Somalia's coming anarchy

A series of troubling events are positioning Somalia for a complete collapse. In a place where things "couldn't be worse," they are about to.

First, Ethiopian troops -- which came into Somalia in 2006 and installed a transitional government -- will leave by the end of the year.

Now, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says the weak African Union Peacekeeping force is leaving too.

One of the main Islamic political leaders from the Ethiopia-ousted government -- Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed -- just came back from exile.

And if you have read any news in the last two months, you know that Somali pirates are the scourge of the high seas.

Oh yes, and Somalia has the world's highest malnutrition rates -- often reaching 30 percent of the population. Seventy percent of the population has no access to clean water.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has declared Ethiopia's peace-producing mission accomplished. Mission futile would be more accurate. The transition government -- meant to take back control from Islamic political factions -- is instead weak, powerless, and losing control of much of the country. Islamists have claimed new territory and now control much of the land outside Mogadishu. Ethiopian troops have poured into Somalia in for one last attempt to root out the radical al-Shabaab group.

In short, the world's most failed state is about to fall below its exceedingly low expectations.

Photo: JOSE CENDON/AFP/Getty Images


Twelve steps to becoming an effective African dictator

Binyavanga Wainaina has written a viciously funny step-by-step "guide" for aspiring African dictators in South Africa's Mail & Guardian. Some of the highlights:

Rule 3. Make America or China happy. Make Israel and Saudi Arabia very happy. Become a Muslim, like Idi Amin. Visit Moammar Gadaffi often. He likes African leaders. We do not know why. Pray with George Bush and let him see your soul. Make your country's leading supermodel the ambassador to France and Italy. Ask her to wear a mini when presenting her papers to Nicholas Sarkozy...

Rule 6. Colonial countries expected little of Africans. Maintain this illusion...

Rule 10. A free press is important. But have shares in all major media and make sure that you allow them to be very critical of everything, except you. You can, these days, secretly pay bloggers. They can say, for example, that your economic policy is Keynesian, but they should never say you are a "corrupt Zulu warlord"...

If all these things fail and you find yourself in State House surrounded by screaming citizens carrying homemade weaponry, make sure you have a Hummer (Raila Odinga) in your garage. They are cheap now in America. You can burst out of your palace and make your way to Somalia, where you can become a pirate who earns $50-million a year.

Of course, if you don't have government connections in an unstable African country, you may have to start a country of your own. FP's got your back.

(Hat tip: Ethan Zuckerman)

Update: Apparently I had a brain malfunction and Beth flagged this last week in Smart takes. Sorry about that.