30 Nov 2006

Somalia Cooks Up Trouble

The reports of 3 suicide car bombs detonated in the Somali town of Baidoa bring a new and ominous escalation in the growing threat of Islamism in Eastern Africa. Though fanatically brave and careless of their lives in battle, Somalis have never been known as methodical suicide jihadis. Newswire suggestions than non-Somalis were captured at the site indicate Al-Qaeda involvement. As is usual with Somalia, the situation is endlessly opaque and confusing, with the ICU going so far as to invite the USA to officially visit Mogadishu for talks!

Kenya is a non-aggressive nation, known for the excellent professionalism of it's armed peacekeepers in Bosnia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere with a foreign policy that stresses regional dialogue and agreed solutions. Kenya has been instrumental in helping end the genocidal Southern Sudan conflict, among many. For years Kenya coaxed the quarrelsome and boisterous Somalis into forming their Provisional Government. All that work is undone by the advance of the shadowy, sinister Islamic Courts Union forces.

The Guardian and other leftist MSM outlets repeat the clueless canard that somehow, when the US gave cash to non- ICU warlords in a futile attempt to stem the ICU takeover of Mogadisu last summer, this "exacerbated" the Islamist advance. Such thinking blames America-as-usual, forgetting that the groundwork of trained forces, superior weapons, advanced tactics and foreign cadres of the ICU took months, if not years, of careful planning. The blame game also ignores the most likely cause of the Islamist assault: it coincided with and would plainly forestall, the final establishment of the internationally backed, African Union approved Provisional Somali Government.

While ideologues look to their bogeyman in the USA, others note that Islamism in Somalia could revive the murderous regional violence of the 1960's and 70's when Somali nationalists tried to take over territory in Kenya and Ethiopia. These have large ethnic Somali minorities. There are uncomfortable signs that "Greater Somalia" is longed for by some of the ICU top leadership. It's hard to see how the ICU will not eventually go for the racial expansion of Somalia, which would have disastrous repercussions in Kenya's north east, heavily populated by native and refugee Somalis. Throw in the ICU acting as proxies for Eritrea, Ethiopia's belligerent refusal, backed by a huge army, to countenance Islamist takeover, Iranian mischief, Al-Qaeda elements, mystery arms flights into Mogadishu, new suicide bombers and one has a cauldron of bitter ingredients that could scald an entire region.

Kenya meanwhile tries to play the peaceful middleman, desperate to avoid being caught in any situation that would demand it abandon perceived neutrality in face of a need to balance acute national interests. It's something Kenya diplomats are very skilled at, but for how much longer before somthing lights the fire and the Somali pot finally boils into open regional conflict?

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