Monday, May 4, 2009

Digging the heels for a new Battleground


They say "no news is good news". For the first three years after the collapse of the military regime in 1991, news from Somalia concurrently captured the world's media outlets such that all eyes turned on the multitudes of events unfolding in the impoverished and war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation. Then all of a sudden the world got bored with the horrible unending events of militarism, plunder, rape, killings, assassinations, and jostling for power. Then came 2006 with the rise of the Union of Islamic Courts that uprooted the strengths and mights of the dreaded warlords funded by the West.

Overnight, a young Koranic scholar by the name Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed received celebrity status simply because he led the uprising that ousted the unforgiving warlords. Six months later, Somalia's archenemy and neighbor, Ethiopia, jumped on the bandwagon under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Because of Ethiopia's involvement in Somalia's internecine war, world media coverage of Somalia proliferated once again. On the other hand, Somali Diaspora communities established grueling cyber-warfare that lasted until Ethiopia's exit. Bogus websites allied to particular warlords of interests appeared like peanuts.

As luck would have it, the Transitional Federal Government headed by Colonel Abdullahi Yususf instantly collapsed after a political Tsunami ripped through its poorly-designed political infrastructure. Then late last year, a reconciliation conference under the auspices of the international community, was held in neighboring Djibouti to bring all warring parties together . This time, Somalia became all news again. Funny enough, the former celebrity star, Sheikh Sharif, became head of a new Somali administration. His inauguration coincided with the opening of the African Union convention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was here where he met the man who chased him through the streets of Mogadishu in December of 2006, atto Meles Zenawi, the man who rules Ethiopia with an iron fist.

Right along Somalia's coastlines and way further in the Gulf of Aden, a deadly virus
was growing dangerous tentacles. This virus came to be known as "piracy" though to many Somalis it was a form of preventing the depletion of Somalia's maritime resources from illegal fishing and dumping of noxious wastes. Again, Somalia became a news celebrity overnight. The world media houses exploded once again after the capturing of an American cargo ship and French luxury yacht. To make matters worse, the pirates held ransom the captain of the American cargo ship. The altercation between the poor pirates and the United States Navy resulted in the killing of all the pirates and the freeing of the captain. This time, the name Somalia was everywhere. Consequently, this incident did not diminish piracy activities. Instead, the piracy business has skyrocketed.

Then recently, after all was calm, the greatest Islamist arrived Somalia from Eritrea via Sudan. His name is Sheikh Dahir Sheikh Aweys; he is an unrelenting fundamentalist powered by religious zealotry and tribal hegemony. He is a former colonel of the defunct Somali Army and a former member of Al-Itihad Al-Ilsami, a religious fuction that had firm hold in some regions of Somalia. The Sheikh was in the same camp as Sheikh Sharif at the height of the ICU before parting ways after its collapse and defeat by the Ethiopian Army.

Currently, the build-up of western navies together with the forces of the "coalition of the willing" along Somalia's coastlines seem not to attract much media attention. Instead, all eyes are on the current developments in Somalia-a tough war between two former friends that is expected to drag on for an unknown time. It is a war between Sheikh Sharif and Sheikh Dahir Aweys. Unless the Hawiye elite and tribal leaders succeed a negotiated settlement between these two men, a penumbra of contested political absurdities will once again engulf Somalia's fragile social composition.

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