In 2005, the USA scraped together an alliance of warlords which it hoped would rule Somalia from the capital, Mogadishu.
Somalis despised the warlords, and the majority helped the Islamists of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) to oust them in 2006. The UIC offered peace to Mogadishu for the first time in 15 years, and established its rule in most of southern Somalia.
An Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, sponsored by the USA, began in December 2006. It displaced more than a million people and killed close to 15,000 civilians. Eventually Ethiopia was compelled to withdraw the bulk of its troops from Somalia, but millions were left displaced.
A new civil war then opened between factions of the UIC. One, backed by the African Union and based in Mogadishu, has focused on maintaining its international backing and keeping its privileges in Mogadishu. It has done nothing about the food problems arising from Somalia’s drought.
Another, al-Shabaab — originally the youth wing of the UIC — has declared its affiliation with al-Qaeda. It preaches about establishing a strict Islamic state. It has failed to put in place even the most limited public services in the areas it controls, and has reneged on the permission it briefly gave to international aid agencies to deliver food to the starving.
It has stopped the local population from organising municipal governments and working with charities to deal with the drought.
The African Union, the UN, the EU and the USA, all preoccupied with geo-strategy, continued to describe the famine as just a drought until 18 July, when it was no longer possible to conceal the deaths of almost 80,000 people from starvation.
The workers, peasants and nomads of Somalia need to create their own democratic government, capable of feeding the people and defeating the warlords and Islamists.
[This article uses information from an article by Abdi Ismail Samatar on al-Jazeera.]