Somalia: Uncivil War


April 25, 2007: A week of fighting in Mogadishu is basically a resumption of civil war, with the Hawiye (a clan name) coalition of clans on one side and the Darod (another clan) coalition on the other. The Hawiye are backed by Eritrea and Islamic radicals, while Darod is allied with Ethiopia and the many nations that helped put the Transitional Government together. The U.S. has openly accused Eritrea of supporting the Islamic Courts militias, and helping to prolong the fighting.

Over 300,000 people have fled the fighting in Mogadishu. That's about a third of the citys population. Most of these are families of the Hawiye coalition, for it is their neighborhoods that are being fought over. The international aid community is split over what to do. The violence in Somalia makes it a very dangerous place for aid workers, many of whom call for foreign peacekeepers. But other aid workers note what happened in the past when foreigners intervened, and what is happening to the Ethiopians right now. The fact is that there is no easy solution to Somalia. It has long been a violent and chaotic place, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

The violence in Mogadishu is all about power and money. The Islamic Courts had made deals with the gangs and businessmen in Mogadishu. This took several months, and most factions were taken care of. When the Ethiopians and Transitional Government came in, the various factions in Mogadishu saw their interests threatened by these new outsiders. So a lot of fighting is over who controls what real estate and what business opportunities. Follow the money, and you'll find the root causes of most unpleasant situations.

The fighting is less intense, as the superior Ethiopian firepower (tanks and artillery) have destroyed most of the Islamic Courts heavy weapons. The Islamic Courts led coalition has been sniping at the government and Ethiopian troops, and hiding behind buildings, which are then blasted by tanks or artillery. This is destroying whole neighborhoods, and the Islamic Courts fighters cannot stand up to it. In a week of violence, there have been nearly 2,000 casualties, most of them civilians or Islamic Courts militia. The Islamic Courts are hoping pressure by the UN and foreign diplomats will force a cease fire, so the Islamic Courts can reorganize and rearm for the next round of fighting.


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