Magazine article New African

Somalia: 'Where You See Nothing but Sand, I See Gold'; Just Back from His First Trip to Somalia in over a Decade, Theodore Liasi Reports in This Follow-Up Article to Last Month's New African (Endtail P66) That in Spite of All the Problems Facing the Country, There Are Signs of Hope for the Future

Magazine article New African

Somalia: 'Where You See Nothing but Sand, I See Gold'; Just Back from His First Trip to Somalia in over a Decade, Theodore Liasi Reports in This Follow-Up Article to Last Month's New African (Endtail P66) That in Spite of All the Problems Facing the Country, There Are Signs of Hope for the Future

Article excerpt

My expectations from the outset were not optimistic. After having returned to a Somalia where the capital Mogadishu is effectively a no-go area for expatriates, with the towns Kismayo and Baidoa a hotbed of unrest, and the government unable to reach a consensus among the warlords after eight months in power, my convictions (see NA, July) appeared to have been vindicated.

But despite all the problems, there are tiny seeds of hope scattered throughout the country. Having just celebrated its 45th independence anniversary, modern-day Somalia is something of a paradox.

Whilst the world has been focusing on Africa as a whole in the "Make Poverty History" campaign, Somalia has slipped through the net virtually unnoticed. Consensus between the warlords and President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed still appears to be as wide as ever. With an estimated 1,500 clans throughout the country, each vying for its voice to be heard, Somalia is undergoing a period of great transition and uncertainty.

One of the most notable differences between Somalia and other troubled regions in Africa is the lack of international NGOs working in the field. At the time of writing, Medecins Sans Frontieres was the only such organisation operating in the country with expatriate staff. The head of the organisation's Somali mission, Colin McIlreavy, insists the country is crying out for more international involvement. "We would always encourage other NGOs to come and work here. There are some compelling needs," he says.

Yet with expatriates being deliberately targeted by the militias, the international community has been reluctant to deploy in the country. "There are perhaps bad memories of the past, the perception of how life is in Somalia," McIlreavy explains. Away from issues of security, commerce offers the best cause for optimism and may yet prove to be Somalia's salvation. Despite the lack of a coherent infrastructure or governance, commerce is gradually beginning to drive forward an agenda which could bring the various clans to work together. Somalia currently thrives on two principal business programmes--telecoms and the popular stimulant Khat (leaves from a shrub that grows in the region, and is chewed like tobacco). The former has seen a remarkable boom in recent years, with mobile phones in particular enjoying a steady rise in popularity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.