Somalia: The New Disorder Approaches


January 3,2009: The twenty or so warships of the anti-piracy patrol have made a difference, with half the number of ships being captured by pirates since the foreigners arrived. There were only two captures in December, while in the months before that, it was about four a month. Most of the warships are escorting convoys of merchant ships through the Gulf of Aden. But many merchant ships don't want to wait for a convoy to form, go it alone, and are most vulnerable to the pirates. Last year, about 120 ships were attacked, and 40 captured. At least 19 of these are still being held. Those that were ransomed are believed to have been paid a total of $30-40 million.

The TNG parliament has 30 days to elect a new president, via secret ballot. The TNG was supposed to hold national elections in 2009, but that seems unlikely. Most of the clans negotiated the organization of the TNG, but could not agree on how to run it. Now several factions of the TNG, several factions of Islamic Courts, Somaliland, Puntland and several wealthy pirate warlords up north, all contend for power.

Ethiopian convoys have begun leaving Mogadishu, and there is panic in Baidoa (the capital of the TNG) at the thought of Ethiopian troops leaving there as well. African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu are also discussing getting out, rather than face the wrath, alone, of local clans eager to regain their control of the city. The Ethiopians are expected to be all gone by the end of the month, and then there will be more intense fighting, as the clan militias, as is their custom, try to make the most of the new situation.

December 31, 2008: In Mogadishu, clan militias loyal to the TNG are planning on leaving with the Ethiopians, not wanting to face the gunmen from local clans alone.

December 30, 2008: Fighting has intensified in Mogadishu, where local clans sense that they will be able to return to their neighborhoods, from the refugee camps outside town, because Ethiopian troops are leaving.

December 29, 2008: After four years in office, Transitional National Government (TNG) president Abdullahi Yusuf has resigned. He was never able to unite the many factions in the country, even though all those factions, after several years of negotiations, were able to  cobble together the TNG. Part of Yusuf's problem was corruption, Much foreign aid flowed to the TNG, and much of it was stolen by Yusuf and his cronies. Those friends, their families, and what's left of the loot, are now fleeing Baidoa for Puntland.  

December 28, 2008: Al Shabaab was forced out of another central Somali town, by more moderate Islamic fighters. This left another twenty or so dead or wounded. More moderate Islamic Courts militia, some of them allied with the Transitional National Government (TNG), have united to oppose the radical al Shabaab fighters, who are too radical and righteous for most Somalis tastes.

December 27, 2008: For the last few days, there has been fighting in Gureil (370 kilometers north of Mogadishu) between radical Islamic fighters (al Shabaab) and local, generally pro-government Islamic Courts group. There have been several dozen casualties, and the al Shabaab group was eventually driven away.

December 24, 2008: Yemen is creating a regional anti-piracy center, which will collect and distribute information on piracy and anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden region. The center will be operational in about six months. Many of the "Somali pirates" are actually Yemenis, and the Yemeni coast guard is too small to keep pirates away from the Yemeni coast. However, the government has sufficient control on land to prevent pirates from establishing the kind of bases they have in northern Somalia.





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