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Old 01-05-2007, 02:48 PM   #1
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Somalia these days

Has anyone been following this? Very interesting.
Here's the latest:


Somalian government, Ethiopian troops battle militias

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers were fighting about 600 Islamic militiamen in the southern tip of Somalia, an official spokesman said Thursday.
In the past 10 days, Ethiopian-backed government forces have driven out the Islamic movement that had controlled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia for more than six months. The Islamic movement retreated to the southern tip of Somalia and vowed to keep fighting, raising the specter of an Iraq-style guerrilla war.
The Somali forces have surrounded the Islamic militiamen "from every direction" in the southwestern district of Badade, near the Kenyan border, government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told The Associated Press. "The fighting is going on," Dinari said. "We hope they will either surrender or be killed by our troops."
Kenya sent extra troops to the Somalian frontier and closed its border, fearing an exodus of refugees and foreign fighters.
Dinari said some Islamic militants have been trying to escape by sea. "But U.S. anti-terrorist forces have been deployed there to prevent them from escaping," he added.
U.S. Navy patrolling Somalian coast
In Washington on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. Navy vessels were deployed off the Somalian coast looking for al Qaeda and allied militants trying to escape.
Dinari said the government believes foreign terrorist elements are among the Islamic militiamen fighting in Badade.
With the Islamic movement's fighters on the run, concern has grown about extremists believed to be among them. Three al-Qaida suspects in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa are believed to be leaders of the Islamic movement. The movement denies having any links to al-Qaida.
Earlier Thursday, Somalia's Interior Minister Hussein Aideed said there are about 3,500 Islamists hiding in the capital and they are "likely to destabilize the security of the city."
Aideed did not explain the source of his information or what prompted his comments. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi later tried to play down the threat and disputed Aideed's number of Islamists hiding in the capital, although he did not offer his own estimate.
Gedi said his government would begin efforts to disarm Somalis by seizing large arms caches located around Mogadishu. A house-by-house search will follow, the prime minister told journalists, without saying when that will happen.
Thursday was the deadline for people in Mogadishu to surrender their arms. Gedi said the disarmament program was progressing but offered no details. By Wednesday, only a handful of people had heeded Gedi's demand and turned in any weapons in the capital.
In Ethiopia, a top U.S. diplomat said that she hopes African peacekeepers will be in Somalia by the end of the month.
Uganda says it is sending troops
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had promised President Bush in a recent phone call that he could supply between 1,000-2,000 troops to protect Somalia's transitional government and train its troops, said Jendayi Frazer, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Africa, after meeting Museveni.
Frazer said there had been no request for U.S. troops or military assistance so far.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has pressed the international community to send in peacekeepers quickly, saying his forces cannot play that role and cannot afford to stay long.
Aideed, the Somali interior minister, said that there are about 12,000-15,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia, and when peacekeepers arrive in the country the Ethiopians will leave. Ethiopia has put the number much lower, at around 4,000, and said it would pull out within weeks.
Kenya closes border with Somalia
With the fighting raging just over the Kenya-Somalia frontier, Kenyan Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju said his country had officially closed its border. The U.N.'s humanitarian agency has said there are thousands of Somalian refugees reported to be near the border, unable to cross into Kenya.
Tuju said Wednesday that Somalian government troops were not threatening civilians so he didn't believe Somalis should be trying to cross the border into Kenya. A Kenyan security helicopter and air force plane were fired at by unidentified gunmen on either side of the border on Wednesday.
Somalia's last effective central government fell in 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The government was formed two years ago with the help of the United Nations, but has been weakened by internal rifts.
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Old 01-06-2007, 09:46 PM   #2
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Quote:
In the past 10 days, Ethiopian-backed government forces have driven out the Islamic movement that had controlled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia for more than six months. The Islamic movement retreated to the southern tip of Somalia and vowed to keep fighting, raising the specter of an Iraq-style guerrilla war.
...........................................
Gedi said his government would begin efforts to disarm Somalis by seizing large arms caches located around Mogadishu. A house-by-house search will follow, the prime minister told journalists, without saying when that will happen. Thursday was the deadline for people in Mogadishu to surrender their arms. Gedi said the disarmament program was progressing but offered no details. By Wednesday, only a handful of people had heeded Gedi's demand and turned in any weapons in the capital.
.............................................
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has pressed the international community to send in peacekeepers quickly, saying his forces cannot play that role and cannot afford to stay long.
Aideed, the Somali interior minister, said that there are about 12,000-15,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia, and when peacekeepers arrive in the country the Ethiopians will leave. Ethiopia has put the number much lower, at around 4,000, and said it would pull out within weeks.
...............................................
Somalia's last effective central government fell in 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The government was formed two years ago with the help of the United Nations, but has been weakened by internal rifts.
Well, they've already given up on trying to disarm anyone "for now," that much was announced today. And you have to wonder what it says about how close the cooperation really is between the Ethiopians and the new government when the latter states there are three times more Ethiopian fighters involved than Ethiopia says there are.

I wish I could feel more optimistic about it. In all likelihood it would take many, many more peacekeepers than they currently have lined up, as well as far more cooperation among Somalia's neighbors than has been the norm, to prevent this from being merely the latest reshuffling of men with guns. The press seems to be mostly presenting this as "Ethiopian-backed forces overthrow violent Islamists, restore Parliament," but this unfortunately glosses over the fact that these TFG/JVA politicans and fighters returning from Ethiopia consist heavily of the same thugs, warlords and clan militiamen who spent the 90s and much of the 00s turning the country into an anarchic bloodbath to begin with. The ICU (Islamists) were able to gain control in the first place because for a while, at least, they were widely perceived as the only faction with the discipline and commitment to restore some semblance of peace and order. But not surprisingly, they too had begun to degenerate into a gravy train for the majority Hawiye, with increasingly strained and distant relationships with the various clans who supported them intially; many of the more peripheral areas nominally "controlled" by the ICU in fact reverted almost immediately to savagely run petty fiefdoms once the ICU formally took charge.

Nonetheless, it has to be said the TFG/Ethiopian forces sure made this campaign look easier than anyone expected, so far anyhow...the question is whether they'll be able to build anything lasting out of what they've achieved militarily over the last few weeks.
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Old 04-25-2007, 05:00 PM   #3
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In Somalia, Those Who Feed Off Anarchy Fuel It

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
New York Times, April 25, 2007


GALKAYO, Somalia — Beyond clan rivalry and Islamic fervor, an entirely different motive is helping fuel the chaos in Somalia: profit. A whole class of opportunists — from squatter landlords to teenage gunmen for hire to vendors of out-of-date baby formula — have been feeding off the anarchy in Somalia for so long that they refuse to let go. They do not pay taxes, their businesses are totally unregulated, and they have skills that are not necessarily geared toward a peaceful society.

In the past few weeks, some Western security officials say, these profiteers have been teaming up with clan fighters and radical Islamists to bring down Somalia’s transitional government, which is the country’s 14th attempt at organizing a central authority and ending the free-for-all of the past 16 years. They are attacking government troops, smuggling in arms and using their business savvy to raise money for the insurgency. And they are surprisingly open about it. Omar Hussein Ahmed, an olive oil exporter in Mogadishu, the capital, said he and a group of fellow traders recently bought missiles to shoot at government soldiers.

“Taxes are annoying,” he explained.

Maxamuud Nuur Muradeeste, a squatter landlord who makes a few hundred dollars a year renting out rooms in the former Ministry of Minerals and Water, said he recently invited insurgents to stash weapons on “his” property. He will do whatever it takes, he said, to thwart the government’s plan to reclaim thousands of pieces of public property. “If this government survives, how will I?” Mr. Muradeeste said.

Layer this problem on top of Somalia’s sticky clan issues, its poverty and its nomadic culture, and it is no wonder that the transitional government seems to be overwhelmed by the same raw antigovernment defiance that has torpedoed earlier attempts at stabilizing the country. Granted, many of the transitional leaders acknowledge that they have made mistakes and that they have not played the clan politics as deftly as they could have. But they say they believe that there are some Somalis — actually, many Somalis — who will never go along with any program.

In the past month, the resistance has intensified and more than 1,000 people have been killed or wounded as the country has sunk into its deepest crisis since the famine days of the early 1990s. Most of the victims are civilians, like Amina Abdullahi, who recently fled Mogadishu with two small children holding her hands and a baby tied to her back. “I don’t understand why this is such a problem,” she said. “If people don’t like this government, can’t they wait until there is an election and vote them out?”

American diplomats had mostly shied away from Somalia since the infamous “Black Hawk Down” episode in 1993 when Somali militiamen shot down two American helicopters and killed 18 United States soldiers. But now the Americans are involved again, driven by a counterterrorism agenda and armed with a pledge of $100 million to rebuild the country. And it is exactly this kind of hefty support that is fueling the resistance’s urgency, because the opportunists sense that this transitional government, more than any other, poses the biggest threat yet to the gravy days of anarchy.

Somalis are legendary individualists, and when the central government imploded in 1991, people quickly devised ways to fend for themselves. Businessmen opened their own hospitals, schools, telephone companies and even privatized mail services. Men who were able to muster private armies, often former military officers, seized the biggest prizes: abandoned government property, like ports and airfields, which could generate as much as $40,000 a day. They became the warlords. Many trafficked in guns and drugs and taxed their fellow Somalis. Beneath the warlords were clan-based networks of thousands of people — adolescent enforcers, stevedores, clerks, truck drivers and their families — all tied into the chaos economy. Ditto for the freelance landlords and duty-free importers.

Over the years, prominent members of the Hawiye clan, Mogadishu’s biggest, have tried to cobble together a government and end this system. But they have failed every time. Though Somalia is notoriously fragmented among dozens of rival clans and subclans, and has been that way for centuries, clans alone did not seem to be the problem. “It was the opportunists who didn’t see a role for themselves in the future,” said Mohammed Abdi Balle, an elder here in Galkayo, a city about 450 miles north of Mogadishu.

Not all opportunists had the same agenda. Many in the business community became fed up with paying protection fees to the warlords and their countless middle-men. Business leaders then backed a grass-roots Islamist movement that drove the warlords out of Mogadishu last summer and brought peace to the city for the first time in 15 years. The Islamists seemed to be the perfect solution for the businessmen. They delivered stability, which was good for most business, but they did not confiscate property or levy heavy taxes. They called themselves an administration, not a government. “Our best days were under them,” said Abdi Ali Jama, who owns an electrical supply shop in Mogadishu. But then a radical wing took over, and the Islamists declared war on Ethiopia, which commands one of the mightiest armies in Africa. The Ethiopians, with covert American help, crushed the Islamist army in December and bolstered the authority of Somalia’s transitional government in the capital.

Many residents initially welcomed the transitional government. But then it made some questionable calls that cut across clan and business lines. It abruptly closed ports and took over airfields belonging to Hawiye businessmen, denying them revenue they had been accustomed to receiving for years. Many Somalis began to worry that the transitional government, which includes elders from all of Somalia’s clans, was being pushed around by the Darod, the clan of the transitional president and a historic rival to the Hawiye.

At first, just a few Hawiye sub-clans — mainly those connected to the Islamists — took up arms. But as the government has moved to curtail the profiteering, business leaders say that more and more clans are embracing the rebel cause.
For many Abgal, an influential subclan of the Hawiye, the last straw came in mid-March when the government raised port taxes by 300%. Mr. Ahmed, the olive oil exporter and an Abgal, said that after that, there was a mass Abgal defection to the insurgency. “The government is trying to destroy business as we know it,” he said.

Despite attempts at a cease-fire between insurgents and government forces, the violence has raged virtually unabated in Mogadishu. And once again, the opportunists have stepped in. In some areas, displaced people are forced to pay a “shade tax” to local residents for resting under their trees.
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