Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Somalia: Assassination of those working for reconciliation

Radio Shabelle, and the Shabelle Media Network, provide Somalia, and the international Somali diaspora, with news about what is going on in the nation. However, the government often accuses it of being partial to the Islamist movement Al-Shabaab, the insurgent military successor of the prior Islamic Courts Union (ICU) government of 2005-2007. This was the reason given by the soldiers who shot to death Hassan Mayow Hassan. His widow and children were just given $3000 aid from the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, facilitated by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). There is great concern over the death and kidnapping of journalists. Ten have been murdered over the past two years. Shabelle published a timeline of just the past year’s incidents as an example. Recently Colin Freeman and Jose Cendon were freed. Others remain targeted or held in captivity.

News also reported the gunning down of Ismail Hassan Timir, Deputy Minister for Reconciliation in December, and Abdullahi Abdi Egaal, a member of the National Reconciliation Commission, this month.

On top of that, World Food Programme workers continue to be assassinated. All they are trying to do is to feed children. What motive drives people to commit the death of aid workers?

These blows are aimed at those working for clarity and a middle ground in the midst of the chaos.

American Strategy for the Horn

The only mention of the United States in the region is as a contributor to the international naval anti-piracy mission, and in conducting logistical, intelligence and covert operations support to Somalia and Ethiopia, striking at Al-Shebaab when and where there is clear intelligence its operatives had ties to al Qaeda. So far the U.S. has made five known strikes.

BBC Report: US fails to break Somalia extremists (1 January 2009)

Ethiopia, mired after its 2006 invasion, is planning on withdrawing its troops from Somalia. Abdullahi Yusuf, who the international community hoped would lead the Transitional National Government into the first nationally-recognized government since Siad Barre, quit the Presidency at the end of 2008.

The nation seems once again freefalling towards warlordism, piracy and militant extremism. Yet also, it is possible the President’s departure, as well as some of the slayings, may lead to a compromise with Islamic opposition government supporters. Yusuf’s tenure was often a highly-contentious one with the parliament. He failed to have Mohamed Mahamud Guled, his own choice for Prime Minister appointed recently. A moderate group of Islamists, Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, has reportedly sprung up to fight the militants of Al-Shabaab.

It will be very interesting to see how U.S. policy shifts in the Horn of Africa with the new Obama administration.

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