Just when Somalia can’t get any worse…
…it does. Just months after the country’s new Transitional Federal Government (TGF) was inagurated, the Islamist opposition (including the now-infamous al-Shabaab) is trying pretty hard to bring it down. In the last week, clashes between government and opposition Islamist forces have sent 30,000 people fleeing Mogadishu, UNHCR reported today. “Hundreds of mini-busses ferried people out ...
Just months after the country’s new Transitional Federal Government (TGF) was inagurated, the Islamist opposition (including the now-infamous al-Shabaab) is trying pretty hard to bring it down. In the last week, clashes between government and opposition Islamist forces have sent 30,000 people fleeing Mogadishu, UNHCR reported today. “Hundreds of mini-busses ferried people out of Mogadishu. As a result of the high demand, the cost of transportation is going up daily, forcing people with no money to remain in the embattled city.”
It’s the worst violence that the capital has seen in months, and the Islamist opposition looks in no mood to slow their campaign. Some think it might be close to winning. Foreign fighters are rumored to have come to Somalia to take up the cause (though, with few journalists in country, this is hardly confirmed.) But what is clear is that Eritrea is funding the opposition campaign. The Eritrean-based Somali opposition leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, blamed the United Nations envoy for destroying the country, and called the current situation a “political war.”
What’s to be done? If the United Nations moves forward with its tentative plan, the world could be on the road to sending peacekeepers to Somalia. In the first phase, the UN would support the ongoing African Union mission. Then, a “light footprint” of UN peacekeepers would take shape. Finally, security permitting, a true peacekeeping force would hit the ground.
Forgive my skepticism, but this is a pipe dream. Sending in piecemeal peacekeepers will be a certain disaster, as the ongoing African Union mission has been (through no fault of the resource-strapped troops on ground). And as I wrote weeks ago, finding the troop numbers to do anything more serious will be politically impossible.
Maybe Aweys has a point. This is a political war, and ignoring that will only make matters worse. Somalia is going to have to find a way to get al-Shabaab and its fellow opposition groups happy with the political arrangment. Until they are, we can expect more updates like this.
MUSTAFA ABDI/AFP/Getty Images
Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
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