Jul 26, 2006

Somalia: Finally Peace?

Somalia once again comes to the forefront of world news, for more war. Since the fall of Siyad Barre sixteen years ago, there has been more than a dozen peace conferences and many pseudo-governments as a result – all failed. The last of these – so called - peace conferences took place in Kenya and lasted for almost three years. The result was a Transitional Government(TN) mainly made up of warlords and tribal chiefs - or both in some cases – and some civil society representatives. A new constitution and a parliament were also formed – each tribe was designated X amount of seats (also the government). The capital city Mogadishu was still controlled by warlords – who also had ministerial positions, they were expected to welcome the government and hand over there weapons. But not so fast, disputes between the government, parliament and the warlords started before they even left Kenya (where the conference was held). The weak government took base in Baidao while the warlords went back to their business – of warlordship – and openly challenged and criticized the government. Government officials were divided between Baidao and Mogadishu. The hope of the Somali people for a functioning government was again dashed. To make matters worse, a US-backed coalition of warlords – called themselves the Anti-Terror Coalition – was formed, supposedly to fight terrorism. The Residents of Mogadishu were faced with ever more empowered and confident warlords and yet another war.

The Rise of the Islamic Courts
Islamic courts were setup in the 1990s in various locations in the south of Somalia to minimize crime. At the time, the city was lawless in every sense of the word and criminals and militia had a check-point at every street. No one was safe in the streets of Mogadishu. Islamic Courts was the answer to this lawlessness. Small Islamic courts were setup in various districts in the city to impose some rule of law. The Islamic courts did not disappoint, and the safety improved dramatically in the areas they had influence. In the beginning the courts did not have a united front and no political agenda. However, they had grass root support in Mogadishu and were funded by local businessmen. Only many years have these courts united – hence the creative name United Islamic Courts – and with the support of the powerful militia of the businessmen of Mogadishu became a force to be reckoned with.

Warlords Flee, Mogadishu is Safe Again
As the power of the UIC grew, the warlords – and the US – became anxious and persuaded the US to support them to oust the Islamic militia. Finally, the two militias clashed and within few days the warlords - who controlled Mogadishu for sixteen years - fled the city. The people of Mogadishu celebrated and took to the streets - as if they were liberated. The UIC - again - did not disappoint, today the UN envoy to Somalia said "I take note that [the UIC] has achieved great things in Mogadishu. I have seen it".

US, Ethiopia, The Government and UIC: The Conflict Continues
You would have expected the government to welcome the new development and immediately start negotiating with UIC, wrong. They immediately declared their hostility to the UIC and subsequently withdraw from the negotiations that were taking place in Sudan. The government is supported by Ethiopia who are fearful of the UIC.

What is ahead for Somalia?
The government is weak, the UIC are under pressure but advancing and the Ethiopian troops have taken couple of cities in west. The government is accusing the UIC of terrorism and of having foreign fighter in it is ranks, while the UIC is counter-accusing the government of being agents of Ethiopia.

Perhaps another peace conference in few yeas time.

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