Somalia’s violence spreads

Somalia’s violence spreads

Writing for Foreign Policy‘s Axis of Upheaval, Jeffrey Gettleman refers to the “ethereal pan-Somali dream”: a long-held national desire to grab back Somali-speaking territory in neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, and Djibouti. “Pursuit of that goal would internationalize the conflict and surely drag in neighboring countries and their allies,” Gettleman warns.

Many fear that the Islamist militia Shabaab, which control an increasingly vast territory in Somalia, might try to live the dream. Today is a very good example of how bad that could turn out. The BBC reported this morning that clashes between a local ethnic group and a Somali one in Ethiopia left 300 dead and as many as 100,000 fleeing the site.

This flare-up is just one of Ethiopia’s trouble spots — in fact, it’s not even the worst. Miles to the East, an ongoing Somali insurgency by the rebel group Ogaden National Liberation Front has been brutal on both sides. Somalia and Ethiopia have fought civil wars over the territory, and today Ethiopia holds on to it dearly. The State Department’s recently released Human Rights report for Ethiopia, for example, describes a campaign to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in the insurgent region.

Ethiopia is intent on crushing pan-Somali ambitions on its territory — part of their motivation, in fact, for invading Somalia in 2006. Worries over the Ogaden insurgency in particular provided a convenient historical grievance. So in case you needed further reason for concern, clashes today are a mere taste of what could follow if Somalia — a linchpin in the Axis of Upheaval — goes regional.