Sunday, February 04, 2007

Somalia still chaotic

With the triumph (premature or not) of the Ethiopian forces over the SICC in Mogadishu, most of the mainstream press seems once again to have forgotten Somalia. It's not done yet, though.

More violence exploded in Somalia’s capital today, and this time it was right at the doorstep of the newly-installed government.

According to witnesses, guards shot and killed at least eight men of a rival militia at the gates of the presidential palace as top leaders were inside discussing a disarmament plan.

The bloodshed seemed yet more evidence of a breakdown of law and order in Mogadishu, Somalia’s bullet-pocked capital, and left the emerging disarmament plan in limbo.

This is not an isolated incident. Evidence of inter-clan warfare is already apparent. The problem with Somalia was always its clannishness, and that problem didn't change under the SICC. The difference with the SICC was that the clans trusted it because it was based on the principles of Islam, something most Somalis feel they can trust (since they're all Muslim). While many ignorant people predicted that the TFG would move in and take the SICC's place, what has happened is that they rule only by dint of Ethiopia's strength and the clans are already plotting to shove their way to power as soon as the Ethiopians withdraw. From the NYT:

Fifteen men and one woman sat on the floor of a sunlit room. It was hot. Many people were sweating. The elders of the Ayr clan had called a political meeting, and very quickly it was clear that their attitudes toward the nation’s newly empowered transitional government were unanimous — and bitter.

“The government is weak,” said Mohammed Abdi, an Ayr elder. “We can’t support it.”

Somalia, which has been an archetype of Africa’s ills for so long, has waited 16 years for this government. The United Nations has invested millions of dollars into propping it up. American officials are so intent on it succeeding that, in the interests of regional stability and counterterrorism, American forces have ventured onto Somali soil for the first time in more than a decade to hunt down the last of the Islamist leaders who held a firm grip on much of the country until just a few weeks ago.

But whether Somalia pulls itself together now or explodes into bloodshed again depends not on American troops, foreign peacekeepers, investment or aid. It depends on clans. “Clannism,” said Ali Mahdi Mohammed, an influential clan leader and once a contender for president, “is our national cancer.”

That about sums it up.


Xanthippas said...

The hawks on the right are too busy crowing about a "victory" over Islamists to realize that the country remains the bitter ruin it was before the Islamists took control, and that this phase is relative quiet is only temporary. The Islamists had broad support, and are quite likely to make a come-back, though with a less pleasant opinion of the United States than they had before.

Vince Leibowitz said...

I re-sent the email I mentioned earlier to the address you responded to me with. If you don't get it or don't have it yet, let me know.