Connect to share and comment

Opinion: Somalia's failed state victimizes world

A nexus of extremist training camps, pirates off the coast and 20 warships on patrol. It isn't just Somalis who suffer.

“There is rising concern that” Somalia’s problems “pose a threat to regional and international peace,” wrote Boubacar Gaoussou, who is the special representative for the chairman of the African Union’s Commission for Somalia. “But we need to keep in mind that the bigger threat is first and foremost to the Somali people, who now live under constant threat to their lives.”

Gasussou’s op-ed column was widely published across Africa on May 31. “The extremists’ menu for the people of Somalia,” he added, “keeps unfolding like a horror film” — a film that few people outside of Africa ever watch. Can you imagine an Islamic group so extreme that it would forbid schools to ring the bell to end classes because some miscreant worried that somebody, somewhere, might confuse the sound with a church bell? That happened in the town of Jowhar, just 55 miles from Mogadishu, the capital.

About the same time, a different group of group ordered the state’s Somali radio stations to stop playing music and threatened to kill any station manager who did not comply. Music, of course, “is un-Islamic,” the group averred, adding that they wanted to purge the influence of Western culture and ideology. (Pol Pot said more or less the same thing before he massacred 2 million of his countrymen in Cambodia 35 years ago.)

The Somali government, such as it is, ordered the radio stations to keep playing music. But then the government controls just a few blocks around its own office buildings, and even that is tenuous. Last month, insurgents attacked the parliament building while the parliament was in session, killing 16 people.

The radio stations went off the air, and then back on again — with no music.

Ban Ki-moon, Gasussou and many others continue to urge the world “to show the Somalia leadership that we are ready to talk with them in partnership,” as the secretary general put it. Yes, but what does that high-tone language mean? Send troops to Somalia? That’s been done. Remember America’s 1993 misadventure in Somalia? No one in the world wants to take on still-another war against dug-in Islamic militants.

Train the Somalia military to manage the problem itself? That’s been tried. Last month, hundreds of Somali soldiers trained with American funding deserted because they had not been paid — and then joined the insurgency, the Associated Press reported.

Another characteristic needs to be added to the failed-state guidelines. As unfortunate as it seems, in Somalia, just like North Korea, Pakistan, Haiti and Sudan, the world’s best minds have been unable to find solutions.