There is sufficient reason to believe that things in Somalia are going south. Wayyyy south. Mere months after the inauguration of the Transitional Federal Government, lead by moderate Islamist President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the opposition party (and by 'opposition party' I mean noted terrorist group) al-Shabab is doing everything in its power to bring the country to the ground. And is doing a pretty good job, at that:
After a week of heavy mortar and rocket attacks that have left at least 135 people dead and sent tens of thousands fleeing, the insurgents have moved to within a half-mile of the hilltop presidential palace in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, which is being guarded by African Union peacekeepers with tanks and armored vehicles.
The Islamists, reportedly joined by hundreds of foreign fighters, didn't move on the palace Friday and almost certainly would lose a ground confrontation with the better-armed, 4,300-man peacekeeping force. Still, Aweys, a veteran hard-liner who US officials charge is linked to Al Qaeda, vowed to topple the government and institute "the Islamic state of Somalia."
This is among the worst violence Mogadishu has seen this year, and what's more, it appears that there is little that outside forces can do about it save but sit and watch. Any peacekeeping mission will likely end in disaster, tantamount to or perhaps even surpassing that caused by the African Union's mission to the country. And, as Elizabeth Dickinson aptly notes, throwing money at the problem won't fix it either; in fact, it may well exacerbate it.
With little prospect for intervention or monetary aid, the international community is seemingly at a loss. This is horrible news for both Somalia and Western interests alike (obviously more so for the former than the latter). I'd venture to guess that life under a militant Islamist regime is not all that rosy, nor is its existence particularly promising for the ongoing war on terror. Hopefully the current state of affairs will not end in such an arrangement, though the present outlook is quite grim. Quite grim, indeed.
Update: Oh! I forgot to mention another somewhat disparaging factor implicated in all of this: the UNDP seems to think that Somalia's plight makes for a brilliant comic strip. A comic strip!! The alleged intent is "educational," but it all sounds a bit demeaning to me....