14 May 2007

Another Forgotten African Tragedy

A bomb-shattered ‘no mans land’ divides the warring sectors of Mogadishu, a capital in ruins [Credit: IANSA]"In terms of numbers and access to them, Somalia is a worse displacement crisis than Darfur or Chad or anywhere else this year."

So says the United Nations' top aid official John Holmes, who had to cut short a trip to the Somali capital Mogadishu at the weekend after bombs planted by suspected insurgents killed at least three people.

Recent battles between rebels and allied Somali-Ethiopian forces are reported to have killed at least 1,300 civilians, more than 300,000 people have recently fled the city, and many more are suffering from an outbreak of cholera. However, aid workers say that they are only reaching 35-40% of those in need as the government is accused of obstructing aid and violating human rights and international humanitarian law.

Somalia's interim government was set up in 2004 following two years of peace talks, but it only ever controlled a small piece of territory around the town of Baidoa, about 150 miles north-west of the capital. Last summer, for the first time since Somalia's pro-American President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, the capital was briefly reunited under control of the Union of Islamic Courts. However, America claimed the UIC were linked to terrorist groups and supported Ethiopia-backed government forces who toppled the UIC in December.
Some suggest that the United States is only involved in order to secure its interests in the country's oil and gas reserves. In truth, America has not been well thought of in Somalia since its disasterous intervention in 1993 lead to the death of more than a thousand Somalis and 18 US troops, as portrayed in "Black Hawk Down".