How Somalia Crumbled

Clan warfare and a glut of weapons have plunged the country into anarchy

SOMALIA, A SICKLE-shaped expanse on the Horn of Africa, stretches across an unforgiving desert, arid and commanding. For centuries nomads have crossed and recrossed the territory in search of food and water. Akin in language and religion, this homogeneous people should have been destined to live in unity, without the tribal strife that tears apart other African countries. But limited natural resources and internal disputes have historically kept stability at a distance, and the clans of Somalia have regularly battled one another into a state of anarchy.

The hatred seems ironic in a people steeped in the unifying belief that they...

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