Media Talk: Understanding Somalia

Talk Tuesday 2nd September, 2008


Somalia is a country beset by violence, instability and famine. Ranked 161 out of 163 countries on the Human Development Index and without an effective government since 1991, clan politics dominate this so-called “failed state”. The humanitarian crisis has reached record levels in recent months, exacerbated by the global food crisis and the constant danger that aid agencies face in distributing food. 

With wars and insurgencies raging internally and externally, at least fifteen national reconciliation conferences have been convened since 1991. Yet the current Transition Federal Government (TFG) is struggling to bring the peace and stability that Somalia so badly needs and only has effective control over parts of the country.

What is the future of this war-ravaged and poverty-stricken country and what are its chances for an effective government? And what can be done to ensure that a humanitarian crisis on a massive scale is avoided and that Somalia remains open to aid workers and international assistance?

Awale Kullane is a political activist, leader of the New Somali Youth League and a regular contributor to the BBC’s Africa on your Street website. He grew up in Mogadishu near the heavily guarded headquarters of the former president Siyad Barre and fled to London – where he has been for the last two decades – when the civil war broke out. He now has his own blog.

Tom Quinn is the Head of Mission for Somalia for Medecins Sans Frontieres, a position he has held since March 2007. He is a nurse and has worked for MSF since 2001. He has previously worked in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan.

Khadija Ali is a member of civil society and a peace activist based in Mogadishu.

Juliana Ruhfus is a reporter for Al Jazeera and a former expert to the United Nations Security Council Monitoring Group on Somalia.

Martin Plaut is currently Africa News Editor at the BBC World Service. He regularly reports from across the continent but he specialises in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa. His publications include War in the Horn and Ethiopia and Eritrea: Allergic to Persuasion