Somalia: Cries For Help Go Unheeded

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July 8, 2009: The AU (African Union) met in Libya to try and get more aid for Somalia.

The existing 4,300 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Mogadishu are mainly defensive, guarding their base, the presidential palace, the sea port, and airport. But they have warned al Shabaab that if the Islamic militants advance too far into Mogadishu, the peacekeepers will attack. The AU has asked for member nations to send more troops to Somalia, and quickly. But the AU has not agreed to change the peacekeeper ROE (Rules of engagement) to allow attacks on the Islamic radicals fighting in Mogadishu.

In the last week, about 50 casualties a day have occurred in Mogadishu. In the last two months, over 200,000 civilians have fled the city. In the entire country, there are about 1.2 million refugees from the fighting. These are kept alive in camps set up by foreign aid agencies, and supplied with free food (largely paid for by the U.S.). There are now nearly 300,000 refugees in camps near the Kenyan border. From there, Somalis try to sneak into Kenya, where there are more refugee camps. More and more Somali merchants are selling some, or all of their assets and moving their families to Kenya, where they have bought hundreds of homes in upscale neighborhoods.

While the al Shabaab fighters are scary, they are undisciplined and untrained. Against trained troops, these Islamic radical fighters will take a lot of casualties, and al Shabaab does not have a lot of manpower in the city to sustain that for long. The government says that the pirates up north are smuggling Islamic terrorists into Somalia, as well as smuggling Somalis and other Africans to Yemen. The pirates cooperate in return for al Shabaab assurance that pirate operations will not be interfered with. Over a thousand of these foreign fighters are believed to be in Somalia.

Al Shabaab does not have a lot of control over Somalia. Their units (of several hundred armed men in trucks, SUVs and other vehicles) can move just about anywhere they want, but only if they are willing to fight local militias. Meanwhile, the transitional government is organizing a Coast Guard. There are several hundred volunteers already, and when the $200 million in promised foreign aid arrives, boats will be bought and armed, and patrols will begin. At least that's the plan. The big problem is that the pirate bases are in Puntland, and it's unlikely that the transitional government could muster the force needed to invade and conquer Puntland.

Fighting continues in the Ogaden, the Ethiopian province on the Somali border. Ogaden is sparsely populated largely by ethnic Somalis, who sporadically rebel against the Ethiopian government. Most of the combat is ambushes and raids on rebel camps.

July 6, 2009: Skirmishing continues in Mogadishu, with about 25 people killed over the weekend. Al Shabaab has given the government five days to surrender, or face a major attack. The AU has asked the UN to impose sanctions on Eritrea, which is accused of supporting the Islamic radicals in Somalia.

July 4, 2009: The AU refused to send more troops to Somalia, but condemned the Islamic radicals and Eritrea (for supporting the radicals) and offered moral support for the transitional government. In Mogadishu, a government attack on al Shabaab controlled areas of Mogadishu failed.

July 3, 2009: Fighting in Mogadishu has left at least 25 dead in the last two days. Groups of several hundred al Shabaab Islamic radicals roam southern and central Somalia, and few clan militias can resist them. Thus, for all practical purposes, the Islamic radical groups dominate most of the country.

July 2, 2009: The Somali Transitional Government tells the AU (African Union) that if the rest of the peacekeeping force (3,700 troops) are not sent quickly, the Islamic radicals and their foreign allies, will take control of Somalia (and put Somaliland and Puntland at risk.) Uganda and Burundi are each willing to send another battalion, but only if they get some financial and logistical assistance in doing so.

 

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