July 27, 2006
Mail & Guardian, the South African newspaper, had an interesting article today on Eritrea’s and Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia. Eyewitnesses reported that a cargo plane landed in Mogadishu carrying arms. All the players are refusing to comment on what was aboard the plane that was chartered from Kazakhstan.There already are allegations that Ethiopia and Eritrea are using Somalia to fight a proxy war and expand their influence in the Horn of Africa.
The Mail & Guardian article reports that Eritrea on Thursday called for the speedy withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia, where they have been deployed to protect the country’s fledgling government. Eritrea warned that Ethiopia’s continued stay risked provoking a regional conflict.
I’ve posted other items on Somalia, including last month a response from the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia addressing fears of extremism in the country. The UIC have stated that they do not want to impose a Taliban-style state, but rather want Somali citizen to decide on the type of representation they want.
Hopefully, without contradicting anything I’ve written in the past, I will attempt to give a play-by-play account of the different players in Somalia:
The Warlords:After 15 years of an absent government in Somalia when Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, the warlords divided the capital Mogadishu and the southern part of the country into fiefdoms. They then united to form the Anti-Terrorism Alliance to tackle the Islamists, who they accused of sheltering foreign al-Qaeda militants.
The Union of Islamic Courts:The Islamists have denied the allegations of the warlords and the US. They claim they are not a political movement, but are in Mogadishu as a grassroots movement to establish law and order in a city without any judicial system. Because they have attempted to restore order in the capital and its surrounding areas, after so many years of looting, plundering, Killing and kidnapping by the warlords, they’ve received popular support from the Somali people.
The US:Bush’s administration was accused by the new Somali government and the Islamists of backing the warlords recently defeated by the Islamists. The US has denied these reports. But according to eyewitnesses, the US did secretly back an alliance of warlords earlier this year when they tried to defeat the Islamic militia and capture three suspected al-Qaida members who were allegedly hiding out within the group. The warlords were defeated, and the United States now supports the government. Bush has said he will make sure Somalia does not become a safe haven for al-Qaeda. He probably doesn’t want it to become an Islamic state either.
July 24, 2006
The BBC reported today that thousands of Somalis staged a rally in Mogadishu calling on Ethiopian troops to leave their country. Since June, Mogadishu has been run by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The UIC has vowed to expel Ethiopian troops who are deployed to assist the weak transitional Somali government.
Islamic leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed addressed the rally that forces loyal to the Islamic courts were ready and would be allowed to fight Ethiopians when appropriate. In May, it was reported that the US government was sending funds to Ethiopia under the guise of their supporting the ‘war on terror’ but Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was funding paramilitary troops to undermine the creation of an Islamist government
“We are talking to the international community to avoid serious bloodshed and we are urging the Ethiopians to withdraw from Somalia. Patience has its own limitations,” Agence France Presse quoted him saying.
Talks held in Sudan between the UIC and the transitional government – which correspondents say has little authority outside Baidoa – have been suspended. Ethiopian troops have amassed at Somalia’s central town, Wajid and in the government’s Baidoa base. Ethiopia and the transitional government have refused to confirm Ethiopian troops are on Somali soil. Ethiopia, a long-term ally of President Abdullahi Yusuf, has warned the Islamic courts not to make any further military advance on Baidoa.
June 8, 2006
This column was posted today on Middle East Online. It’s an interesting read in response to recent reports about the struggle for power between the new Somali government, Islamic high court who want to oust the government in Baidoa and warlords who controlled large parts of the countryside for the 15 years that the government was in Tanzania. The US Dept. of State also has denied allegations by the Somali government (despite rumors of troops from Ethiopia–a US ally–surrounding the Somali border and providing assistance to the warlord alliance) that it’s trying to undermine the new government to prevent Somalia from becoming an Islamic state or imposing Sharia law. Happy Reading!
Somali Islamists denies any links to terrorism
NAIROBI – In their first diplomatic overture since seizing control of most of the lawless Somali capital Mogadishu this week, Islamic court leaders have denied any links to terrorism or radical anti-western Islam.
The chairman of Mogadishu’s 11 Islamic courts said in an open letter to diplomats that the movement is religious and not political in nature and that its armed wing was formed solely to combat rampant insecurity in the city.
“We share no objectives, goals or methods with groups that sponsor or support terrorism,” Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said in the letter, which was delivered to the diplomatic corps in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday.
June 7, 2006
This is a great op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post. I’m including it in its entirety below, in case you can’t access it on the WP site. Washington Post’s op-ed contributors have more variety in their viewpoints and tie ideas into the grand scheme of things much better than at the NYT. But that’s a discussion for another time.
The op-ed contributor, John Prendergast worked for the National Security Council during the Clinton years (1996-2001). He is now Senior Adviser for the International Crises Group and writes on conflict resolution in Africa and re-directing US foreign policy in the continent.
ICG, by the way, is a great resource for research papers on conflicts and peacemaking in the world and advocacy work on influening public policy.
U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Empowering Islamist Militias
It was before “Black Hawk Down,” before Somalia became the only country in the world without a government, that I took my first trip there. It changed my life. This was in the mid-1980s, when the United States was underwriting a warlord dictator in support of our Cold War interests, at the clear expense of basic human rights. As a young, wide-eyed activist-in-training, I couldn’t accept the idea that my government would use defenseless Somali civilians as pawns on its strategic chessboard — in a strategy that ultimately produced only state collapse, civil war and famine.
Twenty years later the enemy has changed, but the plot is hauntingly similar. In recent trips to the capital, Mogadishu, I have seen evidence of U.S. support to warlord militia leaders in the name of counterterrorism operations. Since the beginning of the year, pitched battles between U.S.-backed warlords and Islamist militias in Mogadishu have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of families.
Now “our” warlords — and by extension our counterterrorism strategy — have been dealt a crushing defeat by the Islamists, as the latter have consolidated control of Mogadishu. Our short-term interest in locating al-Qaeda suspects has thus been undermined, and the risk of a new safe haven being created for international terrorists has been greatly increased.
May 5, 2006
In my last post I mentioned that the new Somali president has accused the U.S. of undermining his administration by supporting an “Anti-Terror Alliance” made of warlords to help root out al-Qaeda networks in the country. Since this piece of news coincided with Somalia making the cut on the Foreign Policy Index of Failed States I want to go into this a little more.
Ethan Zuckerman hits it on the head on his post Wednesday in My Heart’s in Accra when he said that failed states have a “ripple effect” on their neighbors….like concentric circles in a pond. This is magnified by the fact that 11 of the 20 failed states are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Failed states have the potential to export violence beyond their borders – think Sudan and Chad, or eastern DRC and Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. A quick glance at the map provided by FP gives a sense for how state failure has a “neighborhood” effect – we’re hard pressed to find an island of stability in Central Africa, and Ghana, Mali and Senegal begin to look like bulwarks against West African instability.”
May 4, 2006
There’s an interesting article on Reuters‘ website today. Somalia’s President Abdullahi Yusuf spoke against U.S. support for warlords fighting hardline Islamic militia in Mogadishu as part of Washington’s declared war on terrorism. Yusuf told a Swedish newspaper during a visit to Prime Minister Goran Persson:
“The United States thinks that these warlords can seize al Qaeda members in Somalia, but the Americans should work with us instead….”We really oppose American aid which goes outside the government.”
The Reuters article went on to say U.S. officials have declined comment on persistent reports from foreign and local sources in Somalia that Washington has funneled large sums of money to the alliance since the start of the year. Somali officials had until now also been cautious about responding to the reports of U.S. cash going to Mogadishu.
That’s interesting….Somali officials have been commenting on U.S. money going to warlords for the past few months. Check out some earlier news stories on Somalia Globe and what bloggers on Somalia are saying.
Harun Hassan posted “Somalia Twists in the Wind” on the blog Harowo a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great post on what’s been happening in Somalia after the collapse of Mohammed Siad-Barre’s regime and the U.S. intervention in 1992. The country has been left to its own devices under the label of a ‘failed state’ according to the Foreign Policy yearly index. Hassan wrote:
” …in the vacuum of political and legal authority in recent years and the frustration of the vast majority of the Somalis with the warlords, the Islamic courts found their own opportunity. The courts offered to restore peace and tranquillity to a people longing for an alternative route, through the complete implementation of sharia law…the warlords have opposed any such proposal for over a decade, but the revival of the courts has given it a new momentum.”