Somalia: No End In Sight

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January 3, 2008: In the last 18 years, there have been 14 attempts to form a government. The last one to function, sort of, was the dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre. That one ended in 1990, and Somalia has known no peace since. The current “transitional government” thought it had a compromise deal, hammered out in over a year of negotiations. But compromise doesn’t come easy in Somalia. The various clans, warlords and religious leaders are quick to see a ploy to cheat them. Then the guns come out, and everyone goes old-school on each other.

The latest bout of violence has killed over 5,000 (or more, if you listen to the aid organizations, who are unhappy with the increasing violence directed at them) in the last year. Neighboring Ethiopia is also involved, to the tune of several thousand troops fighting in Mogadishu and surrounding areas. That’s because one of the larger factions, the Islamic Courts, have called for an invasion of Ethiopia and conquest of the province of Ogaden. The Ethiopians decided to deal with that challenge inside Somalia, rather than inside Ethiopia. The latest generation of gunmen have grown up knowing nothing but chaos and violence, and are no more eager to compromise than their elders.

Off the coast, there were 26 incidents of pirates attacking passing ships in 2007. Because of the danger, ships were warned to stay far from the coast, but apparently the pirates got themselves a larger “mother ship” that has been carrying pirates and their speed boats out to where the commercial shipping is. In response NATO nations have increased their warship patrols, and received permission from the Transitional Government to enter territorial waters.

Denied their offshore plunder, Somali gangs are going after foreign aid organizations. Food shipments are being stolen or extorted more frequently. Aid workers are being robbed, or kidnapped for ransom. Some charities are pulling out, and the UN is having a hard time raising money for aid operations in Somalia. It all seems so hopeless, with the Somalis being their own worst enemy. While aid workers are used to going where they are needed, but sometimes not wanted, Somalia is becoming too dangerous. Even Islamic terrorists have been unable to do much in wide-open Somalia.

The northern third of the country has established some form of law and order, as has the southern portions, along the Kenyan border. But most of the country is still in chaos, and it will remain that way until the gunmen get tired of the chaos they have created. It’s been 18 years now, and it may be 18 more.

 

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