Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ethiopia and Somalia

OK, the American news is mostly full of beatifying eulogies of Gerald Ford (and he wasn't a bad guy). But there is this small matter of a complicated civil war in Somalia.

The cliff notes version of what's going on there is that Somalia (a mostly Muslim country) has been plagued by clan warfare for years. Al Qaida has been active in Somalia for a long time too (remember Blackhawk Down?). The latest development in the clan warfare was a recent victory by a new group call itself the Islamic Courts. This group first co-opted/defeated the clan based war lords then drove the government itself out of the capital. Speculation has been strong that the Islamic Courts are affiliated with Al Qaida.

That's when it got interesting. Kenya was nervous about a group with links to Al Qaida (remember the embassy bombings?) controlling neighboring Somalia. Ethiopia was concerned when it became clear that the Islamic Courts were getting plane loads of military equipment from Eritrea (the former Red Sea coastal province of Ethiopia which has had continuing military conflicts with that country). Ethiopia has now intervened and it's armed forces appear poised to take over the capital and the major port city.

The regional IGO (IGAD pronounced "EGAD!"), is split on the issue. The Arab League is predictably supporting the Islamic Courts. The African Union first made a statement that sounded like support for Ethiopia and then appeared to side with the Arab League.

If that wasn't complicated enough, the US is rumored to be backing the Ethiopian military.

The Horn of Africa region is rife with problems. Long a cluster of failed and failing states, this part of Africa is now a haven for Al Qaida and their allies and pirates. That's right, cruise ships sail past Somalia at their own risk. Just google search pirates and Somalia and you'll see what I mean.

This war is one of proxies within proxies. The Eritreans are using the Islamic courts to open a second front against Ethiopia. The Ethiopians are countering by supporting the Somali government. The US, Kenya and Uganda are rumored to be backing the Ethiopians. The Sudanese are rumored to be backing the Eritreans. The Arab League is...well...harumphing loudly and just as impotently trying to cover their collective asses.

The result is some of the fiercest fighting in Somalia in country that's seen more than it's share of fighting.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the run down on this issue, RBR. I haven't followed it and know precious little about African politics, except that parts of the continent (such as the Congo) have been in constant war. I guess we should all start paying attention to what is going to be the next hot area.

FYI: Swahili is one of six new languages of interest. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Check out the CIA World Fact book entries for some of these countries. The one on Ethiopia  might be a good place to start. Life is pretty hard for people there to begin with and you add war on top of it and you have a recipe for abject misery.

Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritria and Uganda have been famous for horror for decades.  

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

This little conflict is a good reminder of what the Bush administration forgot about Iraq. War is contagious. It is poisonous. Once force displaces ordinary politics, it is very hard to revert. That is the core of the problem in Iraq as well. Military force alone cannot sort out these problems. Those who possess significant arms on the ground must be persuaded to return to a world where they will accept future political defeats without resorting to arms.  

// posted by LTG