Somalia: Pray or Die


July 8 2006: The African Union (AU) and the Arab League (AL) cannot come to agreement on a common course of action to help resolve the crisis in Somalia, which is a member of both organizations. The AU wants to continue backing the "Transitional Federal Government" (TFG) (which is virtually powerless) against the "Conservative Council of Islamic Courts" (CCIC) movement, which has taken control of Mogadishu and a large swathe of the central part of the country. In support of their position, the AU also favors lifting the UN arms embargo and bringing in international peacekeepers. The AL favors supporting direct negotiations between the TFG and the CCIC, scheduled for mid-July in Khartoum, and opposes lifting the arms embargo or any "international" peacekeeping force (though they apparently are willing to consider a "Moslem" peacekeeping force).
The TFG strongly opposes the CCIC, as do the breakaway "governments" of Somaliland in the north and Puntland in the northeast. Although supported by the West and the AU, the TFG has been unable to assert much control, and is essentially a tool of some of the nation's warlords. The CCIC is also a tool of the warlords, but the Islamist judges have been able to curb many of the more overtly criminal activities of their backers, having brought pressure to release hostages and tried to block roadside extortion (known as "tax collection" by the warlords), and issues regular condemnations of corruption and crime.
While the Somalis are not overly religious, the CCIC seems to offer a measure of security and stability, which has caused many ordinary people to at least tacitly support them. Of late, however, the CCIC has been trying to impose the most restrictive Sharia laws, including bans on movies and even World Cup telecasts. This has met with some popular opposition, and annoyed some of the warlords who've been backing the CCIC, since they control theaters and many other lucrative, if "sinful", activities.
July 5, 2006: In Mogadishu, a group of twenty armed CCIC men invaded a wedding celebration and seized musical instruments. Islamic conservatives believe musical instruments are the tools of the devil. Most Somalis don't agree with this. Somalis are also incensed at a video, showing foreigners fighting alongside CCIC gunmen, that is being passed around. The CCIC insists they are a homegrown force, but many Somalis see the CCIC as the puppet of wealthy foreign Islamic conservatives. The CCIC has denounced the video as a fabrication. The warlords sense a weakness in the CCIC, and are moving their gunmen closer to Mogadishu, apparently preparing to take back control of the city. But many Somalis still support CCIC because the Islamic conservatives bring some law and order, even if you get some oppressive lifestyle rules as well.
The UN continues to back the transitional government which, unfortunately, is not as united, or as militarily strong, as the CCIC. Put simply, the CCIC has a unified military command that works, or at least works much better than the warlord and tribal opposition.
July 6, 2006: CCIC said that those who did not observe Islamic prayer rules (five times a day), would face the death penalty. Demonstrating their fairness, the CCIC arrested two of their own gunmen, who had killed two people in a crowd protesting the shutting down of a cinema that was showing satellite broadcasts of World Cup games. The two arrested men will be tried under Islamic law.




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