Muhammad al-Hashimi, a scholar of international political economy with special research focus on African and Muslim countries, looks at some key developments in Ethiopia.1
This article was contributed by Muhammad Ali Alula al-Hashimi, a scholar of international political economy specializing in African and Muslim countries. He is associate fellow at the Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance in London (UK), and founder and executive director of Harar Global Foundation in Washington, DC, a charitable and research organization. He is also a member of the First Hijrah Foundation, based also in Washington, DC.
The report adds that countries in sub-Saharan Africa have weathered the global recession better than expected, and better than in previous, milder economic slowdowns.
Iraq and Afghanistan were far from the only victims of the neo-cons’ aggression under George W. Bush. Several other Muslim countries suffered grievously too, without receiving nearly as much attention in the world media, and, by extension, among Muslims. Somalia is perhaps the single greatest example. Crescent has covered developments there as best we can, largely thanks to M. A. Shaikh, who writes on the new government of Sherif Sheikh Ahmed in this issue, but elsewhere in the Muslim media Somalia has been largely ignored.
The US and Ethiopia, alarmed by the growing strength of the "insurgents" backing the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), have stepped up their military operations in recent months to maintain the faltering interim government (IG) in office. Not only have they increased the number of indiscriminate air-raids and missiles, but they have also extended the targets to include crowded mosques.
The transitional federal government (TFG) of Somalia, which was put in power in December 2006 after the removal of the ruling Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) by the Ethiopian army – began to disintegrate last October, finally crumbling soon after its 72-year-old leader, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad, fell ill in December and was taken to Britain for medical treatment. Now the new government, a remnant of the TFG, whose name it continues to use, is also backed by the US, Ethiopia and their allies, including those in the region such as Kenya.
A year ago (December 2006) the US government persuaded Ethiopia to invade Somalia, giving it military and financial backing to remove from power the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and replace it with the transitional federal government (TFG). Both Washington and Addis Ababa thought at the time that they had gained effective control of Somalia by replacing the UIC with an administration made up of warlords, military officers and secular officials. But now they have no doubt that whatever control they had has crumbled:
Ethiopia’s war in Muslim Somalia has been one of the major news stories of the last year. However, less well-known is the fact that Somali Muslims living under Ethiopian rule in the Ogaden have a 700-year history of resistance against Ethiopian rule. FAHAD ANSARI reports.
It was in December 2006 that the Ethiopian army – with the US’s military and financial support – invaded Somalia and paved the way for the expulsion of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and its replacement by the clan-based interim government (IG). Now it is once again pouring its troops into Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, to prop up the IG (which has foundered as a result of a dispute between its president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, and prime minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi) and to prevent the UIC from seizing power.
The last thing a Muslim country like Somalia – which has been in the grip of turmoil and lawlessness for 16 years and is now under occupation by Ethiopian and US forces – needs is intervention in its turbulent affairs by Muslim governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that are allies of the US and back its anti-Islamic programme in the Horn of Africa. Yet that is exactly what took place in mid-September, when three top leaders of the so-called Somali interim government (IG) and 300 clan heads (warlords, most of them) gathered in Jeddah and signed a “national reconciliation pact”, as the minority accord was presented.
It was widely expected that the reconciliation-congress chaired by the ineffectual transitional government, headed by the former warlord and nominal president Abdullahi Yusuf, would fail almost as soon as it began on July 15. What was not expected was China’s decision to secure a contract with the nominal head. Not only is there no chance to find and extract oil, because of the endemic unrest all over the country, but China’s expected involvement in the federal government’s schemes is bound to contribute to the violence.
It sounds strange, but even the highly secular western media now admit that the people of Somalia “yearn” for the return of the Islamic Courts Union, which had ruled some parts of the country, including the capital (Mogadishu), for several months before it was toppled as a result of the US-backed invasion by the Ethiopian army. The admission follows the failure of the so-called transnational federal government (TFG), restored by the invasion and backed by the West and the UN, to introduce even a semblance of peace or law and order since the expulsion of the ICU
Somalia’s transitional government (TG) claimed the victory when the shelling of Muqdisho (Mogadishu, the capital) by the Ethiopian army during the recent ten-day confrontation with supporters of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) came to an end on April 27.
To assess whether the Horn of Africa is the "hottest conflict zone in the world" – as some analysts have called it – it is enough to list the countries that constitute it and examine their relations with the US, which has a huge and disruptive influence in the region. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya are generally known as the components of the Horn, but neighboring Sudan and Uganda are so closely linked to them and embroiled in their conflicts that they are now also widely regarded as Horn countries.
The weak and unrepresentative TFG (transitional federal government) – installed after the expulsion of the popular Islamic Courts Union in December – and the Ethiopian troops who helped install it and are protecting it have failed to stem the growing violence in Somalia. The clashes between them and their opponents in recent weeks show clearly that TFG and the Ethiopians have no control over events.
It is difficult to imagine the scenes on the ground in the small and remote Somali village of Hayo on January 9, when a heavily-armed American AC-130 gunship appeared in the sky and “rained gunfire” into the village.
It seems likely that Somalia will not have peace for the foreseeable future, as war again breaks out between the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and the “interim government” (IG) with the Ethiopian forces entrenched in the region to protect it. Since it is laughable to call the handful of former warlords hiding in Baidoa an ‘interim government’, the current fighting is really only between Ethiopian troops and forces loyal to the Islamic Courts.
Ethiopia – which already has thousands of troops in Somalia, ostensibly to protect the tiny and powerless transitional government – appears about to launch full-scale war against the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which controls most of the war-torn country, including the capital, Mogadishu, and is trying to restore Somali unity. It is in Ethiopia's strategic interest that Somalia continues to be a failed state nominally managed by a weak government that is controlled by it and its allies through the UN.
Although little noticed elsewhere in the Ummah, a popular Islamic movement has taken power in Somalia and is under attack from neighbouring Ethiopia, backed by the US. MAHMOUD AHMED SHAIKH reports.
It is now official: Ethiopian troops have advanced deep into Somalia's territory, reaching Baidoa, the seat of the official but defunct government headed by president Abdullahi Yusuf. These troops have seized airports near the city, 150 miles from Mogadishu, the capital, which has been under the full control of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) since June.