Somalia: The Indelibles

If one-party democracy is often hard to tell from no-party dictatorship in Africa, Somalia is an exuberant exception. Election day brought 1,000,000 Somalis to the polls to choose among 21 political parties, including one fringe group running on the single fervent conviction that the country should import only Fiats, to ease the shortage of auto parts. If the proliferation of parties resembled the nightmare of French politics before De Gaulle, the Somalis' fist-swinging, rock-throwing, vote-early-and-often electioneering style seemed more like vintage Chicago. With African differences.

One difference is the absence of...

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