Friday, November 21, 2008

A glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel?

Has Somalia reached bottom?
The big question in the U.S. these days is, When will our country’s economic recession ‘reach bottom’ and begin to turn around? I certainly can’t answer that question, but I have to believe that the fundamental richness of this country ensures that it’s not going to go bankrupt. There may be more hard times ahead as our economy readjusts fully to global realities, but with a brilliant new leadership team about to take office in Washington I’m hopeful we’ll begin to see signs of recovery before very long.

One might ask the same question about Somalia: After sixteen years on a bumpy and painful downward slide, is there a chance that the worst is over and that Somalia may be ready to bounce back?

There are at least a few clear signs of impending change: The Ethiopian occupation appears to be winding down. The hapless transitional government admits it has lost control of any significant part of the country and is on the verge of total collapse. The African Union’s peacekeeping mission seems to have thrown in the towel and is wanly hoping for relief by a more robust international force. And the United States government, along with its European allies, is too taken up with its own economic problems and its Middle East difficulties to think seriously about pursuing its War on Terror any further in Somalia’s deserts (chasing “pirates” off the coast is viewed as a preferable and less costly alternative with much more media appeal).

Granted that not all of these signs of change can be viewed as wholly positive. Indeed, some are likely to be cited as evidence that Somalia is plunging deeper into chaos. Certainly they do not offer any immediate hope for relieving the plight of the throngs of starving refugees that years of conflict have produced. Indeed, among those paying any attention at all these days to Somalia, there will be increasing concern over what to do to be helpful and how to go about doing it, in the face of such anarchy, and no easy answers spring to mind.

some gloomy economists are predicting a deepening economic depression in America too, in the absence of costly government bail-outs.

I just don't buy that, either for Somalia or the U.S. Maybe it’s nothing but the intoxicating effect I’m feeling over the recent election outcome here, but I'd rather put a more positive spin on these developments and predict they bode well for Somalia’s future and our relations with that country. If the rest of us can find ways to be compassionate and supportive without being meddlesome and directive, perhaps Somalis themselves may at last have an opportunity—perhaps the right word is “obligation”—to take control of their country’s future. It just may be, as the poets say, that “the night is darkest just before dawn.”


Left at the US Embassy said...

Mr. Crigler:

Somalia has already reached the bottom of deepest hole that you and Mr. James Bishop (the US Ambassador to Somalia who replaced you) had dug. You started supporting the USC (United Somali Congress) repels who had no clear agenda of what to do when they overthrow the Siad Barre regime. The situation is going to be that Somalia will be divided again into smaller chunks by the Western superpowers as they did in 1884.

Left at the US Embassy said...

Mr. Crigler:

You haven't noticed, but Somalia is already at the bottom of the hole that was dug by you and your successor, James Bishop, after both of you supported the USC (United Somali Congress) repels who had no plan of what to do once they overthrow the Siad Barr regime. Others are digging that hole deeper to make sure that Somalia disappears from the Map of Africa.

Frank said...

Mr. Left,

Thanks for your comment -- but I'm bewildered by your assertion that I supported the USC (or any other Somali faction) at any time, before or after I left Mogadishu. My emphasis has always been upon reconciliation among the contending parties and the importance of overcoming political differences for the sake of the Somali people. I'm sorry if I did not make that clear to you.
I'm sorry too that you were "left at the US embassy" as I assume that means you were employed there as an FSN. The video clips I've seen of the last Americans' departure by helicopter have made me very sad.

Frank said...

Dear Mr. "Left,"

I responded to this message on my blog (above) and then discovered that you had sent two other messages for posting on the same subject. I've only posted the one, since the others seemed to make the same point. However, if you would like to respond further, please feel to do so.

Let me reiterate to you personally how deeply saddened I was, many months ago, to see a video showing Ambassador Bishop and our embassy's Somali employee, Yahya, in what appeared to be a heated discussion just before the last helicopter left the compound. I assume they were discussing the difficult question of what was to become of the national employees that were being left behind, although I could not tell that for sure.

I do know, however, that Yahya was left in Mogadishu; that he eventually (and courageously) organized a brilliant mediation project to encourage reconciliation among feuding subclans; and that he was ultimately murdered at his home in Mogadishu. I do not know how many other FSNs suffered a similar fate, but I imagine there were more than a few.

I considered every one of our FSNs be among my dearest friends, and I'm sure the situation was very hard on each one, yourself included. For me, it was a sad postscript to what had been a most interesting and enjoyable three years in Somalia.

Please feel free to reply to this message; I would like to know more about your own experiences.

--frank crigler