Thursday, December 28, 2006

Islamists in retreat in Somalia

The internationally recognized transitional government of Somalia, with the backing of Ethiopian troops, has taken control of Mogadishu and put the Union of Islamic Courts into full flight.

When the UIC first rose to power, I counseled patience. Somalis had endured 15 years of violent anarchy between clans and rival warlords; if the UIC could bring peace, they deserved a chance to try. Various sources tried to paint them as an African division of Al-Qaeda, but that was never particularly convincing; what mattered is how they governed the place. And they were almost certainly better than the warlords they replaced.

But they instituted a particularly harsh brand of sharia, with one cleric famously threatening to shoot anyone who didn't pray five times a day. Then they began to attack the transitional government, closing schools to send students to the front. They had not brought peace; they had brought continued war, fought with child soldiers.

But they miscalculated. Not only did they overreach and provoke an Ethiopian counterattack; the heavy casualties suffered in that fighting has caused the UIC to splinter, as clans withdrew their forces in an effort to preserve them.

The question now is whether the transitional government can establish firm control over the country. Already looting and factional fighting has engulfed Mogadishu, and no one is quite sure what hard-core UIC fighters will do: fade into the civilian population? Unleash a guerrilla war?

The Somali government has an opportunity to put an end both to the UIC and the warlords, if they act quickly and firmly and retain the support of the Ethiopian military. If they don't, then Somalia could fade again into anarchy -- and the Somali people's suffering will continue.

, , ,

Labels: , , ,


Blogger jmnlman said...

If what the BBC is reporting is accurate it looks like the Ethiopian military won't be sticking around for long. Sounds like the cycle will just begin again.

BTW Nice blog!

12/28/2006 5:03 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Bummer. Let's hope it's not accurate. I understand why Ethiopia doesn't want its troops tied down forever in Somalia, but anarchy benefits nobody.

12/29/2006 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if the Ethiopian army stays, I for one cannot be any less cynical.There can be no hope for the transitional government
It is a great game that the regional and global powers are playing in somalia. for ethiopia it is to assert its regional power, and exhibit muscle to Eritrea.
the UIC are funded by arab countries.
egypt, whose nile river rises in ethiopia, wants to have a say and keep it in check. saudis, as always with a lot of loose money, can fund any thing they want.
the US.........well we know what we want.
So somalia , has no future, it had none since the nineties. the part that has a future is somaliland that declared its independence.
so the game goes on........

12/29/2006 3:17 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

So far Ethiopia has indicated it will remain to support the transitional government. I can't imagine it really wants to stay any longer than it has to, because the last thing it wants is to spark a nationalist insurgency that ties down its troops while creating a cohesive, anti-Ethiopian national Somali consensus.

But we shall see.

12/30/2006 11:02 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home