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GUEST COMMENTARY: Peril in Somalia

Posted by kinchendavid on July 24, 2006

By  Tom Proebsting 

Moberly, MO  — Trouble is brewing between Somalia and Ethiopia as the eyes of the world are on the Middle East. Ethiopian troops and trucks have unofficially moved into the Somali towns of Baidoa and Wajid. The Ethiopian government and the Somali interim government deny that the troops have crossed the border because the action is likely to be interpreted as an infraction of international law.


The Somali government, formed in 2004 in Kenya, is using Baidoa as its government seat and it is the only town they control. Somalia’s leading Islamist terrorist group, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) captured the capital city of Mogadishu on June 6. Somalia has not had a strong central government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. During the aftermath, the nation has been in anarchy with corrupt warlords ruling various regions.


The ICU has links to al Qaeda and has taken over the southern half of Somalia, bringing a semblance of order with it. The organization is split by moderates who want a dialogue with the government and the extremists who wish to impose Sharia law.


The Somali interim government, whose president is Abdullah Yusef, is supported by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Ethiopia.  The Somali rebels have reportedly been supplied weapons and support by Eritrea and Yemen. Eritrea is a long time foe of Ethiopia. Yemen lies across the Red Sea from Somalia.


Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia once in 1993 and again in 1996 to quash militants attempting to establish an Islamic government. In addition to wanting to set up a Koranic government, many of the Somali citizens wish to establish a Greater Somalia. This is a nation consisting of all Somalis in the region, including the eastern section of Ethiopia and the eastern area of Kenya, both of which have heavy populations of Somalis.


Another concern which was voiced by President George W. Bush and echoed by White House spokesman Tony Snow is that Somalia may become an al-Qaeda haven for terrorists to plot and train. The State Department is reputed to be working with individuals in fighting terrorism in Mogadishu and funding pro-Western warlords. A final concern is that the two nations are strategically located on the Horn of Africa which leads to the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The waterways must be protected. For instance, Somali pirates must not be allowed to harass sea traffic.


The UN has imposed an arms embargo against Somalia, already in its 14th government since 1991. However, the US backs the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism which was formed this year by Mogadishu’s main warlords.


After the Ethiopian troops entered Wajid last Saturday (July 22), there were reports of an armed conflict between them and the rebel forces. The ICU has threatened Jihad or a holy war against Ethiopia in the event of clashes. If the two sides go to war, it is feared that the conflict could escalate into a regional war in East Africa.


What is Ethiopia’s best course of action? It must succeed as it shares a long and porous border with Somalia. Also, the interim government may collapse and if it does, the rebels may institute Sharia law throughout Somalia. In addition, they plan to seize areas of Ethiopia and Kenya where the population is predominantly Somali. Finally, Somalia may become a huge training ground for worldwide terrorism if al-Qaeda has its way.


What is best for Somalia is that one single government must exert control over the nation. Ethiopia’s army is superior to that of the ICU. Most of the Somali rebels are locals, not foreigners. Ethiopia must side with the Somali warlords and defeat the ICU in a contained war. Then once a strong central government is elected and put in place in Mogadishu, it can work with its warlords in the most effective manner possible in keeping the peace.


The United States and others who support Ethiopia must do what they can to give aid and supplies to the Ethiopian forces and the Somali government. The United Nations must give its seal of approval to the actions of the Ethiopian forces so they can rid Somalia of a potentially dangerous source of trouble throughout the East African region and ultimately throughout the world.


                        * * *

Tom Proebsting is a writer and blogger in Missouri. Tom Proebsting, 823 N. Ault St. Moberly, MO 65270

                     e-mail: truthprobe777@yahoo.com

Proebsting invites comments. Reply to: http://truthprobe.blogspot.com





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