Islamists in Somalia

If you lived in Mogadishu in recent years before the Islamic Courts took over, your daughters and your property weren’t save. If you complained about your daughters being taken away by gunmen, you would get shot in front of them. People got fed up, and rallied around the Islamic Courts, who got rid of the warlords and reestablished law and order.

The judges of the Islamic Courts and their supporters are the good guys, so far. Some of them have been influenced by fundamentalist Saudi religious teachings, much like Mohammed Abdullah Hassan were in his times. But most Somalis are moderates.

The prospects for peace are not good. Ethiopia has always wanted the countries that surround it to be weak, so it wants a weak and divided Somalia. Egypt wants a weak Ethiopia, because it doesn’t want a strong state to control the most important source of the Nile. Egypt will therefore support Somalia against Ethiopia. Eritrea is fighting Ethiopia, and will support Somalia on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

What is the Somali Transitional Government doing? Not much, except inviting the Ethiopians into Somalia. War Nerd is correct, “cash will make people put on suits and talk about democracy but cash won’t make them fight. Only a serious allegiance will do that, a tribe or a God”.

Foreign donors are paying for peace talks, not for peace. So that is what they will get, peace talks as long as those talking can string along those paying (see also previous post).

But all is not gloom and doom. How is the Somali economy doing?

From Wikipedia (see also this pdf article by Tatiana Nenova and Tim Harford),

Somalia flourished precisely because of the “world community’s” neglect. In Somalia, “the very absence of a government may have helped nurture an African oddity — a lean and efficient business sector that does not feed at a public trough controlled by corrupt officials,” wrote Peter Maas in the May 2001 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Tele-communications, transportation, and shipping companies were organized up to provide services to the liberated private sector. Internet cafes have sprung up in Mogadishu. Private security firms helped businessmen protect their investments and property. A recent World Bank study grudgingly admitted: “Somalia boasts lower rates of extreme poverty and, in some cases, better infrastructure than richer countries in Africa.” This is almost certainly because it is not cursed with a World Bank-subsidized central government to siphon away the nation’s wealth…

The breadth of the AIDS pandemic has led to the idea in the West that the entire continent is ravaged by the disease. But Somalia — isolated for 14 years since the civil war began and populated by devout Muslims — has an infection rate of perhaps only 1.5 or 2 per cent of the adult population…

From CIA World Factbook,

Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money exchange services have sprouted throughout the country, handling between $500 million and $1 billion in remittances annually. Mogadishu’s main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate, and militias provide security.

So is Somalia a Libertarian Paradise ? Hardly, there is a serious problem with the lack of public goods such as security, transport infrastructure, public health, and education.

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