Saving Somalia (Again)

How Reconstruction Stalled—And What to do About It

Over 3,000 council workers sit under banners of Somali flags in an old police hall to discuss security, resettlement of displaced persons, and social affairs with the city mayor Mohamed Omar Habeeb "Dheere" in Mogadishu, July 31, 2007. Edward Ou / Reuters

In early May 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a historic but little noticed visit to Somalia, a country no other U.S. secretary of state had ever visited. His trip symbolized both how far Somalia has come—from the blackest days of civil war, clan infighting, and famine in the 1990s; to the brutal rule of the jihadi group al Shabab in the late 2000s; to something getting closer to normal now—and how very far it still has to go.

The fact that a high U.S. official could enter the country at all speaks of real security improvements. During his visit, moreover, Kerry announced the reopening of a U.S. embassy in Somalia, which had been closed since 1991 when the government of long-term dictator Siad Barre collapsed. But the fact that Kerry’s visit was a brief few hours—during which he did not even

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