Situation in Somalia Seems About to Get Worse -- December 7, 2008, By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Ronald Bleier writes:
You won't have to read too deeply between the lines to see Cheney's hand in the current and future chaos that is the fate of the suffering 9 million people of Somalia. Here's a quote which bespeaks the success of the Cheney agenda:
“Somalia has now reached a very dangerous phase,” [Rasid Ali, a Somalia analyst the International Crisis Group] said. “The whole region is in for more chaos, I’m afraid.”
When the Islamists ruled Somalia for about 6 months in 2006 there was relative peace.
But today’s Islamists are a harder, more brutal group than the ones who were ousted by an Ethiopian invasion, backed by the United States, in late 2006. The old guard included many moderates, but those who tried to work with the transitional government mostly failed, leaving them weak and marginalized, and removing a mitigating influence on the die-hard insurgents."
Gettleman emphasizes that the current situation is the responsibility of the U.S.
A collapse of the government and the human disaster that would almost surely follow would be strike three for American efforts in Somalia.... In 2005 and 2006, the C.I.A. paid some of Somalia’s most reviled warlords to fight the Islamists. That backfired. In the winter of 2006, the United States took a third approach, encouraging Ethiopia to invade and backing them with American airstrikes and intelligence. “The Bush administration made a major miscalculation,” said Dan Connell, who teaches African politics at Simmons College in Boston.
Yes, miscalculation is the word that is allowed. As the article points out the current situation is leading to rise of the most vicious and fundamentalist forces in the country to come to the top. Earlier in the article Gettlemen mentions a 13 year girl who was stoned to death by these characters. Does the rise of such ruthless fundamentalism remind us of Afghanistan? Where else? The US in the last 8 years? Is it miscalculation or calculation?
December 7, 2008
Situation in Somalia Seems About to Get Worse
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
NAIROBI, Kenya — Somalia’s transitional government looks as if it is about to flatline. The Ethiopians who have been keeping it alive for two years say they are leaving the country, essentially pulling the plug.
For the past 17 years, Somalia has been ripped apart by anarchy, violence, famine and greed. It seems as though things there can never get worse. But then they do.
The pirates off Somalia’s coast are getting bolder, wilier and somehow richer, despite an armada of Western naval ships hot on their trail. Shipments of emergency food aid are barely keeping much of Somalia’s population of nine million from starving. The most fanatical wing of Somalia’s Islamist insurgency is gobbling up territory and imposing its own harsh brand of Islamic law, like whipping dancers and stoning a 13-year-old girl to death.
And now, with the government on the brink and the Islamists seeming ready to seize control for the second time, the operative question inside and outside Somalia seems to be: Now what?
“It will be bloody,” predicted Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group, a research institute that tracks conflicts worldwide. “The Ethiopians have decided to let the transitional government sink. The chaos will spread from the south to the north. Warlordism will be back.”
Mr. Rashid sees Somalia deteriorating into an Afghanistan-like cauldron of militant Islamism, drawing in hard-core fighters from the Comoros, Zanzibar, Kenya and other neighboring Islamic areas, a process that seems to have already started. Those men will eventually go home, spreading the killer ethos.
“Somalia has now reached a very dangerous phase,” he said. “The whole region is in for more chaos, I’m afraid.”
Most informed predictions go something like this: if the several thousand Ethiopian troops withdraw by January, as they recently said they would, the 3,000 or so African Union peacekeepers in Somalia could soon follow, leaving Somalia wide open to the Islamist insurgents who have been massing on the outskirts of Mogadishu, the capital.
The transitional government, which in reality controls only a few city blocks of the entire country, will collapse, just as the 13 previous transitional governments did. The only reason it has not happened yet is the Ethiopians.
The government has been a mess for the past few weeks — many would argue for the past few years — with the president and the prime minister bitterly and publicly blaming each other for the country’s crisis. More than 100 of the 275 members of Parliament are in Kenya, refusing to go home, saying they will be killed.
Western diplomats, United Nations officials and the Ethiopians seem to be turning against the transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a cantankerous former warlord in his 70s who has thwarted just about every peace proposal.
“Yusuf has gone from being seen as the solution to being seen as the problem,” said a senior Western diplomat in Kenya, speaking on condition of anonymity in accord with diplomatic protocol.
But Mr. Yusuf’s clan still backs him, and Western diplomats said he might soon flee to his clan stronghold in northeast Somalia.
Most analysts predict that the war-weary people of Mogadishu would initially welcome the Islamists, out of either relief or fear. In 2006, Islamist troops teamed up with clan elders and businessmen to drive out the warlords who had been preying upon Somalia’s people since the central government first collapsed in 1991. The six months the Islamists ruled Mogadishu turned out to be one of the most peaceful periods in modern Somali history.
But today’s Islamists are a harder, more brutal group than the ones who were ousted by an Ethiopian invasion, backed by the United States, in late 2006. The old guard included many moderates, but those who tried to work with the transitional government mostly failed, leaving them weak and marginalized, and removing a mitigating influence on the die-hard insurgents.
On top of that, the unpopular and bloody Ethiopian military operations over the past two years have radicalized many Somalis and sent hundreds of unemployed young men — most of whom have never gone to school, never been part of a functioning society and never had much of a chance to do anything but shoulder a gun — into the arms of militant Islamic groups.
The most militant group is the Shabab, a multiclan insurgent force that the United States classifies as a terrorist organization. Just a few weeks ago, the Shabab kidnapped a man it accused of being a spy and slowly sawed off his head with a dull knife, videotaping the whole episode.
Somalia is nearly 100 percent Muslim, but most Somalis are moderate Muslims. Many analysts expect that the militant Islamic wave will soon crest because Somalis will inevitably chafe under strict Islamist law, especially when the Islamists try to take away their beloved khat, the ubiquitous, mildly stimulating leaf that Somalis chew like bubble gum.
Then, many analysts say, the Islamist groups could slug it out among themselves, with Ethiopia and other neighboring countries backing rival factions, and with clan warlords jumping in. Osman Mohamed Abdi, vice chairman of the Somali Youth Development Network, a nonprofit group in Mogadishu, called this possibility the “worst man-made catastrophe.”
Two possibilities could avert this bloodbath, but both are long shots.
Ethiopia could delay its pullout until a larger peacekeeping force arrived. But with both Darfur and now Congo needing peacekeepers, there are few volunteers for lawless Somalia.
Or the transitional government could share power with the Islamists. There is a piece of paper called the Djibouti Agreement, recently signed in neighboring Djibouti, that paves the way for moderate Islamists to join the transitional government.
But the problem with the Djibouti Agreement, Mr. Rashid of the International Crisis Group said, is that “the interlocutors have no power on the ground.”
A collapse of the government and the human disaster that would almost surely follow would be strike three for American efforts in Somalia.
The United States failed disastrously in its peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s. (Remember “Black Hawk Down”?) In 2005 and 2006, the C.I.A. paid some of Somalia’s most reviled warlords to fight the Islamists. That backfired. In the winter of 2006, the United States took a third approach, encouraging Ethiopia to invade and backing them with American airstrikes and intelligence.
“The Bush administration made a major miscalculation,” said Dan Connell, who teaches African politics at Simmons College in Boston.
He compared the situation to America’s involvement in Lebanon in the 1980s, “when a regional ally, Israel, pulled us into a failed state in a quixotic effort to transform a hostile neighbor into a pliant ally.”
That only radicalized the population, he said, adding that in Somalia, “Again, we will be in its sights.”
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company