May 12, 2005

Ad Vitam Paramus

I MISSED THIS when it was originally published last year, but the BBC did a really interesting series on life in Somalia, the only country on Earth which does not have a functioning Government.

It's a very sad story; what little order that exists in country is thanks to warlords who have momentarily stopped oppressing the people. Still, gunmen routinely exact tribute from those who work for a living. Consider the wretched fate of Mr Mahamut Issa Abdi, who extracts steel rods from the crumbling U.S. embassy in Mogadishu:

I sell the rods to people who are building new houses. It's really hard work - and very hot - but it's the only way I can support my family at the moment. I have been doing this for about three years and have gone 3km around the wall.

I earn 1,000 Somali shillings (6.5 US cents) for each rod. I get about 20 rods a day but I have to give half of them to the gunman who controls the area I work.

Mr Abdi's fate has improved somewhat -- according to the latest figures from New York, the Somali shilling (SOS) trades at about 3,000 to the dollar. So he actually grosses about $6 per day -- but only nets $3, which still makes it about the worst wage one can draw in the world (he has a wife and three children). Mr Abdi understandably wants to improve his lot, and hopes a new Government could help.

I hope so too.

Go on over to the BBC and have a look.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 12, 2005 07:55 PM | TrackBack