(3 of 3)
Djibouti and a few Arab states helped underwrite the peace conference and provided four-wheel drives for the President and Prime Minister, and a few thousand police uniforms. But big money from Western governments will be harder to come by. During the cold war, Somalia attracted more aid per capita than any other African state, first from the Soviets and then from the U.S. "It's true that we had a dependency," says Mahamoud Mohamed Uluso, a minister in the Barre government. But once the cold war ended, the money dried up. What followed made many donor nations wary of getting involved in Somalia again. A U.N. operation to feed starving Somalis during a prolonged drought ended after continued clan fighting, while the failure of the related U.S.-led intervention force created a one-word rationale for America's reluctance to intervene in far-off trouble spots: Somalia. No Western country recognizes the new government, though both Italy, the former colonial power in the south, and the U.S. say they are "encouraged." Says David Stephen, the U.N. Secretary-General's representative for Somalia: "The outside world is extremely cautious."
A decade of fighting has left Mogadishu in ruins. Gangs steal power lines, telephone cables and streetlights. Like vultures picking at the bones of a dead animal, men have dug up the pipelines at the old oil refinery, carrying them away to sell. Electricity now comes from small generators; water comes from household tanks if you are rich or donkey-drawn carts if you are poor. People survive on money sent by relatives abroad.
The destruction is not only physical. The whole concept of a state has been distorted. At the airport, militiamen charge landing fees and sell exit visas. Anyone with $30 can buy an official Somali passport in the central Bakara market, though few countries will recognize it. A few stalls away, moneychanger Bashir Moalim Mohamed opens a huge safe packed with $10,000 worth of Somalia shillings. "I am the central bank," he says, pulling out stacks of new notes recently imported by local businessmen from a printing company in Canada. What about protection? Mohamed plucks a rusty M-16 assault rifle from the open safe. "This is my protection. Without this you're a dead man."
"We have to convince people that things have changed in Somalia, that we have come back from the brink of hell," says Foreign Minister Hurreh. "We can actually say we have seen hell itself." The lights in his hotel bedroom turned office flicker and fail. In the darkness he says, "We'll try."