The Fall of Baidoa - Somalia goes around in bloody circles
|Friday, 30. January 2009 0 comment(s)||
2009 has already proven to be a politically tumultuous time for Somalia, a country that is no stranger to tumult. Ethiopia rather unconvincingly announced at the end of last year that it had accomplished its war aims from its two-year old invasion of Somalia and promptly withdrew. The Ethiopian-backed Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has since collapsed with its president, Abdullahi Yusuf, resigning. The TFG’s seat of government, the central Somali town of Baidoa soon fell to the extremists of the Al Shabaab group, who promptly announced they were going to rule by their interpretation of Sharia law.
The Somali parliament has since met in exile in Dijbouti where it has decided to double its size to bring in a new group of MPs representing the moderate Islamists of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), who are led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. The parliament will elect a new president, with Ahmed being a possible winner. Sheikh Ahmed came to prominence in 2006 as the chair of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) who quickly rose from seemingly nowhere to take control of Mogadishu and other areas. Many Somalis report that the period under the ICU was one of peace and security in comparison to the preceding years of fighting. However, the ICU was comprised of both moderate and militant Islamists - including the Al Shabaab group - and Ethiopia saw them as threat. This lead to the Ethiopian intervention that had US backing.
The Ethiopian army routed the ICU forces and Ahmed surrendered after crossing into Kenya, but in the two years since then the most militant Islamists - Al Shabaab - have made a military comeback launching attacks across the country and taking control of some regions. Foreign fears of Al Shabaab taking control of the whole country and creating a Taliban-style state seem overblown. It would seem they simply don't have the soldiers to hold areas that they have seized or even the ready cash to pay the soldiers that they do have. Al Shabaab is not the only militia - the African Union (AU) noted that after the Ethiopians left Mogadishu, their soldiers were expecting to be attacked by Al Shabaab, but instead ARS fighters stopped the militants, protecting the Ugandan AU force. Additionally, the powerful clans and businesses can deploy their own militias. Away from Mogadishu, Al Shabaab have been reported to have lost battles with a self-declared moderate Islamist group, Ahlusunna Waljamea. It is not apparent whether Ahlusunna is connected to the ARS or not.
United Nations negotiations helped to bring the ARS grouping into the Somali Parliament and they may well bring both a new found strength and credibility to the TFG. But the sad irony is that many had already suggested trying to integrate into the governing structures the moderate Islamists that Sheik Ahmed and the ARS now represent two years ago. This would have also helped to marginalise the Al Shabaab tendency. This seems to be exactly what is happening now - two years, one Ethiopian invasion and thousands and thousands of unnecessary deaths later.
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors