Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Somalia on the brink of war

Note: on June 24, the Islamic Courts Union changed its name to the Supreme Islamic Courts Council.

The SICC has surrounded the base of the TNG in Baidoa with "hundreds of fighters" today. This article doesn't state any motive for why the SICC would want to take this action now, but at least one official of the SICC is claiming that they are about to invade it and take over, thus removing the last obstacle in their claim of near-total hegemony over the country.

"Nothing will stop us from going into Baidoa," said Sheik Muqtar Robow, deputy defense chief for the Islamic group.

Although no motive is given for this action in the article, it could be that this represents the complete domination of the SICC by the hardline Islamists, who feel sufficiently secure in their power to begin to take action on unifying the country for good. It is scarcely a smart move, however, when the TNG has Ethiopia backing it up. If the SICC does indeed eliminate the TNG, Ethiopia will waste no time invading the country.

"We have the responsibility to defend the border and the Somali government. We will crush them," Ethiopia's Minister of Information, Berhan Hailu, told The Associated Press.

Have no doubt that they will. It may be a messy war, but Ethiopia has a standing army of around 100,000 men, and in the Ogaden war mobilized over 250,000. Plus they have the benefit of having real military equipment, not 30 year-old rifles and made up "technicals". The militias of the SICC are in no sense professional soldiers, even though many of them have probably seen plenty of fighting. In truth Somalia, even if it were unified, has about 1/10th the available manpower. In a straight out war, they would lose. The question, of course, is whether Eritrea might choose to get involved. Ethiopia seems to be spoiling for a fight by deploying hundreds of men to the border, seemingly getting ready for an all-out invasion.

I'm not entirely sure why Ethiopia is so convinced that an SICC government necessitates military action. Perhaps they're afraid of Ethiopian Muslim separatists using Somalia as a base of operations (their Cambodia, as it were). Or perhaps they're desirous of a fight because they know that they'll whip the SICC and take some land as the penalty for losing. Let's not forget that the secession of Eritrea made Ethiopia a land-locked entity, and that Somalia just happens to have a coastline. But don't take my word for it, that's just wild speculation.

On another point, this article is as vague as any of the others I've read. Again it comes to us from Associated Press and again never uses the official name SICC, instead referring to the "Islamic militia". I don't like that because it gives the incorrect idea of what the SICC is. Again, it's not a militia like any of the former warlords' were, it's actually a civil government with a military arm. Of course the civil part isn't democratic and the military part isn't professional, but that's not a whole lot different from what the Continental Congress and Army were back in the days of the revolution (and before you point out the obvious differences, yes, I know, but a government consisting of white male landowners over the age of 21 isn't really democratic by our standards either).

Also, the unsubstantiated links to Al Qaeda are brought up again, without any challenge to their veracity. I'm not sure why they feel the need to keep bringing it up, along with Bin Laden's claim that Somalia is a front in his wider war. It's not like we've seen any Arabs coming to help them, so while it's possible Arab extremists are involved, we have yet to even catch wind of any evidence that supports that claim. These newspapers really need to send some journalists over there to do some real reporting.


Xanthippas said...

It sounds to me like some saber rattling, but to what purpose I could not speculate. I seriously wish we had someone credible covering things over there,but seeing how things are going just a little north of Somalia I suppose we should be happy to get any coverage at all.

Nat-Wu said...

I guess people just don't think that violence in Africa is that big a deal, given the way it's been this past century.