Somalia: Islamic Radicals Behaving Badly

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September 10, 2009: The Somali refugee camps, in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, hold 1.5 million people and are poorly run. The NGOs (from the UN on down) camp operators are fearful and demoralized because of the bandits and militias that use the camps as a resource (a place to park the wives and kids, and draw food and other supplies as needed). Many NGOs are demanding that something be done, but no one wants to send more peacekeepers to Somalia, as the nation is seen as a failed state, and a hopeless case. What has happened in Somalia is not all that unusual, if you examine the history of the region. For thousands of years, the place has been an unstable battleground for tribal militias and warlords. Rarely peaceful, much less united and well governed, European colonial powers (Britain and Italy) imposed order for about a century, then left in the 1960s. The area soon returned to its normal state, which is described as a "failed state." This is a misnomer, as there was never a state there to begin with.

The Transitional Government has taken advantage of widespread discontent with the savage and self-righteous behavior of the Islamic radicals (who try to force Somalis to live an "Islamic" lifestyle that is not popular here at all), and gathered together a larger and more powerful fighting force. In addition to the militias of the factions comprising the Transitional Government, there are also religiously motivated militias from the Sufi (a normally less-violent, but now persecuted) Islamic sect, and other Somali clans that are just not all that pleased with al Shabaab and the other Islamic radicals. In particular, the al Shabaab use of foreign Islamic radicals is irritating, especially since these guys tend to be arrogant, pushy and just all-round nasty. The Transitional Government plans to drive the Islamic radicals out of Mogadishu in the next month or two, and then go after al Shabaab elsewhere in the country. The Transitional Government is already negotiation with some of the al Shabaab clan militia leaders who agree that a shift in power is taking place, and want to switch sides. This plan may not work, because plans tend to die young in Somalia.

Meanwhile, the Islamic radical groups declared that they will continue fighting, and using suicide bombing and human shields (two practices that are very unpopular with most Somalis.) The Islamic radical groups practice what they preach, daily, in Mogadishu, leaving dozens of civilians dead or wounded. The Islamic radicals have also implemented some of the more violent aspects of Sharia (Islamic law) by using knives to cut the hands off accused thieves, and whipping other offenders.

September 6, 2009: An embarrassing incident occurred as the island nation of Seychelles tried to use a Kenyan airport, without permission, in a prisoner swap with Somali pirates. The Seychelles had negotiated with the pirates to exchange 23 Somali pirates captured off the Seychelles, for three Seychelles citizens seized near the Somali coast (in a yacht that sank, thus leaving no boat to ransom). But the Seychelles government lied about what was on the aircraft (carrying the 23 pirates) that landed in Kenya, before going on to Somalia. The Kenyans figured out that something was not right, and put the Seychelles aircraft under armed guard. After a few days, the aircraft was allowed to leave, and the prisoner swap was carried out with the pirates. But then some Puntland government officials took prisoner two of the foreigners (a Kenyan and a Briton who had arranged the swap), and the three freed Seychelles sailors, apparently because the Puntland officials were not paid off for allowing this exchange to take place. Many Puntland officials expect a piece of pirate revenue, as payment for looking the other way.

September 5, 2009: Al Shabaab is threatening Somaliland with invasion, if the statelet in northwestern Somalia does not halt doing business with Ethiopia. But those Ethiopian connections go back centuries, and Ethiopia is helping to mediate a fracture in the tribal agreement that enabled the formation of Somaliland (where most people do not want al Shabaab, or the chaos in the south.)

September 4, 2009: Fighting, or at least machine-gun and mortar fire, occur daily in Mogadishu, usually resulting in at least 10-20 casualties. The 5,000 African Union (AU) peacekeepers are now used as part of the Transitional Government forces, and are apparently available for action outside of Mogadishu. In this way, it is believed that the military power of the Islamic radicals can be crippled.

 

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