Somalia’s Endless Hell

MOGADISHU -- Somalia’s internal conflict is propelled by a combustible mix of religion, politics, and clan rivalry. Civilians are killed daily in Mogadishu, there are roadside bombs and mortar attacks, and politicians and journalists are targeted. Making matters worse, the country has suffered this year from both floods and drought.

This combination of insecurity and natural disasters has displaced huge numbers of people and caused suffering on a scale painful to behold. According to the most recent United Nations figures, 400,000 people, or roughly one-third of Mogadishu’s population, have fled the city.

Yet Somalia still rarely gets into the headlines. This partly reflects the near impossibility of gathering news. Few foreign journalists venture in – it is too difficult and too dangerous for them to work inside the country – and local reporters are harassed by the authorities. And, even when there is news, the world’s capacity to absorb bad and sad stories from yet another hellish place is limited.

Since last December, Somalia has been in a de facto state of civil war. The secular government, supported by the UN, the European Union, and the United States, with military reinforcements from Ethiopia, has been fighting insurgents from the Union of Islamic Courts, a group accused of harboring al-Qaeda terrorists whose leaders are supported by Eritrea.