Meanwhile in Somalia…
I’ve been following the major upheavals going on in Somalia over the summer, which has basically seen fifteen years of chaotic warlord rule ended – by a fundamentalist islamic group.
It all unfolded like this:
11th July: the Union of Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu. The country’s official (but feeble) government holed up in Baidoa, north of the capital. Peace talks between the two sides begin.
20th July: reports came out that the Islamists were advancing on Baidoa to remove the official government. But at the same time, reports appear saying that Ethiopia was massing troops on the Somali border. Which, of course, they denied. It all gets a bit ugly as the Islamists vow a “holy war” on Ethiopia for intervening.
22nd July: the Union of Islamic Courts calls off talks with the interim government because of the Ethiopia connection.
It’s been a summer of relative peace – and for war-weary Somalians – a tempting hint of a hopeful future. But this silver cloud has a dark lining.
What’s worrying is the development of a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, both bordering Somalia. On one side, Ethiopia openly supporting the interim government, and massing troops on the border. On the other side Islamic Eritrea supporting the Islamists.
Ethiopia and Eritra, it seems, are gagging for a fight. A bitter border dispute ended in 2000 but it all kicked off again about a year ago. Ethiopia moved half it’s armoured force onto the border and Eritrea sent troops into a demilitarised zone, and tensions rose dramatically. Last October it all looked a bit serious…until you look at a map of the disputed land (from BBC News Online):
In other words: it’s tiny. And by all accounts, dusty, deserted waste land. Definitely not worth fighting over. With UN diplomacy, it all calmed down, but with Somalia entering the game, causing tensions between all three countries, it could spiral with worrying ease. This is of course a part of Africa already in turmoil.
This weekend, UIC supporters in Mogadishu are calling for a Jihad against Ethiopia, while reports are emerging of refugees flooding into Kenya and Yemen in the most horrible of conditions.
BBC News Online: Somalis protest against Ethiopia
Channel 4 News: Thousands Make Dangerous Crossing From Somalia to Yemen
Wikinews: Islamists win battle for Mogadishu