Arab News Editorial
27 December 2006
After fifteen years of murderous chaos, Somalia was on the brink of
peace. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) had achieved what the
squabbling warlords had failed so signally to do. They had brought
stability and an end to violence in the capital Mogadishu and large
areas of the country. They had not managed this purely by force of arms.
There has been widespread support for their advance simply because of
the stability and end to insecurity that they promised. The warlords
had had their chance. Even when they finally agreed a government, they
were incapable of agreeing on its establishment in Somalia itself; so
Somalis were treated to the ridiculous spectacle of a government that
could only meet safely on Kenyan soil.
From its position of strength, the UIC might reasonably have expected
to come to a deal with the rump of the warlords whose toehold in
Somalia is around the eastern town of Baidoa. An accommodation might
have been reached which could have included the warlords in a new
coalition with the UIC pending proper elections. Tragically, as has
happened so often in Somalia's history, outside forces believed they
had a vested interest in the country. Ethiopia has long considered
Somalia within its sphere of influence, not least as part of its
ongoing conflict with Eritrea.
Thus Addis Ababa has thrown its military weight behind the rump of
warlord government in Baidoa. It is widely assumed that for their
part, the Eritreans have been assisting the UIC. Ethiopia did itself
little service by denying flatly that there were more than a few
"military advisers" assisting the warlord government. Within hours, a
BBC correspondent had reported seeing a vast convoy of Ethiopian
troops and materiel just outside Baidoa. With yesterday's attack on
Mogadishu airport by its jets, Addis Ababa has finally abandoned the
lie of noninvolvement.
There is now fierce fighting in the east of the country with Ethiopian
troops directly engaged with UIC forces. Inevitably, the greatest
impact of these clashes has been on luckless civilians who are fleeing
the fighting. Somalis, stricken first by drought and more recently by
floods, are in little position to sustain themselves. Already the
International Red Cross is predicting a major refugees exodus and
another potential humanitarian disaster.
Washington is backing the warlords and their Ethiopian protectors
because they are certain that the UIC is another Taleban that will
harbor and foster Al-Qaeda terrorists. There is once again no attempt
to analyze the real nature of the UIC or their outstanding success in
a country for so long driven by internal conflict.
The Bush White House is yet again driven by a simplistic and racist
rationale to confront a Muslim party. The bigotry is reinforced by the
fact that the Ethiopians are Christian. Such dunderheaded
foreign-policy assessments by Washington have already cost tens of
thousands of lives. Thanks to this learn-nothing US administration,
the price in blood seems set to rise yet further.
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