One Year Ago Somalia

Greetings from Amsterdam, where winter has set in nicely.

While I have a tremendous amount of love for independent podcasters out there, I still look to many alternative and even get what I get from mainstream media podcasts as part of the quest to piece together what is really happening in our world.  One of my favorites for this purpose is the Guardian’s daily podcast. The program is actually an excellent example of how newspapers and magazines could create an original podcast that makes use of, and even promotes, the material in their newspaper.  I get an excellent overview of the Guardian each day when I tune into this podcast.

Recently, in their Friday edition, they had a guest on who’s been writing about the one year anniversary of the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia. Of course, always one of those regions of the world that is under-reported and in fact, quite difficult to get reports from, Ethiopia invaded after so-called Islamists took over Mogadishu and intended to form some kind of fundamentalist state in Somalia.  At least that’s what the few reports making the rounds taught us last year.

The reporter spoke about how when Ethiopia invaded to prevent that government from exercizing power , they were successful in that mission. However, in a familiar turn of events, after being there one year they are finding themselves the targets of frequent attacks and in desperate need of help.

It brings me back to what has become a classic question. To do or not to do, and if to do… then how? If your neighboring country is being taken over by an extremist group, do you try to stop them? Do you use a military to do so? My initial answer, and even more after seeing what happens, is NO.  Yet, I don’t believe in isolation. I don’t believe you ignore suffering when you know full well what is happening next door or anywhere in the world. Then what to do? What kind of engagement? What kind of action or dialog?

As I biked down to frisbee practice, re-listening to this report, I could not think of an answer.  I know I believe in nonviolence. I know there is plenty of evidence that this method of occupying a country by force is not only wrong but also disastrous.  So what then?  The only thing that comes to mind is to understand the problem before it happens. To look at the ingredients that lead to such a government taking power, that drive people to support such groups or policies, and work at an international level to alleviate these symptoms before they result in what we’ve seen in place like Somalia.