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Ethiopia Pulls out of Somalia Quagmire

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo [It s been fascinating (as Spock would say) to follow this as it plays out, one of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 12, 2008
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      [It's been fascinating (as Spock would say) to follow this as it plays
      out, one of the most underreported stories of our times.--DC]

      Troop pull-out leaves government on brink

      SOMALIA'S fragile government appears to be on the brink of collapse.
      Islamist insurgents now control large parts of southern and central
      Somalia -- and are continuing to launch attacks inside the capital,

      Ethiopia, which launched a US-backed military intervention in Somalia in
      December 2006 in an effort to drive out an Islamist authority in
      Mogadishu, is now pulling out its troops.

      Diplomats and analysts in neighbouring Nairobi believe the government
      will fall once Ethiopia completes its withdrawal, and secret plans have
      been made to evacuate government ministers to neighbouring Kenya.

      That may happen sooner rather than later. A shipment of Ethiopian
      weapons, including tanks, left Mogadishu port last month as part of the
      withdrawal. Bringing the equipment back to Ethiopia by land would have
      been impossible -- analysts believe Ethiopian troops and their Somali
      government allies control just three small areas in Mogadishu and a few
      streets in Baidoa, the seat of parliament. There are now estimated to be
      just 2500 Ethiopian soldiers left inside Somalia, down from
      15,000-18,000 at the height of the war.

      Somalia's overlapping conflicts go back, at the very least, to 1991, the
      year the country's last recognised government was overthrown. Men and
      women who were children then have since given birth to a second
      generation of Somalis who have known only war.

      But analysts believe Somalia is now in the midst of its worst ever
      crisis. The ongoing conflict, which has claimed the lives of at least
      9000 civilians and forced more than 1.1 million to flee their homes, has
      combined with devastating droughts and rocketing food prices to create
      one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes.

      Almost half the population -- 3.2m people -- are in need of emergency
      aid (the figure has almost doubled in the last 12 months). One in six
      children is thought to be malnourished.

      "This crisis is broadening as well as deepening," said Mark Bowden, the
      head of the UN's humanitarian effort. "It is now the world's most
      complicated crisis."

      Violence and insecurity have made it almost impossible for aid to get
      through, and 24 aid workers have been killed in Somalia so far this
      year. A recent shipment of food aid needed a military escort to navigate
      Somalia's pirate-infested waters. But within hours of the food being
      unloaded in Mogadishu's port most of it was stolen by gun-toting gangs.

      Oxfam, Save The Children and 50 other aid agencies working in Somalia
      last week said the international community had "completely failed Somali

      As the crisis worsens thousands are trying to leave the country every
      week. Around 6000 people are now crossing the border into Kenya every
      month -- despite the Kenyan government's decision to close the border.
      Some are arriving at the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camp in eastern
      Kenya, which is now one of the largest refugee camps in the world with
      nearly 250,000 people.

      Others try to leave by sea, travelling to the northern town of Bosasso
      and paying $100 to people smugglers who ram more than 100 people onto a
      small fishing boat and set sail for Yemen.

      Many do not make it. Smugglers last week forced 150 people off the boat
      three miles off the Yemeni coast. Only 47 made it to shore.

      Attempts to find a political solution have stalled. The UN claims
      progress has been made, citing an agreement signed in neighbouring
      Djibouti by the Somali government and the opposition Alliance for the
      Reliberation of Somalia (ARS).

      But the deal has been signed only by the moderates on each side: Prime
      Minister Nur Adde and the ARS's Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

      President Abdullahi Yusuf, a former warlord who controls the
      government's security forces, has refused to get involved. Sheikh Hassan
      Dahir Aweys, the hardline Islamic leader of another faction of the ARS,
      has denounced the deal, as have the leaders of the insurgents, a group
      called Al Shabaab.

      Since the deal was struck in June, the level of violence has increased.

      Few Somalis will weep if the government falls. In most respects it is a
      government in name only. Few ministries have offices, let alone civil
      servants to fill them. There are no real policies -- and no real way to
      implement any.

      Worst of all, this government, which is backed by the United Nations and
      funded by Western donors including Britain and the EU, has been accused
      of committing a litany of war crimes. Its police force, many of whom
      were trained under a UN programme part-funded by Britain, has carried
      out extrajudicial killings, raped women and fired indiscriminately on
      crowds at markets. Militias aligned to the government have killed
      journalists and attacked aid workers.

      The government's fall would mark the end of a disastrous US-backed
      intervention. For six months in 2006, Somalia was relatively calm. A
      semblance of peace and security had returned to Mogadishu. The reason
      was the rise of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a loose coalition of
      Islamist leaders who had driven out Mogadishu's warlords.

      Hardline elements within the UIC vowed to launch a jihad against
      Somalia's traditional enemy, Ethiopia. The US viewed the UIC has an
      "al-Qaeda cell" -- a belief not shared by the majority of analysts and

      Ethiopia, with the support of the US, sent thousands of troops across
      the border to drive out the UIC. It took just a few days to defeat them.
      Their leaders fled towards the border with Kenya, while many of the
      fighters took off their uniforms and melted into Mogadishu.

      Within weeks, an Iraq-style insurgency had begun, targeting Somali
      government and Ethiopian troops. Al Shabaab began laying roadside bombs
      and firing at Ethiopian troops from inside civilian areas.

      The Ethiopians responded by bombarding residential areas. Hundreds were
      killed and hundreds of thousands fled Mogadishu. Human rights groups
      accused Ethiopia of committing war crimes.

      The US must now be wondering whether it was all worth it. Western
      backing for the unpopular Somali government and US support for the
      Ethiopian intervention has created a groundswell of anti-West sentiment
      in Somalia.

      The Islamist leaders they were so keen to oust are the same ones they
      are now engaged in negotiations with. US officials have met both Sheikh
      Sharif and the more hardline Sheikh Aweys in an effort to find a peace deal.

      Meanwhile, in Somalia, the Islamists taking control of towns and
      villages across the country are considered far more extremist than
      Aweys. "They are real international jihadis," said one Nairobi-based
      diplomat. "The Americans' fear of al-Qaeda in Somalia is becoming a
      self-fulfilling prophecy."

      9:24pm Saturday 11th October 2008

      Dan Clore

      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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