<!-- IMAGE -->Can a nation commit suicide? Is it possible for a country to be
so divided and face so many problems it can't or won't address on its
own that it ceases to function on any level of statehood? If so, it
might look something like Somalia, where an insurgency, incidents of
banditry and a humanitarian crisis grow worse every day.
While pirates operating off the Somali coast draw attention with
ever more brazen attacks on cargo ships traveling through the region,
rival militia groups captured towns near Mogadishu and threaten the
capital itself. The Transitional Federal Government itself is divided
by feuding between the parliament and president. Local Somali human
rights groups estimate that recent fighting has killed more than 300
civilians in the last two months adding to nearly 10,000 killed since
early 2007. About one million of Somalia's nine million people have
been driven from their homes and forced to live as internal refugees.
The breakdown of government and increase in lawlessness has an
economic as well as a human toll. Foreign aid payments are delayed and
trade is disrupted. Because of the threat of high-seas high-jackings,
ship-owners transporting goods in or out of Somali ports must pay heavy
war premiums, costs that are passed along to Somalis and their trade
partners. Last week, pirates grabbed their biggest prize ever, a
Saudi-owned tanker carrying $100 million in crude oil.
Ultimately, this kind of chaos serves the interests of none of the
disputing parties. For their own sake and that of the nation they are
so bitterly fighting over, all Somali factions should put aside their
differences in the interest of achieving national stability and unity.