a mix of reasons, from public fatigue at another African conflict to international
diplomatic divisions and frustration, a war slaughtering civilians and creating
a huge refugee crisis has failed to grab world attention or stir global players.
"There is a massive tragedy unfolding in Mogadishu, but from the world’s
silence, you would think it’s Christmas," said the head of a Mogadishu
political think-tank, who declined to be named because of the precarious security
situation in Somalia.
Somalis caught up in Mogadishu’s worst violence for 16 years are painfully
aware of their place on the global agenda.
"Nobody cares about Somalia, even if we die in our millions,"
said Abdirahman Ali, a 29-year-old father-of-two who works as a security guard
Liban Ibrahim, a 30-year-old bus driver in the Somali capital, said:
"The world does not care about our plight. The United Nations is busy
issuing statements when innocent civilians are dying every day."
The latest flare-up followed a United States-backed Ethiopian-Somali government
New Year offensive that ended the Islamists’ six-month rule of Mogadishu.
In the past month, local officials and activists say nearly 1 300 people have
died in fighting between government troops and their Ethiopian allies on the
one side, and Islamists with disgruntled Hawiye clan fighters on the other.
Aid agencies have sounded the alarm over an exodus of 321 000 refugees from
Mogadishu, and there have been appeals for calm from the United Nations and
the Arab League. But nothing like the sort of global mobilisation or concern
that would normally accompany events of such magnitude, analysts say.
"In Washington, of course, people are too tied up with Iraq and
their own impending elections to pay any attention to yet more news of Somalis
killing each other," said a Nairobi-based Western diplomat who asked
not to be named.
"And if they do have a snippet of time for Africa, it’s only
Darfur because of the international dimensions that has taken and the power
of the lobbyists," the diplomat added.
Media practicalities are playing their
Mogadishu is too dangerous for most Western journalists, while
Arab broadcaster al-Jazeera has been shut down. So the news comes largely
from a handful of brave locals filing to international news agencies.
Images to shock the conscience are everywhere — corpses on the street, shattered
buildings, wounded babies, refugees under trees, hospital corridors full of
blood and screams.
But they are, in large, not getting out because of the dangers of capturing
such footage and the few cameramen there.
"The world’s media are far away. That’s definitely part of the problem,"
Ali Iman Sharmarke, co-owner of Somali broadcaster HornAfrik, told Reuters.
"But also, the political actors just aren’t talking about it. Maybe they
believe Somalis have brought this on themselves and deserve it."
Rather than wilful disdain, however, it is splits over what to do with Somalia
that are paralysing the world’s response.
The West broadly supports the government, but is uneasy at its failure to
reach out to Islamists and the Hawiye. There are tensions between the United
States and Europe over the degree of support to the government and its Ethiopian
Some Arab nations are accused of sending arms to the Islamists. And in the
Horn, Eritrea has just pulled out of the regional body, Igad, which it feels
is bowing to Ethiopian interests over Somalia.
Michael Weinstein, a US expert on Somalia at Purdue University,
said the international community had tied itself up by backing a government
without a broad national constituency.
President Abdullahi Yusuf’s administration was set up at internationally
endorsed peace talks in Kenya in 2004 in the 14th attempt to restore central
rule so Somalia since 1991.
"For the major [world] leaders, there is a tremendous embarrassment over
Somalia," he said. "They have committed themselves to supporting
the interim government — a government that has no broad legitimacy, a failing
"This is the heart of the problem. … But Western leaders can’t back
out now, so of course they have 100% no interest in bringing global attention
"There is no doubt that Somalia has been shoved aside by major media
outlets and global leaders, and the Somali diaspora is left crying in the
wilderness." — Reuters