Wednesday, August 16, 2006

God Hates Ethiopia. Allah Loves Somalia

Somalia is fucked. So is Ethiopia. But right now, Somalia is fucked-er. From this week's Economist: Bossaso is an exit point from the Horn of Africa and it is bursting. This port in northern Somalia already has 300,000 people, up from 50,000 in the 1990s. More arrive each day. It is a raw place: entrepreneurial, resilient, armed to the teeth. It is also diseased, inadequate and famished. The port's champions reckon it could spread along the inky blue shore like a little Dubai, prospering on exports of livestock and frankincense. But such a future, which now looks a fantasy, depends on the stability of the Horn, which these days is looking only a little less fantastical.

Several thousand Ethiopians sleep rough in Bossaso's dirt, like animals. They are sustained by Muslim alms: a free meal each day, paid for by Bossaso traders. Some of the Ethiopians arrive in town feral with hunger. They have to be beaten back with cudgels when the meal is served. The hope of all of them is to be illegally trafficked across the sea to Yemen. They slip out of town in the moonlight, cramming into metal skiffs that are death traps. Many drown in the crossing: the boat sinks or they are tossed overboard by traffickers when Yemeni patrols approach. Some of the men interviewed in Bossaso for this story have since drowned in this way. Refugee agencies say only a few of those who survive will find jobs in Saudi Arabia. The rest will drift, disappear or die young.

Then there are the destitute Somalis. Some 6,000 of them live in one slum the size of a football pitch. The number could grow to 10,000 within a year. If fighting breaks out in southern Somalia, it will be even more. It is a typical Horn of Africa slum. Only the air is free. Several families split the rent on a cardboard shack. Fires sometimes break out, fanned by sea breezes, often burning people alive. Wells are private: filthy water is a commodity for sale. There are few jobs for the men. Women venture out to sift through the rubbish that blooms and shines like armour in seemingly every open space in Bossaso. Islamists pass through the slums, looking for likely recruits. Disease is a bigger worry. A local doctor reckons that a new epidemic could easily break out: polio and typhoid are already on the prowl.

Rest of article here.

Also today, Islamic militants captured a port and still hold Somalia's capita, Mogadishu. NPR Report here.


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