Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Somali story

From the FP magazine:

Somalia is a state governed only by anarchy. A graveyard of foreign-policy failures, it has known just six months of peace in the past two decades. Now, as the country’s endless chaos threatens to engulf an entire region, the world again simply watches it burn.
Somalia’s pirates are threatening to choke off one of the most strategic waterways in the world, the Gulf of Aden, which 20,000 ships pass through every year. These heavily armed buccaneers hijacked more than 40 vessels in 2008, netting as much as $100 million in ransom. It’s the greatest piracy epidemic of modern times.
Somalia is a political paradox—unified on the surface, poisonously divided beneath. It is one of the world’s most homogeneous nation-states, with nearly all of its estimated 9 to 10 million people sharing the same language (Somali), the same religion (Sunni Islam), the same culture, and the same ethnicity. But in Somalia, it’s all about clan. Somalis divide themselves into a dizzying number of clans, subclans, sub-subclans, and so on, with shifting allegiances and knotty backstories that have bedeviled outsiders for years.
Death comes more frequently and randomly than ever before. I met one man in Mogadishu who was chatting with his wife on her cellphone when she was cut in half by a stray mortar shell. Another man I spoke to went out for a walk, got shot in the leg during a crossfire, and had to spend seven days eating grass before the fighting ended and he could crawl away.