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Somali Clan Leaders: Pragmatists Switch Sides December 28, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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Clan leaders in Somalia’s capital are considering supporting government forces that are poised to clash with Islamic forces.

CNN

According to this report, many clan and other subgroup leaders are trying desperately to avoid a full scale Somali- Ethiopian invasion of Mogadishu and the disastrous number of casualties , both civilian and other, that would inevitably result. The Ethiopians believe that they will be able to take Mogadishu without firing a shot, and they are probably right, especially if local leaders in the capital switch sides from the ruling but certain to be defeated Islamists to the Ethiopian-Somali coalition.

Local clan leaders, previous supporters of the Islamic Courts faction that Ethiopia seeks to weaken, are making the pragmatic decisions of the weak. There is an African proverb to the effect that when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled. The clan leaders have decided that the best way to avoid being trampled by this war is switch sides and at all times lie flat, and this is a realistic duplicity. Clan organizations deal with the business of daily life, and provide the real means of governance . They will and should do whatever it takes to mitigate the catastrophe that even a short spell of determined fighting in the Somali capital would bring to an already fragile population. And while the combined Somali government -Ethiopian forces may win the battle, they could still lose the war. For to the grass, the only good elephant is one that is gone.

Tags: supporting | poised | northern | movement | Leaders | Government | FORCES | FIGHTERS | Clash | Somalia | somali | Politics | Mogadishu | Islamists | ISLAMIC | ethiopia | clan

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The Ethiopian Confusion December 27, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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Former warlord Mohammed Dheere, who ruled Jowhar before it was captured by the Council of Islamic Courts in June, led the Somali government troops as they drove into the city, said resident Abshir Ali Gabre.”

Mohamed Olad Hassan

Somalia’s Islamic Courts rose to power in part because people were tired of the lawlessness, chaos, and arbitrary tyranny resulting from the ruling combination of weak central government and local warlordism. Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia is likely to exacerbate the chaos and create a new refuge for terrorists out of nearly thin air.

By most accounts, the Islamic Courts did have the virtue of imposing some semblance of order in the areas they controlled. That rule of law (Sharia) is not one I would find congenial, nor would most proponents of liberal democracy. But Somalis may not be liberal ( in the institutional sense, not the doctrinal one), and while people may want the right to elect leaders, that desire does not always lead to liberal democracy. Illiberal theocracy is in fact a possible preference of peoples, and such has been the outcome of popular elections all over the world and all through history. Think early Sandinistas, or the popular wave that brought Islamic theocracy to Iran.

The United States is supporting Meles Zenewe and the Somali transitional government on the theory that Somalia has some necessary connection to al- Quaeda., and on the very dubious assumption that any Islamic government (except Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, oddly enough) will inevitably draw jihadist fighters and act as a haven to them. This is a prime mistake, and it is much more likely, as recent calls from Somali Islamists for foreign fighters indicate, that a nascent movement under attack , as the Islamic Courts now are, will be a more fertile ground for terrorists than a nascent movement. With dreary monotony, the self- fulfilling logistics of war against the weak have now kicked in, so it is probably the case that as the militarily challenged Islamists go into formal retreat and cities are occupied by invading foreigners, the war will be taken to the foreigner, in the form of terrorist acts within Ethiopia itself, particularly in Addis Ababba.

As if this situation were not confusing enough, Ethiopia’s military strategy adds another addled layer. According to the above cited AP report, Ethiopia’s declared intention is not to defeat the Islamist forces, but to drive them back to their bases. Given the military superiority of the Ethiopian forces, aided as they are by several governments, this is probably possible, although it will not be easy. Then we will have warlordism in some areas, with a post-invasion legacy of hatred, fury, and jihadist zeal in the Islamic bases. Thus, what will probably emerge is an infrastructural disaster: a new and unstable brew of kleptocratic regional banditry, a humanitarian refugee disaster, and an armed , hateful bunch of theocrats, cornered and seeking revenge.

Tags: Dheere | Abshir | warlord | version | troops | RULED | return | RESIDENT | link | Government | DROVE | CAPTURED | article | Somalia | somali | Politics | Mohammed | Mogadishu | june | Jowhar | ISLAMIC | Courts | Council

Ethiopia Goes to War in Somalia December 24, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Ethiopia.
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(AP) – Ethiopia launched an attack Sunday on Somalia’s powerful Islamic movement, sending fighter jets across the border and bombarding several towns in a major escalation of the violence that threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa.

Mohamed Olad Hassan, The Guardian 12/24/06

Ethiopia launched an attack on Somalia’s powerful Islamic movement on Sunday, initiating the fiery culmination of troop buildups, resentment over old border wars, and a growing inability of the Somali government to curtail the radical Islamic Courts.

The air raids were intended to prop up the government of Somaili President Abdullahi Yusuf, a government that is in firm control of precisely one town, Baidoa. Baidoa has been an armed camp for years, and Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea have been locked in more or less permanent border disputes for years. Ethiopia and Somalia have fought two previous wars. Eritrea backs the radical Islamic Courts of Somailia, and the conflict threatens to involve all three countries- essentially the entire Horn of Africa. The Council of Islamic Courts wants to incorporate the ethnic Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia and in Kenya into a greater Somali.

The United States has regarded Ethiopia as an ally in its war on terror, and the Council of Islamic Courts has called for foreign fighters to come to aid in their jihad. Several sightings of disembarking Arab foreign fighters have been reported from the port city of Kismayo.

The potential of this conflict to spread is enormous, and may constitute what the Bush administration will see as an African front of the war on terror. However, the real dispute is likely to play out between the old rivals, Eritrea, which backs the Islamic movment, and Ethiopia, which backs the beleaguered and almost territory-less official government of Somalia.

Tags: engulf | bombarding | violence | troops | towns | threatens | SENDING | Powerful | movement | launched | jets | fighter | escalation | border | attack | sunday | Somalia | Politics | Mogadishu | ISLAMIC | horn | ethiopia | Council | Africa