For several months the threat of war has loomed inside Somalia. Ethiopian troops protecting Somalia’s interim government are now battling fighters loyal to Islamists. War in Somalia has been a never-ending war.
Power transition in Somalia
The rise of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) was a welcome change. For Somalis, hoping for an end to the 15 years of anarchy that followed the overthrow of Dictator Mohamed SiadBarre. Since Barre’s defeat there has been no true national leader or effective government in the Horn of Africa country. In 2004, Somali members of parliament organized an election in neighbouring Kenya to choose their next president. The victorious Abdullahi Yusuf has since headed a U.N.-recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG). He wields little power from the Somali town of Baidoa.
Ethiopia’s involvement in the war
Fearing the rise of Islamic militancy as the UIC’s influence spread quickly throughout southern Somalia, Ethiopia vowed to protect the TFG should the courts’ power reach Baidoa. Several attempts at peace talks between the two sides solved little. As predicted, heavy fighting erupted last week when the UIC launched an attack on the interim government after issuing a demand for Ethiopian troops to leave their land. Since then, fighting has intensified and many casualties have been reported.
Referring to UIC, Ethiopia’s prime minister, MelesZenawi, recently declared that Ethiopia was at war with ‘the terrorist group’ in Somalia. Washington, too, has long-believed that the UIC has provided a haven for al Qaeda members and has given refuge to those wanted for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as a hotel bombing in Kenya in 2002. According to one report, al Qaeda in Iraq has called upon foreign fighters to assist the UIC in its jihad against Ethiopia.
War in Somalia is about to end
Clearly the dominant regional force, Ethiopia has already bombed two Somali airports, recaptured a key city from the UIC and claims to have killed over 1,000 Islamist fighters in addition to wounding another 3,000 who have no doubt joined the rapid retreat to Mogadishu. The Islamists report to have killed hundreds but there has been no independent verification for either figure. According to Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, head of the UIC executive committee, Ethiopian forces “have massacred people in Somalia.”
But as Zenawi’s troops march on Mogadishu, Zenawi has said it is not their goal to attack the city. The goal was to surround it until the Islamists surrender.
Because it was the UIC and not President Yusuf’s authority that drove warlords and warring clans out of Mogadishu, thus restoring order to the chaotic country, the UIC fails to recognize the legitimacy of the Baidoa-based government. Several meetings, including those with members from the UN’s Security Council, the African Union and the Arab League, are planned in hopes that a peaceful solution can be found. The fear of war has caused anxiety, leading to a mass Somali exodus and swelling of refugee camps in Kenya. But fighting has not been the only tragedy for Somalis. Flooding within the region has made life miserable for thousands more.
If you like this article “war in Somalia”, make sure to subscribe to our news letter for more updates.