I met the world-weary expatriate American at a garden party in Egypt in ’89, several months after he had left the Somali oilfields. He remembered that outside his barracks near Mogadishu there had been warehouses full of rice donated by foreign charities to combat the perpetual famine. The impoverished, inept government had no trucks to distribute the rice and fighting among factions within the government insured none could be arranged while their arcane laws kept them from simply opening the doors. So the rice sat as starving women tried to glean the few grains they could from what had fallen off trucks hauling it in or from what had leaked out through cracks in the walls. One night he awoke to commotion and found that the warehouses were in flames. “The rice had sat so long that it had rotted, so the government burned it―warehouses and all,” he said with a look that spoke volumes about his exasperation with the world.
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