ANYONE searching for a definition of the term “failed state” need only point to Somalia, in the Horn of Africa.
For the past fifteen years it has been in a constant state of flux as one heavily armed faction took power only to be displaced by another. Following this pattern, the UN intervened in 1992 only to be replaced by American forces. Eventually the UN managed to set up elections and a parliament but the capital Mogadishu has never been safe enough for the parliament to meet and it has decamped inland to Baidoa. In the past few weeks Mogadishu has again been a place of violence as rival warlords have fought among themselves and against Islamic militias with alleged links to al-Qaeda. According to latest reports the Islamic forces have taken the capital and are now setting up an administration which, among other things, will introduce Sharia law; meanwhile in Baidoa, 130 miles away, the transitional government holds theoretical power in the country. The United States got its fingers badly burned in Somalia in 1993 in an incident recreated in the film Black Hawk Down; however, it has maintained an interest in the country because of its potential as a base for al-Qaeda. According to some accounts, the US has been backing one or more of the war lords who have been defeated by the Islamists.
Anarchic is the only word that will do for the present state of Somalia.