Another post?  So soon?  And Kenya isn’t even in the Horn!

The link below goes to a news item from the Daily Nation, a Kenya paper.  It touched a nerve that has been rubbed raw by the frequent use of  ’infection’ and similar words to describe the spread of financial breakdowns, but the spread of anarchy is not so different.

Anarchy in Somalia began when the government collapsed in 1991.  In the past decade it spread offshore, first to Somali coastal waters, then the Gulf of Aden, now to a vast (a million square miles?) stretch of the Indian Ocean.

Ethiopia’s Ogaden troubles are old but have been further inflamed by Somali anarchy.  Some aid groups fear that food and water are at dangerously low levels but verification (or refutation) needs access, which is hard to get and tightly monitored.

Northern Kenya has both its native ethnic Somali population and well over 100,000 refugee Somalis in camps.  There are many thousands more in Nairobi slums.  They are poorer than poor — an unstable population created in another country by anarchy in Somalia.

And now the Daily Nation tells us that Kenya has a serious problem with heroin addiction.  Is today’s Silk Road a heroin pipeline from Afghanistan through Pakistan then across the Gulf to Yemen and into the hands of the pirates. Have the pirates become a drug cartel servicing the east coast of Africa across the Gulf of Aden, which they control?  Will heroin addiction spread to Tanzania and Uganda, if it hasn’t already?

Will Ethiopia be far behind?  Actually, Ethiopia is already deeply involved in the drug trade as a khat/qat exporter to Somalia, Djibouti and the Arabian Peninsula that brings in a lot of hard currency. As coffee prices were falling ten years ago, trees were uprooted in Harar and replaced with khat bushes.  Farmers immediately realized, as opium, cocaine and other drug farmers already knew, that drugs are the most profitable crop.

Coffee prices have recovered but coffee trees are not replacing khat bushes.  On the contrary, khat growing has spread to other parts of Ethiopia, and khat use — once a regional habit — has gone national. It’s as common in Addis as marijuana in the US, but legal.  Almost every kiosk in town has bunches of fresh khat hanging over the window.

I guess this turned out to be about the Horn after all.

Below is an angry reaction to the coffee/khat transition by a disillusioned Irish coffee merchant who raised money for villagers in the area his beans come from.  The ‘infection’ metaphor seems on target. It also reminds us…and readers of Peace Corps WorldWide know this better than most…that the disconnect between promoting change and the reality of  change often seems impossible to overcome.

From today’s (May 11, 2010) Independent (Ireland):

“Why my compassion for Ethiopia turned to anger”