Somalia: February 21, 2005


Somalia remains the only country in the world without a government. But that does not mean no one is in charge. The country is split into dozens of independent fiefdoms, each controlled by a warlord militia. Some of the warlords are actually committees of religious or tribal leaders. But the most lethal militias are led by tough individuals. But even tough guys need help. They have to eat and like access to all manner of consumer goods and services. Thus their has developed hundreds of businesses. Some supply cell phone service and Internet access. Others import all manner of consumer goods. Each business has one or more warlord "protectors." The businesses pay for this protection. This is normally called a "protection racket." In effect, Somalia is dominated by criminal gangs. These thugs had killed over half a million Somalis since 1991, when the last Somali government collapsed. Another 800,000 Somalis have fled their homes, either to other parts of Somalia, or right out of the country. 

Attempts to form a new government will have to deal with the warlords. The African Union (AU) has offered to provide peacekeepers to a new government, but many AU members are reluctant to send their troops to a war in Somalia. Moreover, inside Somalia, some Islamic militias are demanding only peacekeepers from Moslem countries, as non-Moslem AU peacekeepers would be "un-Islamic." Some known Islamic terrorists are known to be hiding in Somalia, but they are not believed to be carrying out terrorist activities. 

It does not appear that there will be a real government in Somalia any time soon.


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