Somalia had long been and continues to be one of the favorite destinations of the hazardous wastes exported from developed countries. Following the Tsunami disaster, UNEP had once again confirmed that hazardous wastes from dump sites have contaminated ground waters in the Somalia’s affected areas. It was also reported that the people in these areas were complaining of unusual health problems including acute respiratory infections, heavy dry coughing, mouth bleeds and abdominal hemorrhage and unusual chemical skin reaction.


As a result of the proceeding scenarios, on the occasion of the World Environment Day, Somali Center for Development Research (SCDR), in collaboration with African Sky, had organized a seminar on “The Export of Toxic Wastes from Western Countries to Africa: The Case of Somalia”, which took place on 4th of June 2005 in Utrecht (The Netherlands). The event centered on relevant issues relating to the emergency of the hazardous toxic wastes dumped onto Somali territories either alongside coastal areas or even deep into the inland areas. The central goal of the seminar was to raise adequate awareness about this pressing problem amongst members and organizations of the Somali-Dutch community, media, scientific research centra, concerned Dutch and/or Netherlands-based International Institutions which might be interested in these issues. To that end, Somali Center for Development Research (SCDR) presented the results of literature research it carried out on this matter. The study highlighted that the issue could be categorized into two main parts: Issues of global or regional importance in regard with the transfer of the illegal hazardous wastes from developed to less developed countries on one hand, and how the consequence of this practice has affected Somalia on the other hand. The main points discussed in each section included:

International issues

  • Introduction to the historical background of the export of the hazardous toxic wastes from industrialized countries to the developing countries;
  • The reasons and forces behind the transfer of the toxic wastes from developed countries to the poor countries and the international context in which this process takes place;
  • Factors contributing to the deadly business of the hazardous wastes from perspectives of both developed and developing countries;
  • How the trade in hazardous waste affected the African continent in general;
  • The International Legal Framework and the Trade in Toxic Wastes;
  • The Techniques and Tricks employed by the merchants of the toxic wastes.

Issues relating to the case of Somalia

  • Hazardous wastes exported from developed countries to Somalia;
  • Critical analysis of the current knowledge about this criminal phenomenon;
  • The timeline of important events concerning the toxic waste dumping in Somalia;
  • Concrete examples of international schemes of hazardous wastes dumping in Somalia;
  • The close relationship between the toxic waste dumping practice, political instability and the protracted war in Somalia;
  • The present and potential risks posed by the toxic wastes dumped in Somalia;
  • Concluding remarks and recommendations.


After the main lecture, there was a lively participation and intense debate amongst the participants. Apart from many important questions and comments on issues raised earlier, there were also a valuable insights and feedbacks from the general public. It emerged clear, for example, that the “awareness raising” issue itself is not only a difficult task but also, for certain population groups, it might be perceived as a threat against their (short-term) interests. We are not referring here to the established interests of the “toxic traffickers” but instead to the “perceived interests” of some important segments of the local stakeholders. The example of some fishing communities was advanced by a participant who had recently been to Somalia. According to this account, many local fishers are not happy with the idea of considering even remotely the possibility of hazardous and toxic wastes dumped in their fishing areas. According to their perceptions, if the world becomes aware of similar hypothesis, they would immediately face adverse economic and social consequences because they wouldn’t have been able to find customers willing to buy their catch. Furthermore, some people observed that, unfortunately, other typical “false perceptions” included that because the toxic waste is for example reportedly dumped onto certain areas inhabited by certain tribes, other people or tribes living in relatively distant areas might think that they are safe from the adverse effects of the hazardous waste and, thus, should care little about it These comments have surprised most of the participants of the event. In effect, it is well known that the hazardous radioactive and highly toxic chemical waste dumped in Somalia can threaten the human lives and environment far beyond the borders Somalia. However, it was also noted that in a country like Somalia, where there is no effective and capable institutions which can guarantee to its citizens the access to information and basic social services or mitigate the degree of insecurity faced by the general public, coupled with the lack of adequate education and human resources, such perceptions are typically a party of common social mischief. In such a scenario, pursuing the long term national interest may also be an equally difficult goal to achieve. In such circumstances, pursuing the long term national interest may also be an equally difficult goal to achieve. Even though these complex problems demand an urgent political response, in the light of these scenarios, the role of the information and information awareness especially at the grassroots level has become even more important.


Based on the results of the research carried out and presented at the seminar by the Somali Center for Development Research, following are only some of the concluding remarks:

  1. The global hazardous waste crisis is worsening; the worse this crisis the greater chance that the illegal export of hazardous wastes from developed countries to the Africa and other developing countries increases;
  2. The first victims of this global crisis are the least protected and underdeveloped countries such as Somalia which bear disproportionately the costs of the crises (e.g. in terms of human health, environmental degradation and overall impact on prospects of future development);
  3. The international treaties and conventions alone are not sufficient. Indeed, they have proven to be ineffective. A national plan and strategies for action have to be put in place in order for the least developed countries (turned into developed countries’ dumping ground) to defend themselves from against the actions of the international mafia groups and merchants of the hazardous wastes;
  4. Based both on international literature and evidence on the ground (e.g. the various types of containers, barrels and drums coming ashore almost everyday along coastal areas since the Tsunami disaster), in the case of Somalia, there exist an ample evidence indicating that massive nuclear and other hazardous wastes dumping schemes has been taking place in the country since 1980s. Particularly, it seems clear that this phenomenon has been intensifying since 1990 when the central government collapsed and the country was thrown in a political anarchy. Moreover, it is also very likely that the toxic waste dumping is still going on right now, alongside another types internationally-organized collective robbery to the detriment of Somalia’s national sovereignty such as illegal, highly intensive over fishing on the part of foreign fleets which have been going on in the last 15 years;
  5. The political instability, prolonged civil war and lawlessness made Somalia an easy target as well as an ideal heaven for the toxic traffickers. However, these apparently internal problems are fueled by unlawful practices such as the international hazardous wastes dumping schemes. The existence of this vicious circle underlines the necessity to understand fully, in order to think about potential solutions, the whole range of factors contributing to the Somalia’s quasi permanent political and social crisis;
  6. More research (both internationally and locally) and accurate documentation are urgently needed. The issue of the ownership of such exercises is strategically very important. The access to the information, critical knowledge and results of research owned by third parties is neither reliable nor to be taken for granted. Rather, for many instances such information is presumably covered by so called “state secret” for imaginary national security reasons;
  7. Educating for both public and politicians about strategic issues of national interest in general, and the environmental emergency posed by the hazardous wastes in particular is of paramount importance. Therefore, awareness raising campaigns at all levels are necessary. In this context, the Somali-speaking media can play a primary role in order to achieve this goal;
  8. Collective efforts are urgently needed in order not only to understand the extent and/or the magnitude of hazardous wastes disaster but also to act in order to do something about it before it is too late. In this process, the Somali civil society, intellectuals, politicians, local administrations, education centers and every single responsible citizen can play an active role. Particularly, the Somali Diaspora and its organizations, through its various formal and informal networks can help with this problem not only by raising awareness concerning these issues but also by undertaking international lobbying campaigns in order to inform the general public and potentially concerned institutions in their respective adoptive country.


According to the almost unanimous opinion of the participants, the conference was success. The general public had found the seminar both educative and informative. An immediate positive outcome of the conference was that the Somali-Dutch community’s organizations which took part of the conference expressed their enthusiasm and satisfaction towards the seminar. They also showed their willingness to put these issues high on their agenda. On the other hand, a group of prominent Somali academicians suggested considering the possibility of creating a “permanent pressure group” so as to make sure that the due attention has to be paid to the matter.

The Netherlands-based Somali-speaking Radio Dalmar of whom the operators were also present at the event interviewed the organizers so that Somali community in Holland as well as Somalis living elsewhere in the world could know more about these issues. Given the regional and international dimensions of the illegal trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes, other African organizations invited to the seminar expressed also their interest and willingness to attend and even co-operate for the future events concerning these issues.

For further information please refer to the author of the report:
Bashir M. Hussein
Somali Center for Development Research

The Netherlands
Email:  ama

Faafin: | Minneapolis, MN | June 11, 2005


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