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Return of the Warlords

Somaliyaay toosoo
Toosoo isku tiirsada ee
Hadba kiina taag daranee
Taageera waligiinee.

(Somalia wake up,
wake up and join hands together
and we must help the weakest of our people
all of the time.)

–Somali national anthem.

For the average western person, the current Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is just another military operation taking place in a distance land in the war against Islam terror. For Somalis, this invasion is nothing short of humiliating catastrophe. Somalis are deeply nationalistic; yet their nationalistic passion to towards their country did not prevent them from committing self-inflected genocidal civil wars which weakened their cultural fabric, political institutions and central authority so that after 16 years without functioning state, Somalia is today under the occupation of their most hated historical enemy, Ethiopia.

The latest Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is a conflict is between the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and US-sponsored Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), a group of Somali warlords backed by Ethiopia and the US. After the 1991 collapse of central authority in Somalia and ensuing civil war, the ICU emerged as a grassroots organization in response to the lawlessness, violence in the country. In the absence of central political authority and using ,primarily, Sharia law and other traditional Somali values (xeer and dhaqan), the ICU were able to bring law and order throughout the country. They were also able to provide essential services such as healthcare and education. In this way, ICU courts were the only source of stability for civil society while warlords continue to terrorize ordinary Somalis. Whilst the ICU were able clean drugs and guns from the streets in their communities, many attempts to forge transitional government failed because squabbles over power sharing. The current Transitional Federal Government is the latest of many such fruitless efforts.

In June 2006, the Islamic Union Courts assumed centralized control over many parts in the South, including the capital city capital, Mogadishu. This move came about partly after it was revealed that the CIA was secretly working with Somali warlords and Ethiopia to occupy Somalia. In the context, of post September 11, 2001 political stigmatization the Bush Administration had identified the IUC as a terrorist group. Many Somalis saw such rhetoric as a thinly disguised pretext for the US’s desire to avenge the 1993 defeat of US Forces in Somalia. Despite U.S. cash payments to various warlords none was able to assert their authority over the population and bring law and order and security to the Somali people.

On the other hand, the ICU was able to clear big urban centers such as Mogadishu, of guns and drugs off the street and also clean up the city. Seaports and airports opened for commercial business again after 1995. The Bush administration continued to treat the ICU as a terrorist organization and started courting its overthrow by using Ethiopia as a proxy state to do its dirty work in exchange for cash incentives for the warlords and for Ethiopia’s leader, Meles Zenawi.

Somalis have suffered so much already. Their country has been without central authority since 1991. There is not a shred of evidence that Somalia pose a security threat to the US nor there is any evidence that Islamists are providing safe heaven for Al Qaida or other terrorist groups. In the context of utter humiliation in the hands of their historical enemy, Ethiopia, the current US support of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia will, most certainly, fan hatred toward the US.

Meles Zenawi faces fierce opposition from various opposition groups inside Ethiopia who accuse him of illegal usurpation of political power, rigging election results, arresting his critics, in some cases, killing hundred of people taking part in peaceful protests against his political misrule. Thus, the sudden invasion of Somalia is a perfect strategy, for him to buttress his legitimacy as a national leader who can defend Ethiopia against Islamic terrorism. Internationally, he is able to position himself and his nation as a friend of the U.S .and Bush’s strong man in the Horn of Africa in the US global war against Islamic terror. It is in this context, that Bush administration was able to quickly push through the Security Council the rather dubious resolution which gave Zenawi the green card to invade Somalia.

Resolution 1725 on Somalia authorizes a regional force from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) to protect the weak Transitional National Government in Baidoa and provide training for its forces. It also authorizes partial lifting of the Somalia Arms Embargo of 1992.

Many Somalis, who are not religious, saw their own safety and security improved under the rule of IUC. In addition, many Somalis in the worldwide Somali Diaspora support IUC for the same pragmatic reasons. Most Somalis were willing to give the IUC sufficient time to clean the streets of guns and violence. After restoring law and order back into the streets, it would have been possible, albeit slowly, to modernize some of their interpretations and the applications of Islamic Sharia. Besides, Sharia laws are already part of the Somali cultural value system.

A large number of Diaspora Somalis were willing to return to Somalia, and rebuild the country, once peace and security were ensured. But now, we are back into the old, ugly days where teenage boys toting AK47s in the back of pick up trucks, used to terrorize the local population. It is hard to predict what future hold for Somalia; I can easily predict the following scenario. Meles Zenawi is a Christian, who draws most of his political power and military support from his Tigre tribe. As a result, his invading soldiers in Somalia are largely from his Tigre Christian tribe. These soldiers do not speak the Somali language; once deep inside Somalia, they will be exposed to attacks by the locals.

Ironically, Zenawi’s invasion of Somalia has killed any chance the weak transitional federal government might have had to rule Somalia. The warlords were hated before by all Somalis for their corruption. Now they will be despised as traitors and stooges for the number one enemy of the Somali people, Ethiopia. The history of the animosity between Somalia and Ethiopia is long. In this humiliating condition, Somalis will turn on each other; there will be endless recrimination, revenges and counter-revenges. The clan-based cloak and dagger power struggles will continue.

AMINA MIRE’s last article here was “A Somali Woman Discusses the Sharia Court and Her Cousin Who Leads It“.She lives in Ottawa, Canada and can be reached at filsanidilhooyo@yahoo.ca

 

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