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Somalia: Darker days, redux

As Ethiopian troops are to leave soon, Somalia may once again become prey of Islamists. This time, things might get really nasty and extreme.

Somalia dead bodies red crescentSadly, a common sight, soon? (via ISNsecuritywatch, Flickr)

Almost two years ago, one of my first blog posts on kopfzeiler was about Somalia. I predicted darker days then, and unfortunately, my outlook has not changed.

Ethiopia has decided to withdraw its troops, finally, as they could not bring stability to the region. With this step, the future of the transitional government (which has no power on the ground anyway) seems to be  in limbo. Militant Islamists of the “Shabaab” have been gaining ground this year, taking control over the cities of Al-Dheer and Kismayo and have also been able to use pirates for smuggling weapons into the country (giving them military training in return). They are now said to hold 90 percent of the country, including parts of Mogadishu. Once Ethiopian troops have left, it should not take them long to control the rest of the city, too.

Unlike the UIC, which was ousted from Mogadishu in the end of 2006, there are no moderates in this group. The Shabaab is well-armed, dangerous and extreme. It is unclear how this will fare with the Somalis who are basically moderate Muslims and mainly supported the Shabaab because they wanted to get rid of the Ethiopians. In the meantime, diplomats try to divide the Islamists by offering the moderate ones to be part of the government.

This shows once again, that the American policy at the Horn of Africa is deeply flawed: They could have let negotiations with the UIC take place in 2006 to broker a power-sharing agreement, but preferred to oust them, making many members more extreme. The Ethiopian agenda has since resembled more to an occupation than stabilization, which also brought its arch-rival Eritrea to meddle in Somalia by re-arming the Islamists.

The Ethiopian withdrawal may soften that proxy-conflict, but the troops will surely leave an instable country behind, as there are not enough African Union peacekeepers to keep the situation under control. With different Islamist groups (including a lot of foreign personnel) and plenty of warlords who want to regain power as well, an explosion of violence will most likely damage this scarred country, once again.

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