Hey, does any of this story-line sound familiar? Some years ago, the US military was engaged in a conflict in Country X that US leaders described as being of great “geopolitical” significance… Then, inexplicably, the US shrugged off its interest and concern for X. (And since, during the 1990s, the US was widely judged by other governments to be the global hegemon, no other world power showed much concern for Country X, either.)
For many years, the various communities of Country X fell into ever greater political chaos, warlordism, impoverishment, social disorder, and de-development…
Then one day, along comes what seems like a fairly dedicated Islamist movement. It wins popular support by promising to rescue people from the ills of the warlordism that besets them. Propelled by this popular support, it seizes power in the capital…
Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1996– or Mogadishu, Somalia, today?
I watched some intriguing footage from Mogadishu on the BBC t.v. news tonight. It showed what looked like a mass rally being held by the the Islamist movement, which is called the Union of Islamic Courts, which looked very large indeed.
That piece I linked to from the BBC website says that officials with the UIC say that talks are taking place with fighters still loyal to the warlords.
Somalia’s shell of a national government has its hesadquarters not in the capital but in Baidoa, some 200 miles (I think) to the south. The BBC reports– presumably from Baidoa– that Interim Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi says his government wants to begin dialogue with the UIC. It adds:
- Earlier, Mr Ghedi sacked four powerful Mogadishu-based warlords who had been serving as ministers.
Nine of the 11 Mogadishu-based warlords have now left the city, reports the BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan.
The four sacked ministers include Security Minister Mohammed Qanyare Afrah and Trade Minister Muse Sudi Yalahow who over the weekend lost control of their Mogadishu strongholds.
Most of Mr Qanyare Afrah’s fighters have joined the Islamic militia, but Mr Sudi Yalahow and his commanders remain in the capital and are locked in talks over their next move.
This year’s clashes in the capital have been the most serious for more than a decade, with some 330 people killed and about 1,500 injured in the past month.
In a statement read over local radio stations, the Union of Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said the control of Mogadishu by warlords was over and he urged residents to accept the new leadership.
“The Union of Islamic Courts are not interested in a continuation of hostilities and will fully implement peace and security after the change has been made by the victory of the people with the support of Allah,” he said.
“This is a new era for Mogadishu,” he told AFP news agency, adding that the Islamic Courts were ready for dialogue.
Local people in Mogadishu gave a cautious welcome to the news.
“They said they would work with residents to improve security in the capital,” city resident Ali Abdikadir told Reuters news agency.
“This is good news for us because the warlords were always engaged in battles. We are looking forward to a life without fighting.”
But some seemed unconvinced that the weeks of bloodshed were really over.
“It’s good to see conflict resolved but I don’t want to celebrate a temporary victory,” housewife Hawa Ismail Qorey told AFP. “Mogadishu is witnessing political history but it may be good or it may be bad.”
And others expressed concern about what the future might hold with Islamists who want to introduce Sharia law in control.
“What I am afraid of is if they interfere with the education system and bring religion by force to the schools,” Asha Idris, a mother of five, told AFP…
The violence began earlier this year when warlords who had divided Mogadishu into fiefdoms united to form the Anti-Terrorism Alliance to tackle the Islamic Courts, who they accused of sheltering foreign al-Qaeda militants.
The Islamic Courts deny this. They were originally set up in Mogadishu as a grassroots movement by businessmen to establish some law and order in a city without any judicial system.
The head of the BBC’s Somali service described the rise of the Islamic Courts as a popular uprising.
The Islamic Courts have long said the warlords in the Anti-Terror Alliance were being backed by the US.
Washington merely says it will support those trying to stop people it considers terrorists setting up in Somalia but stresses its commitment to the country’s transitional government, which functions from Baidoa, 250km (155 miles) north-west of the capital.
President Abdullahi Yusuf had urged the US to channel its campaign against Somalia’s Islamists through his government, rather than the warlords.
Reuters, meanwhile, is reporting from Washington that:
- Warlords were getting cash payments of more than $100,000 a month from the
Central Intelligence Agency, according to Somalia expert John Prendergast of the think-tank International Crisis Group. He said he learned about the support during meetings with members of the warlords’ alliance.
Well, now we need to see what the international community (with or without the US) is prepared to do, to help Somalia’s seven million people get out of this long-festering mess…
Meanwhile, both Afghanistan and Iraq now show many signs of being threatened by an imminent collapse (or for Afghanistan, relapse) into outright warlordism. The militarism and arrogant hegemonism that have characterized the United States’ engagement with the world over recent decades have a lot to answer for.
US militarism has indeed been a powerful force for social collapse and human suffering in many countries around the world. At this point, the US military machine needs to be trimmed radically– back to the rock-bottom level that is needed for absolutely immediate national defense. US citizens need to turn our back quite decisively on all these feverish dreams of world domination that have gripped the Bush administration (and before it, the Clinton administration), and find out how to re-engage with the other peoples of the world as the human equals that we all are…
Then, think how many freed-up national resources we would have that we could pour into starting to repair some of the harm we have caused around the world, and to build up productive and self-confident communities everywhere.
Meantime, though, let’s wish the very best for all the people of Somalia.