Peacekeeping: Why Somalia Ain't No Haiti


January15, 2007: A "perpetual" peacekeeping operation may work in Haiti, where the peacekeepers essentially are serving as a police force intended to keep the wilder criminal elements out of political power, but it's doubtful it would work in Somalia. There are no clans or tribes ( with significant militia forces on call) in Haiti. In Somalia, there are dozens of well armed clan militias, and past attempts to disarm the clans have all failed. It would be well to examine that history. For thousands of years, Somalia consisted of trading ports along the coast, each with large Arab and Indian minorities, and often controlled by those foreigners, who owned the trading organizations. The interior was populated by dozens of clans. The term "tribe" doesn't really apply, because all these people were of one ethnic group, what we know of as Somalis. These were an independent and feisty people, who depended on their weapons more than anything else. Somali didn't even have a written form until the 1970s. Before that, if you wanted to be literate, you usually did it in Arabic.

In 1886, Britain replaced Egypt as the primary foreigners in northern Somalia, and the area became known as Somaliland. In 1889, Italy displaced the various Arab, Indian and Somali rulers in the south, and formed a colony called Somalia. In 1960, both colonies were combined into a new country; Somalia. For the first time ever, there was a united Somalia. The country contained most, but not all, of the Somalis in the region. Many more still lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Many Somalis wanted to combine all the Somalis, and the territory they occupied, into a "Greater Somalia." But the other countries in the region were against this, for they had been the victims of raids by Somali bandits for centuries. There was also a lot of bad blood between Ethiopia and Somalia, mainly because the Ethiopians had conquered, and ruled, most of present day Somalia, many times in the past two thousand years. Somalia could be conquered, but there really wasn't much there worth having, and most conquerors eventually got tired of the cost, and withdrew.

As soon as the new Somalia came into existence, it began attacking Ethiopia and Kenya, in an attempt to create Greater Somalia. This effort failed. The democracy the colonial powers left behind also failed. Clan loyalties were more powerful, and by 1969 Somalia had become a dictatorship. A coalition of clans enforced their rule over the entire country. This couldn't last, and it didn't.

The new dictator tried to eliminate the clan loyalties, and create a socialist dictatorship and police state. This appealed to many young Somalis. The dictator, Siad Barre also tried to curry favor by going to war with Ethiopia again in 1977. That failed, and the clans became more troublesome throughout the 1980s. By 1991, the government fell apart, as did the country. Since then, the clans have squabbled with each other, and continue to do so. Try and fix that with peacekeepers.




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