by Ray Fleming

A fter more than twenty years of military mayhem, political corruption, piratical blackmail, terrorist intervention and continuous drought, the Somalia Democratic Republic took a few uncertain steps towards relative normality and stability this week. The international community has been engaged for years in an effort to establish a form of democratic process in this benighted country. The UN, EU, African Union, individual governments and many other organisations have worked together to dislodge terrorist groups like al-Shabaab and weed out ever-present al-Qaeda influence and have poured in money for humanitarian aid and necessary development projects.

This week the greater part of an appointed new parliament was established; it will have the task of naming a president, forming an interim government, organising elections and starting the preparation of a new constitution.

This staged process for democratic development after years of dictatorship or military rule is also being used in Egypt and Libya but in Somalia it will be subject to its severest test. Even among the most dedicated international representatives working in Somalia there is almost total acceptance that the country and its leaders are incurably corrupt after two decades of lawlessness. And away from the capital Mogadishu some 2.5 million people still face a crisis of famine because of the failure of last year's crops. It is indeed difficult to be optimistic about Somalia but the effort must be made.