Wednesday, January 10, 2007


How much do you know about Somalia? As we say here in Texas - I’ll tell you whut: If y’all ain’t aware of their history, listen up…

Oddly enough, Somalia has been occupied predominantly by Somalis for the last 2500 years or so. Islam became prominent long ago there, and Mogadishu was founded around 900 as a result thereof. Then, in the 1500s, a long-term war broke out between Somali and Ethiopians and things really started to unravel. The Somalis won, initially, but that prompted the Portuguese to come help, and the once strong central Somali state crumbled. The land wasn’t colonized with any vigor, however, until the late 1800s.

Then came the Brits, the French and the Italians in the late 1800s. In keeping with the colonial spirit, all three took a chunk of the poor country and stamped their brand on the locals, none of which went over very well. National hero Mohammed Abdulah Hassan rose to prominence during the long war for colonial independence, which lasted over 20 years. Unfortunately, superior military technology won out and the British kept their fiefdom until World War II, when Mussolini’s Fascists took over briefly. In a sick twist of fate, the fledgling U.N. assigned Somalia to Italy as a protectorate, where it remained until it declared independence in 1960, (Sort of; the Brits and French kept their little chunks out of spite, malice, or pride, depending on who you ask, and didn’t give ‘em all up until 1977)

The period following 1960 can be called, unfortunately, the age of coups. As is all too common in many small, poor countries, military takeovers began, culminating in the rise to power of Mohamed Siad Barre, who declared himself leader kin ’69 and stayed there until ’99. Though he was brutal and ruthless to opponents, he did some good works, building a national infrastructure and raising literacy rates. In the late 70’s, Somalia fought a war against neighboring Ethiopia, ostensibly to regain lands lost during the colonial period, but probably realistically started due to age old animosities. Originally backed by the USSR, the Somalis did quite well, maybe too well, because in mid stream, the Soviets changed sides and the Somalis suffered greatly as a result. As the Soviet block fell, the Somali government became more and more dictatorial, and that, as it often did, lead to a very active resistance movement.

In the early 90’s, the country began to split up as factions declared independence, and the U.N. stepped back in trying to help – Those efforts failed miserably, and the whole scenario has spiraled into horrific internecine fighting that continues to this day. On top of the manmade problems, Somalia suffered from the great Tsunami of 2005, and has experienced debilitating floods since then.

Hence, the bottom line is that this place is a complete mess, and the ones who have suffered, as usual, are the people, who have little or nothing to do with wars and politics, and who’s interests are focused on surviving; where do they find food, water, shelter, and medicine, in a place where even the U.N has given up?

Well, all is not lost – There are NGO’s, (Non Governmental Organizations), who, thank God, fill in to the best of their ability when everything else fails. The Somali Support Secretariat is a collection of agencies trying to do what no one else will do.

And we can support the outfits and people who sacrifice much to do this work, and we can pray for the people of Somalia – Both are really good ideas.

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