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Iraq’s African Shadow: Insurgency Grows , Peacekeepers Hesitate February 11, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Africa, Iraq.

Ethiopia’s war against Somalia continues, with Ethiopian troops still very much present in the capital and other cities. Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, the country’s controversial political leader, invaded Somalia with U.S. assistance at Christmas. He pledged a quick, decisive war without a polonged occupation.

So far, things are not turning out as expected.

Zenawi promised to dislodge the Islamic Courts, a loose affiliation of Islamicist groups that had managed to control Mogadishu’s warlords and impose order throughout most of the country. At least two U.S. helicopter attacks supported Zenawi’s troops as they scored a quick rout of the Courts. Since the invasion and Zenawi’s declaration of victory, the peace has been at least punctuated, if not rocked, by attacks from an as yet ill defined insurgencies, as well as popular demonstrations in Mogadishu against what many Somaiis view as a foreign occupying force..

And as Mohammed Abdi Farah reports from Kismayu, the violence is not confined to Mogadishu.

At least four people, one of them a soldier have been killed and dozens more including senior Somalia military officers were wounded in a bomb explosion in the center of the southern Somalia port city of Kismayu on Sunday.

Source: somalinet.com

The Ethiopian government claims that the attacks came from “remnants” of the Islamic forces, although no group has claimed formal reponsibility.

Although Zenawi pledged to have all Ethiopian troops out of the country two weeks after taking the capital, not many have been withdrawn. Part of the difficulty is that the invasion plan involved using Ethiopian troops only as the sharp head of the spear and to replace them after the military victory with a diverse group of peacekeepers whose job it would be to keep civil order and to control any possible resurrection of the Islamicist movement.

Part of the problem is that only one part of a two step plan was in place before Ethiopia invaded. Zenawi apparently did not give much forethought to the peacekeeping force that was to stabilize Somalia after the initial military action. South Africa, one of the richest countries on the continent, outright refused to send troops. The request for troops has turned out to be a divisive political question in Uganda, a country known for its usual willingness to deploy in the region.

Members of the Ugandan Parliament believe they need more information about the contestants on both sides in order to avoid an Iraq-like scenario in which any post-invasion force winds up fighting a protracted war of occupation. Latif Ssebagala(MP) puts it this way:

Uganda is a member of the Organization of
Islamic Conference. Islamic States like Egypt , Djibouti , Libya and
Sudan , which are also members, have abstained. Don’t you think we
shall see a similar situation like that of Iraq unless we go back to
the drawing board? My colleague has rightly put it that over 95% of
Somalis are Muslims and they speak one language, so why are they
fighting each other? …According to the information I have the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)
made a tactical withdraw. And since, presently, there are no genuine
negotiations between UIC and TFG; are we going for peacekeeping or
peace enforcement?

Charles Kabooza reporting on allafrica.com

Those are all good questions, and ones that must be answered if any intelligent policies are going to emerge . As with Iraq, it would have prudent to consider the peace long before the war started.The price of not doing so may well be a continuous , ever more fractious insurgency, popular opposition to the putative “liberators”, and bitter domestic debates in all the countries involved.

Iraq has a long shadow, indeed.

Tags: WOUNDS | southern | SENIOR | officials | OFFICERS | KILLS | including | Government | Explosion | dozens | COMMANDER | Bomb | Army | sunday | Somalia | Politics | mahdi | Kismayu | Juba | Hassan | Abdi



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