January 22, 2008: Things have calmed
down sufficiently in Mogadishu in the last year for various media (local
broadcasters and foreign reporters) to resume operations. This has led to more
attacks on journalists, who often misunderstand the environment they are
working in. Somalia is full of guys with guns, and warlords who are easily
offended. Angry warlords tend to kill or severely injure people who offend
Meanwhile, there are three different
wars going on. Up north the breakaway entities of Puntland and Somaliland continue fighting over
possession of the Sool region, that lies astride their border. Both sides claim
it, and both are willing to fight for it. The dispute has been going on since
Puntland was formed in 1998, and declared they controlled the Sool because the
inhabitants belonged to a Puntland tribe. Somaliland based their claim on
borders drawn by the colonial governments of Italy and Britain a century ago.
Years of negotiations have not settled anything. Northern Somalia has been better
governed since breaking away from Somalia
in the 1990 to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million).
The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south, has been in
perpetual chaos since 1990.
Down south, in the old capital,
Mogadishu, Ethiopian and Somali (from clans outside the city) continue to clear
hostile clan populations from the city. Over 600,000 people have been driven
from the city in the last year. These largely belonged to clans that backed the
Islamic Courts, or were unhappy with Ethiopian troops in the country. Both
sides are engaged in the usual endurance contest. Whoever can endure the pain
of this daily combat the longest, wins. For Ethiopia, victory means keeping
Somalis (led by the Islamic Courts) out of southern Ethiopia (which has a
largely Somali population). For the Islamic Courts, victory means a few central
Somali clans (including those getting hammered in Mogadishu now) would dominate
the country via a religious dictatorship, and a holy war against Christian Ethiopia.
That's not going to happen, because the Islamic Courts backs al Qaeda, and U.S.
counter-terrorism forces in neighboring (to the north) Djibouti would
The third war is outside Mogadishu,
where some of the displaced (from Mogadishu) Islamic Courts fighters are
looking to easier pickings. Some of these guys have organized themselves into
small groups and are driving around stealing what they can, and doing it all in
the name of the Islamic Courts. There are some militias outside Mogadishu, but
if a few dozen gunmen in cars and pickups avoid the defended places, they can
pick on the weaker ones with much less risk.
The 8,000 man UN peacekeeping force has
shown some activity of late. Uganda is rotating it 1.600 peacekeepers, bringing
in new troops to replace the ones who have been basically sitting around
defending themselves for the last year. Some 440 Burundi troops have arrived in
Mogadishu, to join the Ugandans. The peacekeepers keep the airports secure, and
a few other locations. If all 8,000 peacekeepers showed up, more areas in the
city would be free of the daily chaos and violence. But the low level violence
in the city would not disappear. That won't happen until all the hostile clans
are driven from the city, and into refugee camps in the suburbs. While some
people from other clans are moving into the vacated neighborhoods, the
Ethiopians and Transitional Government still hope to cut a deal with the