Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Somalia - Peace?

Further Resources:
UN's page for Somalia
Minority Rights Group International's annual report 2007
International Crisis Group's Somalia page

U.S. foreign policy makers need to work harder to understand the situation in Somalia. The also need to disabuse themselves of the neocon myth of hard power and economic carrots and sticks trumping physical, economic and social geography. The us vs. them mentality against "fundamentalist islam" or even "jihadis". Americans would fight foreign invaders with very different cultural biases... in most cases armed defense of Islamic communities under attack or occupation by non-Islamic foreign powers would look noble to us, if we could see them as their answer to our minutemen, in our own struggle for liberation from colonial powers.

(I often ask people how Americans would have responded in the wake of Katrina if the population had been fed and forceable disarmed by Papua New Guinea highlanders wearing penis gourds. New Orleans had enough trouble with Blackwater security teams and thuggish louts who insisted the hurricane's aftermath was a good time to play Mardi Gras with humanitarian daily rations substituted for beads... "Want help? Show us you tits!" Won't play very well in Mog... but it could be done better, with the right kind of preparation, or enough Somalis on their teams. Anyway the contract has gone to Dyncorp, not Blackwater.)

So Somalia leads our news today, with three big stories:

Somalia tops list of countries where minorities most under threat

Somalia is the world's most dangerous country for minority communities and has overtaken Iraq to top a global ranking of countries where minorities are most under threat, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says in a new global survey.

Fierce fighting and the threat of state repression have seen Somalia, Iraq and Sudan lead this year's ranking of 'Peoples under Threat', which is a major feature of MRG's annual 'State of the World's Minorities' report. Last year Iraq led the list and Somalia was in third place.

'A new government in Somalia has raised hopes for democracy, but it is also a uniquely dangerous time. There is the spectre of a return of large-scale clan violence - and groups that supported the old order are now under tremendous threat," Mark Lattimer, Director of MRG says.

Key allies of the US in its 'war on terror', including the governments of Pakistan, Turkey and Israel, intensified repression of particular ethnic communities in 2006. Pakistan is in the top 20 list and Turkey and Israel/OT have both shown major rises in the rankings.

"US allies have managed to barter their support for the war on terror in return for having their human rights record ignored," says Lattimer.

"The debate continues to rage about whether the 'war on terror' has made the world a safer place for the West, but it has certainly made it a much more dangerous place for minorities," Lattimer adds.

[Read More -> Farah Mihlar, Emma Eastwood - Garowe Online]

Will Islamists Be Included in Somalia Reconciliation Conference?

Somali analysts are warning the country's interim government that excluding political opponents from a crucial reconciliation conference next month could strengthen the position of radical Islamists. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

Earlier this month, Somalia's interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, made the long-expected announcement that a national conference would be held in Mogadishu to reconcile differences among Somalis and move the war-torn nation toward a stable, democratic future.

The announcement said that the conference, scheduled to begin on April 16, would bring 3,000 participants together for two months of meetings and discussions.

Although the announcement did not give specific details about who has been invited to attend the talks, both President Yusuf and interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi have ruled out allowing anyone representing the Islamic Court Union to participate.

A Nairobi-based research analyst at the Institute of International Studies, Mohamed Guyo, says he fears the decision to exclude Islamists from the reconciliation process will significantly increase violence and turmoil in the country.

"Remember, the Islamic courts have been on the ground since 1991 and they have been able to manage the affairs of the people in terms of local governance for 16 years," said Guyo. "And the fact that they were ruling Mogadishu for six months last year has to be incorporated into the political reality."

"If the transitional federal government does not, then Somalia will be back in a state of anarchy and anarchy means that any group, not just al-Qaida but any organized group, can take advantage of the vacuum created," he added.

Guyo argues that the Islamic Courts Union must be given a voice in the reconciliation process because the Islamists still retain popular support, especially in Mogadishu.

During the Islamists' six-month rule that ended in late December, they alienated many Somalis by allowing radicals inside the courts to control the military and by inviting foreign fighters to Somalia.

But Guyo says Somalis still credit the Islamist movement with restoring security in major cities in southern Somalia for the first time since the fall of the country's last functioning government nearly 16 years ago.

[Read More -> Garowe Online]

UN vehicle hits landmine in southern Somalia, 4 wounded

MOGADISHU, Somalia Mar 20 (Garowe Online) - A vehicle with United Nations workers on board exploded north of the Somali capital on Tuesday, wounding all four passengers inside.

A landmine was responsible for the explosion as the UN vehicle drove through Afgoye town, security officials said.

The wounded aid workers were rushed to Mogadishu�s Medina Hospital to receive medical attention.

Last week, a family of 7 died in their Afgoye home when children toyed around with a landmine.

It�s not clear who planted the landmine but security sources said the road is regularly used by Ethiopian troops, who have a base nearby.

[Read More -> Garowe Online]

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