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Meanwhile in Somalia…

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on October 28, 2006

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):

BBC Map of Ethiopia-Eritrean border

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


2 Responses

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  1. David Heathfield said, on October 30, 2006 at 7:03 am

    Unfortunatly saying its been a summer of peace is no indicator for the future. The Taliban brought a relative peace to Afghanistan from all of the internicide fighting but it did not make its rule any more pleasant. Ethiopia and Eritrea are playing a dangerous game and Somalia threatens to destabilise countries like Kenya through the actions of cattle thieves and bandits. I think it’s all summed up by a recent Economist article I read called The Horn of Africa: Hell On Earth.

  2. adamwestbrook said, on November 1, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    The big problem in my view is that the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is esssentially the West vs fundementalist Islam. In other words, something for other countries to stick their oar into and cause big problems.

    Not to mention the fact Sudan’s just across the border…

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