In Somalia, new famine born of out of old failures
A couple of years ago, I was visiting my good friend Abdullahi Mohamed Shirwa, a respected civil society leader based in Mogadishu. He wondered aloud if the country would continue to exist, given the prevailing circumstances. A week ago, I received a call from him. He described the situation as “disastrous, almost beyond repair.” He asked: “Why are our people being left to die, starving — decade after decade?”
In a way, the current situation in Somalia is much worse than the one in 1992. During the famine then, warlords held the nation hostage. Millions of Somalis were caught in the middle and hundreds of thousands died of hunger. In response to the crisis, the United States sent in the Marines to to do “God’s work,” as President George H.W. Bush put it. But that intervention was a half-measure, and the unfinished mission led directly to the calamity we’re living today.
The U.S. military action in Somalia resulted in the deaths in 1993 of 18 American service members; thugs supporting the warlord whom the Americans were hunting dragged corpses through the dusty alleys of Mogadishu. Humiliated, the United States withdrew. Al-Qaeda claimed credit for the attack and went about the business of recruiting terrorists nearly undisturbed, and was able to launch attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya five years later. Continued