Monday, November 19, 2007

Somalia - The Logical Move

Somali insurgents are directing new attacks against Ugandan forces who are operating under under the AU mandate

African stories rarely receive the coverage they deserve - witness the ongoing war crimes in Darfur, or the civil conflict in the DR Congo - and I suspect that this is, sadly, because the people involved are black, and whose virtues, vices, victories, and victimhood do not carry the same inherent worth as anybody else's.

On the face of it, decontextualized from the last 2 years of conflict in Somalia, this sounds like an evil move, especially to those of us here in Canada who get the warm fuzzies every time the word "peacekeeper" is mentioned.

The fact is though, that this is the logical move, because the AU forces declared themselves the enemies of the ICU long before the ICU made war on anyone who didn't richly deserve it. More progress was achieved by the Islamic Courts Union in six months in Somalia than the provisional "government" (I use the term loosely) had managed in 10 years, holed up as it was in Baidoa, desperate for foreign assistance, powerless to govern the capital of Mogadishu while thuggish warlords divided up the city into an array of personal fiefdoms and protection rackets. It was certainly NOT the UN or the AU who kicked them out, united the city, and imposed something called "the rule of law." It certainly wasn't the US. And it certainly wasn't the Ethiopians, whose invasion of Somalia both the US and the AU openly supported.

And that's the rub - the ICU is still a more legitimate government than the Ethiopians, with more local support and a better chance of being interested in Somalia, as opposed to maintaining a the integrity of the Ethiopian state, which is probably the main concern (to be charitable) in Addis Ababa. By entering Somalia, the Ugandans under the AU are providing stability to an order that is inherently unstable, and propping up the power of an aggressor instead of helping a popular, egalitarian Somali political movement to govern Somalia.

I don't claim that the ICU is an ideal government - but they had a chance to give Somalia something it desperately needed: a real government, as opposed to a feudal, radically libertarian paradise where laws and public authority were completely unheard of. The Ugandans are doing the opposite - they are protecting the rule of the Ethiopians, through both brute military force and a totally dependent regime that went from being a pathetic, if sincere, attempt at a government to an outright puppet of foreign interests.

Now, one could argue that armed resistance, from a practical standpoint, might not bring any good to Somalia, and might prolong a conflict that might have been otherwise solved. That might be a valid claim. If, however, the Ugandans want to enforce Ethiopian rule by force of arms, and if the ICU is going to commit itself to the removal of the Ethiopians by the same methods, then targeting the Ugandans is, unfortunately, the logical move.

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