January 9, 2007


http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,458633,00.html>As Islamists Leave, Mogadishu Faces New Threat: Ethiopian troops may have chased the Islamists out of Somalia, but now Mogadishu's interim government faces a different threat: The warlords, who have done so much harm to the country in the past, are re-arming and making a bid for power. (Der Spiegel, 1/09/07)

"Ethiopian troops will only stay in Somalia for a few weeks in order to help the provisional government stabilize the country," announced Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has already offered to send some of his own soldiers. But, considering that Ethiopia and Somalia have now had three wars in four decades, hardly anyone believes that the Ethiopians will voluntarily leave after such a short amount of time. What their interests are, however, remains unclear.

Does the government in Addis Ababa want its neighbor to become as weak as possible? To become a non-functioning state in the control of criminal bands, too busy dealing with its own problems to pose a threat to Ethiopia?

Were the Islamists driven out because they were starting to bring a gruesome sort of order back to Somalia and had their sights on the Ogaden region, a Somali settlement in southeast Ethiopia which is rich in natural gas?

Or is Zenawi hoping to set up a stable, like-minded government which would allow landlocked Ethiopia to use the ports of Mogadishu and Kismayu to transport its goods, and thereby end the country's costly dependence on the port of Djibouti?

The fact that the war lords, who terrorized Somalia for so long before being driven out by the Islamists, are wasting no time in coming back, apparently under the protection of Ethiopia, indicates Addis Ababa may be hoping for Somalia to fall apart. Just a few days after Mogadishu had been captured, the much-feared militia chief Mohammed Kanyare Afrah was seen back in town. And even Hussein Aidid, the son of the infamous Mohammed Farah Aidid who once waged war on the Americans, has returned.

Hussein Aidid is one of the agile warlords who wasted no time in joining the new government. He speaks fluent English after having trained as an infantryman in the American Marines at the end of the 1980s. He lives in one of the few magnificent villas which has survived unscathed the fire storm of the last decade and a half. Three of his children are here, Aidid says cheerfully. The other four, in the interests of safety, are staying in San Diego in California, near his old barracks.

The situation in Mogadishu is quiet right now, "but security is relative," he says, and anyone who wants to buy weapons can do so at the local Bakara Market.

Nothing better illustrates the misapprehension of who the enemy is than putting the warlords back in the game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 9, 2007 12:59 PM
Comments for this post are closed.