|Africa News Digest
U.S.-Backed Incursion Creates Iraq-Style Insurgency in Somalia
The potential for violence in Somalia is great, because of clan rivalries, and the widespread dislike of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)'s Ethiopian backers who sent in troops to push the Islamic Courts movement out of southern Somalia.
Since the Ethiopian military incursion into Somalia this past Christmas, with American participationin a British-crafted plan to turn the Horn of Africa into a crisis zonea series of developments have occurred which exacerbate Somali hatred of Ethiopia and the TFG, creating the conditions for permanent war, along the lines of an Iraqi-style insurgency, fed by foreign Islamic fundamentalist fighters, or jihadists.
* At least 23 Somali prisoners were deported from Kenya to Somalia Jan. 27, according to Shabelle Media Network, which covers the Horn of Africa. A TFG spokesman said that some of the prisoners were members of the Islamic Courts movement. Sixteen of the group were women and children, and all had their heads covered with sacks. On Jan. 20, alleged Islamic Courts fighters captured near the Kenya-Somalia border were flown back to Mogadishu.
* A U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship staged an attack in southern Somalia Jan. 22, the second this month, and was announced by U.S. officials the following day.
* On Jan. 26, the BBC reported that unknown gunmen killed five people in a series of attacks in Mogadishu. Four people were also injured in mortar attacks.
* Louis Michel, the EU Development Commissioner, said on Jan. 22 that the Jan. 19 mortar attack on the Presidential palace in Mogadishu "showed the risk of [Somalia] descending into a civil war."
* David Shinn, who served for 37 years in the U.S. State Department, including tours of duty in Kenya, Sudan, and as ambassador to Ethiopia, reported that there is an increase in violence in Somalia on the part of the Islamic Courts (though he says that their militia is largely destroyed), the warlords, and hooligans. He said the TFG is making a mistake by refusing to talk to moderate Islamic group, and that all moderate and traditional people interested in the future of Somalia should be brought in.
* According to reports, there has been a great deal of harassment of the population by the TFG and the Ethiopian forces. People have been picked up and taken away, and many of them have not been heard from again, up to this point.
* There is a significant Oromo (Ethiopian) community in Somalia, who are in opposition to the Ethiopian government, and have gone to Somalia for refuge. The Ethiopian forces have been singling out Oromos for what they term state-sponsored terrorist treatment, even if they have lived in Somalia for years.
The latest in a series of guerrilla-style assaults on TFG and Ethiopian troops, portending a more intense insurgency side of the conflict include:
* Attackers fired four mortar bombs at an Ethiopian troop encampment near Mogadishu overnight, Reuters reported Jan. 27.
* On the evening of Jan. 27, according to SomaliNet, unidentified gunmen attacked the police station in the Howlwadag neighborhood in Mogadishu, wounding five people. Three of the wounded were police officers; the rest were children playing near the police station.
Somali President, PM Oppose Alliance with Moderate Islamists
President Abdullahi Yusuf engineered the ouster by majority vote of the powerful Speaker of the TFG Parliament, Sharif Hassan Shaikh Adan Jan. 17, because of his several attempts late last year to seek peace with the Islamists, over Yusuf's opposition and that of Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, as reported by Reuters and AP.
Gedi said, "There will not be any mediation by any party between the transitional government and the Islamic Courts," when he arrived in Sudan Jan. 20 for three days of talks, according to AFP.
European, UN, and U.S. officials have urged Yusuf and Gedi to build bridges with moderate Islamists.
U.S. Ambassador Urges Inclusion of Islamist Leader in Somali Peace Process
The U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and Somalia, Michael Ranneberger, said that, "Anyone inside Somalia who renounces terrorism, extremism, and violence, should have a role to play in the future of the country [Somalia]," according to a BBC broadcast of about Jan. 20. Xinhua published the quote Jan. 22. "To the TFG this means that they should be reaching out to talk to all elements of Somali society. We certainly have made clear to the TFG that it needs to talk to all elements, and that includes people such as, for example, Sheikh Sharif, who was considered a moderate member of the Islamic Courts."
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed turned himself over to Kenyan authorities Jan. 15 and is in U.S. protective custody in Nairobi. He was the chairman of the Executive Council of Islamic Courts and shared the leadership with Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, who was chairman of the courts' legislative council.
In the context of the Cheney/Bush war in Iraq, and drive for war against Iran, a U.S. endorsement of Sheik Ahmed damages his, and other moderates, credibility.
South Africa, Sudan, Rwanda Will Not Send 'Peacekeepers' to Somalia
South Africa, Sudan, and Rwanda will not send troops to Somalia, news reports say. An unnamed senior South African foreign affairs official told AP Jan. 11, "For us to send troops would be to enter a serious quagmire. We would be perceived to be fighting the U.S. war on terror. Any peacekeeping force there would lose credibility."
Uganda, Nigeria, and Malawi have promised troops, but so far, none have been sent.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi told Reuters Jan. 27 that he expected a third of Ethiopia's troops to have been withdrawn by Jan. 28. "We are reducing troop numbers by about a third ... that process should be completed today or tomorrow," Meles said.
However, on Jan. 23, in an interview with Shabelle Radio in Mogadishu, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, said Ethiopian troops will stay in Somalia till the African peacekeepers arrive in the country and take the role of restoring peace and stability.
"I want to indicate that it is certainly our understanding that the Ethiopian force will not withdraw from Somalia until the African forces have been deployed. I am not saying that you won't see some withdrawal. That is normal now that most of the fighting has ended. But you won't see a complete withdrawal," Ranneberger said. "I don't think that the Ethiopians want to see any sort of security vacuum in Somalia."
CNN reported on Jan. 23 that amidst the reports of Ethiopian troop withdrawals, 1,500 fresh Ethiopian troops were seen arriving in Somalia.