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 2 months adding to nearly 10,000 killed since early 2007. About one million of Somalia’s 9 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.