Monday, December 07, 2009

What Is To Be Done?

A December 3rd suicide bombing killed three members of the Transitional Federal Government at the Shamo Hotel, which the New York Times described as being "considered one of the safest hotels and the base of choice for the few Westerners willing to risk a visit to the bullet-pocked city." The attack took place at a graduation ceremony for some desperately-needed Somali professionals, including doctors. Many of these professionals were among the dead.

The government and al-Shabaab blame each other for the attack. The government denies involvement, and claims that Al-Shabaab is afraid to take credit for the attack which has angered Somalis. A government spokesman claims that Mogadishu’s residents are “on the verge of revolt against” al-Shabaab. The Somali government fired its military chief and head of its police force two days after the attack. If the TFG cannot protect it own ministers in the safest part of the small bit of Mogadishu that they control, what does this say about their ability to ever be a functioning government in Somalia? Is it time that the U.S., UN and others give up on the TFG?

Al-Shabaab is currently fighting on another front, against Somali clan groups, both those opposed to and allied with the TFG. Al-Shabaab and some of the clan forces had joined forces, almost ousting the TFG in May. The two groups have recently been fighting over the port of Kismayo and other cities.This civil-war-within-a-civil-war has prevented the removal of the TFG, at least for now.

The conflict, which has already caused 1.5 million refugees, threatens to spill over its borders into neighboring Kenya, and al-Shabaab has threatened terrorist attacks in Uganda and Burundi (the two countries that provide the AU force in Somalia). Ethiopia has been heavily involved in Somalia, sending in troops in 2006. Neighboring Ethiopian rival Eritrea has been accused of and denied supplying weapons to Somali militant groups.

So, Somalia is engaged in multi-front civil war, with foreign influence from multiple sides, that threatens to destroy the UN-backed TFG and spill over into its neighbors.

A friend asked me the other day, "What do people honestly think about Somalia?" I replied, "I think people honestly try not to think about Somalia."

The U.S. State Department condemned the Dec. 3rd attack "in the strongest terms" (another friend pointed out to me: the "strongest terms" is actually a pretty weak response. State further said, "We look to Somalis everywhere to support efforts to end the violent conflict that has engulfed their homeland for nearly two decades. The United States, with the international community, will partner with the Somali people to help them achieve that goal."

Sounds inspiring, but how?

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