Tag Archives: Somalia

Have Somalia’s lessons, hard-learned, have finally taken?

American boarders, suspected Somalian pirate ship, 2009

A boarding party from a guided-missile cruiser approaches a suspected pirate ship off Somalia, in 2009. U.S. Navy photo, public domain


The only war in which Jonathan Manthorpe felt compelled to hire bodyguards was in Somalia. Lessons were learned the hard way in Somalia’s last quarter century, but as a glimmer of light now illuminates the country, at last. An excerpt of his latest  International Affairs column,  After almost 25 years, a glimmer of light in the Somali tunnel:

The burned-out palace of ousted dictator Siad Barre was still smouldering when I got to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, almost exactly 24 years ago. On Jan. 27, 1991, Barre had emptied the contents of the national bank into a tank and sped off into the western dessert as a motley crew of fighters from a couple of dozen clan militias closed in on him. Thus ended Barre’s 22 years of always despotic, frequently murderous, and endemically corrupt rule.

Yet set against all that has happened in the 24 years since to the people of this benighted nation, Barre’s dictatorship can seem like a golden age. Since 1991, at least 350,000 people have been killed by famine. Tens of thousands more have died in meaningless clan civil wars. Hundreds of thousands more remain refugees in neighbouring countries. Half a dozen foreign invasions, most of them half-hearted but deadly nonetheless, have attempted to bring security.

Throughout the quarter century of chaos Somalia has been and remains a haven for terrorists, whose deadly activities have spilled over into neighbouring Kenya and Uganda. Lawlessness gave birth to ruthless pirate coastal enclaves, preying on vessels plying the Indian Ocean and spurring an international naval response. The only time there has been anything like stable rule, it has come from blood-thirsty religious fanatics allied with the trans-national Muslim terrorists, Al-Qaida. And things have been only marginally better in Somaliland, the old British protectorate in the north, and Puntland, on the very tip of the Horn of Africa in the northeast. Both these territories, which were joined with the old Italian Somali Protectorate in 1960 to form independent Somalia, broke away after Barre’s flight and have created reasonably functional administrations.

But now, finally, there are some signs that a home-grown administration is taking root in Mogadishu. It’s still a tender sapling. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected in 2012 by the members of parliament. He has a rocky relationship with the prime minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, who took office at the end of 2013. Log in to continue reading.*

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The Dictator of Eritrea — Manthorpe

“Fellow Africa hand Remer Tyson and I were huddling behind the thickest wall we could find one bad morning in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and, as one does as the bullets fly, we grew philosophical, recalls International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe of a day in 1991. “If Africa had any sense,” said Remer, correspondent for a major American newspaper group, “it would give Somalia to the Eritreans to run.” “Trouble is,” he added, “the Eritreans are far too sensible to take it.”

306px-Isaias_Afwerki_in_2002That was then. Now, Eritrea is called “the North Korea of Africa” writes Manthorpe. An excerpt of today’s column: 

After being the driving force behind the liberation of Ethiopia, the Eritreans gained their own independence in 1993. This was a time when many African nations were overthrowing the rule of “Big Man” dictators and embarking on the stormy transition to forms of democracy. In this sea change, Eritrea, with its compact and resource-rich territory and highly motivated people, was seen as potentially the most successful.

Instead, quite the reverse has happened. Eritrea is now often called “the North Korea of Africa.” That neatly sums up the reality of today’s Eritrea as a grim totalitarian state with prisons crammed full of dissidents, shunned by its neighbours, forced into diplomatic isolation, and with its economy buckling under United Nations sanctions.

No wonder that Eritrea’s diplomats in Canada, as they do elsewhere in the world, try to strong-arm emigrant Eritreans into donating two per cent of their incomes to the government in Asmara back home.

So what went wrong? The answer is President Isayas Afeworki … read more (subscription required)*

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Eritrea: the failure of Africa’s most promising nation

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