November 04, 2011
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] No one seems to know what can or should be done about the absolutely awful situation in Somalia, but some of the remarkable journalism that western publications have produced from the country deserves to be recognized.
A Tale of Two Cities
September 28, 2011
Last fall, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed decided to use vacation days he had saved up in his eight years as a regional compliance specialist in the Buffalo office of the New York Department of Transportation. He told his co-workers he would be traveling to Mogadishu—the city he was born in, but had not seen since 1985—and that he would return in three weeks. What he didn’t reveal was the purpose of the trip: to interview to become prime minister of Somalia. Mohamed, who is known among Somalis by the nickname Farmaajo, got the job.
The Wages of Anarchy
September 14, 2011
The Pirates Of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World By Jay Bahadur (Pantheon, 300 pp., $26.95) The monsoon winds are dying down and the Indian Ocean is getting smooth again. This happens at the end of every summer, and September marks a new season: pirate season. Somalia’s wily, indefatigable buccaneers are just coming off their summer break.
What Is Al Shabab—and What Does It Want?
August 08, 2011
Twenty-nine thousand children under the age of five have died in Somalia in the past 90 days. Nearly 3.6 million people are at risk of starvation. While the crisis has a number of causes—drought, livestock deaths, rising food prices—blame for the worst of the famine lies with the militant Islamist group Al Shabab, which has denied the existence of the famine, diverted water from poor villages, and kept food away from the people who need it most. What is Al Shabab—and what does it want? The answer to that question lies in Somalia’s recent turbulent history.
July 15, 2009
In the affairs of states, lessons are often learned too late or too well. Faced with unexpected crises and unwelcome demands for prompt decision-making, governments think by analogy. And they are invariably keen to demonstrate that they have learned from their--or, more conveniently, their predecessors'--mistakes. The last time a Democrat occupied the White House, an inherited humanitarian mission in Somalia turned to disaster in the alleys of Mogadishu.
August 06, 2007
'Take off your veil!" the Somali soldier shouted at the woman in the mostly empty street. Steadying his assault rifle with his right hand, he ripped away the woman's black niqab with his left. "Why are you coming so close to us? You have explosives?" He leveled the muzzle of his gun against the bridge of her nose. Her mouth, suddenly embarrassed and exposed, broke into a jester's forced grin. "I just want a juice," she pleaded. Except for a handful of armed soldiers, the only other person on the deserted street was a man selling mango juice from behind a table.
October 29, 2001
Consider the following scenario: The United States overthrows the Taliban. President Bush makes good on his pledge to reconstruct Afghanistan, pouring in billions of dollars. In return, the new government helps America cleanse the country of Al Qaeda. The initial battle of the war on terrorism has been won; Afghanistan is no longer a breeding ground for genocidal Islam. But amidst the jubilation, Americans receive word that Osama bin Laden and 200 of his followers have slipped out of the country and taken refuge in Somalia. Absurd? Not necessarily.
September 24, 2001
Hiding out somewhere in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden must be a happy man. U.S. officials have identified him as the principal suspect in the disasters visited upon the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And there are several reasons why. First, the operation required recruits sufficiently well-motivated that they were prepared to commit suicide. Bin Laden's group, Al Qaeda ("the base"), employed suicide bombers in the 1998 attacks against two U.S. embassies in Africa and in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen eleven months ago.