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Perhaps Al-Shabab will save Somalia
by Hezron H.N Nyawachi
2010-08-30 07:06:23
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Fighting in Mogadishu has intensified this week in the war-scarred capital even as Moslems are observing the Holy Month of Ramadhan.   Islamic insurgents disguised as government soldiers stormed Muna hotel near the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu and killed thirty two people including six MPs and five government employees, the BBC reports. Muna Hotel is in a government controlled quarter in Mogadishu, and this latest intrusion is just one of the many that vindicates some analysts to say the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) should be disbanded since it cannot spread ‘government’ beyond the Presidential Palace.

This is amid great tensions in the war-torn city that saw intense fighting between al-Shabab Islamists and troops loyal to Transitional Federal government backed up by African Union peace keepers. This has led to both sides declaring an all out war and this amid one of the worst humanitarian emergencies with children (if alive) not going to school, women dying, corpses being buried wherever they are found .

The al-Shabab have increasingly established themselves as another centre of power ahead of the TFG and by severally taking war to the TFG, they are hankering to wrest power and take over Mogadishu. Consequently, it has pulled to itself Mujahideens from Minneapolis, California, Minnesota, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Afghanistan, Yemen and Kenya who are keen to fight in the name of Islam. Their determination can break the back of even the strongest armies: ‘There is a chance I might never come back here and might die protecting my religion, it is a price I am willing to pay...... We are protecting our religion and our reward is in heaven.’

This level of misunderstanding is reciprocated among the wonks in the West who will rather advise use of drones to liquidate this menace than dig deep and propose better and different solutions.

Interestingly, a new generation of Mujahideens who have grown up in the West are forfeiting their comfort and returning to Somalia to fight for Islam and protect their country from crusaders. Much has been talk that the TFG is considering a major assault to weaken the rebels. Al-Shabab has bested the TFG in its futile threats, and their firepower will continue to attract more youth, local and foreign, to fight among its ranks.

The TFG’s incompetence and civilian casualties at the hands of AMISOM has even put the larger population adrift even amenable to the rebels for lack of an alternative. Attacks on civilians by al-Shabab has not done as much damage to discredit the rebels as has been the TFG’s helplessness to project its power has done to kill the TFG.

Al-Shabab’s campaign has especially been very successful since the famous handshake between US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Shekh Sharif Ahmed that proved the perception that the current government is a foreign sell-out and blackmailing the AMISOM AS foreign crusaders. This could not be worse if the TFG at least attempted a response to this propaganda war. 

Great outrage greeted the Kampala bombings July 11 2010 on innocent world cup revellers that led to 74 deaths. But like the August 7 1998 and 2002 Kikambala bombings, it was much ado about nothing. No soul-searching for permanent and different approaches-just the same use of force against terrorists.

The Ordinary session of Heads of State and Government under the aegis of IGAD grouping meeting thereafter urgently voted to allow despatch of 2,000 more troops to the AU mission in Mogadishu. Such kind of resolutions are symptomatic of the cancer that has been ailing the region’s leadership in trying to solve this ‘cesspool’ that Somalia has become to be known.

Sometimes it leaves one baffled at the kind of response the Horn of Africa has been attracting. Every Islamist aggression sends leaders ‘alarmed’ and scampering for security solutions because ‘this is a regional problem’. Any lull thereof makes us all to behave as if we have fixed the problem, and at best when leaders respond, it is the usual military hardware, and more boots on the ground propositions.

The unravelling of the UN and US missions in the 90s and recently of the Ethiopian enterprise is proof that large scale foreign interventions won’t work and will never work in Somalia. As David Shinn, a Professor at George Washington University contends: ‘That was not the solution then and will not be now’

These are these the same ordinary responses for the last two decades since the collapse of the Siad Barre dictatorship in 1991. The prevailing situation in Somalia just does not warrant an ‘international’ peace keeping operation. No force, not matter how large, can police Somalia off terrorists. The US Assistant Secreatry of State Johnie Carson cannot be more wrong when he posits that a ‘more robust’ AU force can vanquish al-Shabab.

‘We believe that it is necessary to have more troops on the ground and we in Washington have committed ourselves to support additional troops on the ground in the same fashion that we have supported the existing Burundi and Ugandan troops’.  More troops in Somalia-as is true of Afghanistan- is not the simple solution that has been lacking in this region. The US has spent $ 176M on AMISOM alone since 2007 on training, logistical support and equipment. What change has this wrought?

Because it is going to fail, what will the AU do next when the surge fails and there is an attack next in Burundi?. Kenya, Ethiopia, and are Uganda worried. This is a regional issue but look at the quality of international response. Our accumulated non-response is just desserts for where this crisis has reached.

Al-Shabab, in not too long, will take over Mogadishu and spread their rule of terror.  Analysts are alarmed at this prospect, but some reckon that this may return a calm of sorts in the city reminiscent to the 2006 ICU golden era. Al-Shabab has already won the propaganda war against the TFG, it will not be long before they romp home in Mogadishu.

Hezron Nyawachi is a fellow at the Institute of African Progress

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