Monday, November 17, 2008

on the brink of collapse or already collapsed

i read a headline in today's calgary herald that said the president of somalia is concerned the country is on the brink of collapse. i thought, brink? it collapsed 17 years ago and has been chaotic ever since:
  • kidnappings and killings of foreigners have become increasingly common
  • there are regular pirate hijackings off the coast of somalia and kenya
  • there has not been an effective government since the overthrow of siad barre in 1991
  • somalia is oft cited by academics as a prime example of a failed state
  • the refugee camps in kenya are overflowing with the numbers of somalis fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their country
  • recent suicide bombings in mogadishu and hargeisa have forced the un to shut down many of its operations and international staff have been pulled out (including friends of mine who were doing some pretty phenomenal stuff)

the snipit of the article i saw said that somalia was crumbling, but the reality is that the transitional federal government that has been more or less governing somalia and trying to sort out the many and varied problems in the country is now being taken over by islamists, leaving those who have tried to govern powerless.

i am not sure why i am writing about it now, but it is difficult to read those stories after working closely with refugees, the somali community in nairobi, and having just finished the book Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

i would imagine that the logical response to this post or to hearing the stories of humanitarian catastrophe in somalia would be 'what can i do?' or ' what can be done?' i do not claim to be an expert in international humanitarianism or international development (or of failed states or the horn of africa, for that matter), but i think these news stories are so devastating because i really do not think that anything can be done until the rest of the world starts caring and forces somalia to sort out its chaos. the idea of forcing another country to take a new direction against its leaders' will or ability is generally against all of my opinions on international development, but isn't 17 years enough? it needs to be sorted out and it seems that those with any power in somalia are unable to do it. chaos, indeed.


La Cabeza Grande said...

But who has the political will or actual ability to set things right? Like many things that have festered and grown too large and destructive, to change course beyond chaotic collapse would seem overwhelmingly impossible. This is not to say that it is right or just, but I think no faction would be satisfied with the result. I think, however, the victims of this continued state of lawlessness and hopelessness would disagree with the approach of throwing ones hands up and saying, "Oh, well."

K said...

I know this sounds like a terrible western cop out- but I often can't think about these kind of things because it makes me feel so helpless and so guilty and like nothing will ever be right in the world. So I close my eyes and stick my head in the sand on most days because if I can't see it, it doesn't exist right?

lu said...

cabeza - i agree, no one has the will to set somalia on a path toward a level stability. there were some ethiopian peacekeepers representing the african union, but international forces have left the country and its people to fend for itself and the un and ngos are ineffective without any infrastructure. but it just seems like the longer you leave it, the more difficult it will ever be to repair. but who should repair it? i have no idea. i guess the international community doesn't either.

k - i totally understand how you feel and sometimes to save your own sanity you need to put your head in the sand. and it is not a western cop out, it is a human cop out. there are a lot of people living in floundering countries that could make changes too, but feel overwhelmed with all that is necessary. sort of like how i feel living in alberta sometimes!

do something small, do it locally, and rest easy that it everything is not yours to solve (this is advice i have been given and give myself regularly - not that you asked for advice!).

Naira said...

I was born in Somalia, spent some of my childhood years in Germany and most of my years in Canada.

Somalia is a very sad story indeed and a text book case of everything that can go wrong in a country. I myself feel so helpless sometimes that I don't even fallow the events taking place over there. I tell myself "why bother, nothing will ever change"

But I miss my country so much and I want to be able to visit there and bring my kids one day. The picture I have in my mind of Somalia is its' incredible natural beauty. I loved the ocean, the mountains the jungle. I remember my dad taking us to the beach every Friday, it was amazing!

So what can we do as Somalians and as people? I don't have the answers but I feel that I need to - I have to do something. I've been thinking about this lately and I feel that there is a lot that I can do to create awareness for this forgotten country. Some of the things that come to mind is to communicate and pressure our government to bring the Somalia issue to the attention of the international community.

I feel that I am obligated to do something.