A few years ago, an Iraqi suicide bomber detonated a bomb in Iraq killing dozens. A British journalist covering the story called Iraq ‘The world’s first suicide state’. His argument was that Iraq was tearing itself apart, piece by piece as if there was a collective internal desire for the Country to cease existence.
Suicide bombers were only one manifestation of this- the constant violence, ethnic cleansing and rampant corruption were all symptoms of a nation on life support.
I found myself recalling that article when I heard that Somali militants had threatened to attack Uganda and Burundi.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni responded forcefully that his Nation could prevent the attacks and knew who the potential troublemakers were.
Putting aside the unlikely possibility of Ugandan intelligence having extensive dossiers on shadowy Somali terrorists, Museveni acted as if those militants would respond to intimidation or threats of force. The militants are as impervious to that as they are to incentives.
Somalia in many respects matches the criteria for a suicide state-indeed, even more so than Iraq which at least has some semblance of law and order due to the presence of foreign troops.
The militant threat to export their violence to their neighbours is an inevitable culmination of Somalia’s long waltz with anarchy. Somalia is a Nation that has been engaged in self-immolation for a long time now.
Somalia has set out to destroy itself from within with a grim relentlessness that seems completely irrational. There is no law and order, no functioning Government, no working infrastructure to speak of and constant violence initiated by a bewildering number of groups.
As with Iraq, even religion has been used as a means to fuel the violence, but it is merely one of a wide array of such factors including poverty, power, regional entanglements, corruption and clan politics.
In Somalia, as in Iraq, such factors have come together in a lethal mix and produced a state of self-destruction. It had reached a point where there are enough people invested in the status quo to make constant violence a rational proposition.
Of course there are plenty of Somalis who would like nothing more than peace-indeed the majority do. However, anarchy never accommodates the will of the people.
And once the violence has been going on for long enough-as it has done in Somalia- trying to trace the source of everything or even impose solutions becomes a fuzzy affair.
Chaos inevitably imposes its own logic, even though that logic makes no sense.
What truly distinguishes Somalia as a suicide state is something else it shares with Iraq- a complete disregard for human life. Any functioning Country works because at a basic level, human life has a high ‘currency’.
A respect for human life has to underpin civilization; with any violence and murder being a departure from the norm. In suicide states like Somalia and Iraq, it is the other way round- deadly violence is the norm and the conception of human life as having value is absent.
Sadly, once life is cheap, the cost of producing law and order becomes unbearably high.
The author is a lawyer and social commentator