Monday, March 11, 2013
Islamic terrorism is rapidly
diminishing as a threat and now Somalis are paying more attention to
reuniting the country. Government troops and peacekeepers are
systematically clearing al Shabaab out of towns and villages in the
interior and allowing clan leaders to resume control. That is a problem,
because the clan leaders are not willing to take orders from some
government in Mogadishu.
The national government recognizes that Somalia has been
partitioned, and will likely stay that way for a while. Despite this the
government in Mogadishu still tries to assert authority in places where
it doesn’t have any. This is especially the case in Jubaland (in the
south, along the Kenyan border and including the recently liberated
Kismayu). Jubaland is encountering problems sorting out which clans will
get what, especially in Kismayo, where the port and markets are very
lucrative to clan leaders who can levy fees on commercial operations.
Much of the country is already controlled by local governments. These
include (from north to south) Somaliland (in the northwest), Puntland
(the north), Galmudog (a breakaway portion of southern Puntland that is
now a base for several hundred al Shabaab gunmen). Central Somalia is
contested by remnants of al Shabaab, local clan militias, government
troops and AU (African Union) peacekeepers and Ethiopian troops (and
some local militias) all along the Ethiopian border and Baidoa. The AU,
government and Ethiopian troops all tend to coordinate their operations
although each of these forces answers to a different master.
In the south, several thousand Kenyan troops and some local
militias are creating a new mini-state called Jubaland (also known as
Azania). The national Somali government is propped up by AU (African
Union) peacekeepers plus troops from neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya and
lots of foreign aid. All this is mainly to prevent any of Somalia from
becoming a terrorist sanctuary again. Somalia’s internal problems
(corruption, tribalism and a tradition of violence) are always standing
in the way of any political or economic progress. For example, with
Mogadishu now largely free of al Shabaab, a major problem is the new
police force, which tends to commit most of the crimes. Looting and
assault by cops is common and the government seems unable to do anything
The two statelets that comprise northern Somalia have been
better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990s to form
Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other
two-thirds of the Somali population are in the south. Somaliland is
sliding towards civil war, while Puntland has been split between those
who back (and profit from) the pirates, and those that don't. The
pirates have become much weaker in the last year because the
international pirate patrol has prevented most attempts to capture
ships. Without the large ransoms, most pirate gangs have disbanded.
The Somali government is negotiating to get Puntland,
Somaliland and Jubaland to agree to a federal form of government where
the regions would have a lot of autonomy. In return the central
government would provide muscle to help control bandits and warlords
throughout the country. This is not that compelling for most of the
clans, who are accustomed to having no government at all ordering the
around. For nearly all the last few thousand years the clans answered to
no one. European colonial powers arrived in the 19th century
and established central government that didn’t really take; nor did
similar efforts by previous conquerors. Once all the colonial powers
were gone by 1960, the newly established Somali government began to come
apart, a process that was complete by 1991 and no one has been able to
get all the clans to submit to a new central government since.
March 9, 2013: Somali pirates released 28 Indian sailors (17
from the ship Royal Grace and 11 from the Smrini). There are still nine
Indian sailors being held by the pirates. Pirates had been holding
Indian sailors who already had their ransom paid in an effort to get 120
Somali pirates released from India jails. The families of the Indian
captives backed such a deal but the Indian government refused to give in
to threats. With the recent release the Indian government refuses to
reveal if it made a secret deal with the pirates or not. The two ships
the sailors are on were also released, indicating that the ship owners
had paid a ransom. These two ships had both been seized early in 2012
(March and May).
March 7, 2013: The UN agreed to lift the arms embargo on
Somalia for a year, but only for light weapons (assault rifles,
machine-guns and RPGS).
March 4, 2013: The elections in Kenya were violent, with over
two dozen dead, but this was not because of Islamic terrorism but the
result of tribal and separatist groups. About 70 percent of the 14
million registered voters turned out. The violence was much less than in
2007 when over a thousand died.
March 3, 2013: Al Shabaab urged Kenyan Moslems (about 11
percent of voters) to boycott tomorrow’s presidential elections. This
appeal was largely ignored.
March 1, 2013: The Somali government offered amnesty to 959
known pirates, but specifically denied amnesty to the leaders of pirate
gangs. Although most pirate gangs are based in Puntland, many of the
pirates come of further south and a few smaller pirate gangs were in
Somalia (as opposed to the Puntland in the north where most of the
pirate gangs were based).
February 28, 2013: Two bombs went off in a seaside Mogadishu restaurant, killing a suicide bomber and wounding seven civilians.
February 26, 2013: Peacekeepers and Somali troops cleared al
Shabaab out of two more towns (Dardan and Jirada-Kullow) near Baidoa in
February 24, 2013: In Puntland over 10,000 people turned out
to protest the continued presence of al Shabaab in mountains near the
Somalia border. There is a concentration of al Shabaab men in Puntland,
protected by a local warlord who controls some mountainous territory
along with border with Somalia. The peacekeepers cannot enter Puntland
without permission from the Puntland and negotiations continue to obtain
this cooperation. Puntland itself has not been able to gather enough
armed men together to deal with this separatist warlord.