Somalia Drifts Toward Fragmentation as Regional Powers Polarize

Posted in Africa | 20-Sep-06 | Author: Michael Weinstein

As forecast by PINR, the interim agreement that was reached on September 4 in Khartoum between Somalia's failing Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and the Islamic Courts Council (I.C.C.), which is the dominant power in Somalia and seeks to establish an Islamic state in the country based on Shari'a law, did not signal progress toward political integration of the stateless country.

Far from ameliorating the polarized power configuration pitting the I.C.C. against Ethiopia, which is determined to defend the T.F.G. and prevent the emergence of an Islamic state in Somalia, the second round of the Khartoum process -- brokered by the Arab League (A.L.) -- intensified the confrontation and spawned new conflicts. With all the players under severe duress, all of Somalia came into play, regional actors polarized as Western powers watched from the sidelines, and cracks appeared within Somalia’s society as local and clan conflicts surfaced, portending the possibility of civil war and a return to the extreme political fragmentation that had characterized the country before the I.C.C.'s surge through its southern and central regions in early June, after the Courts movement had expelled the ruling warlord coalition from Somalia's official capital Mogadishu.

The I.C.C. is Constrained to Focus on Defense and Loses Momentum

From early June into late August, the I.C.C. had enjoyed an unbroken string of successes, establishing order in the regions under its control, instituting rule by Shari'a law, opening up Mogadishu's airport and seaport, establishing relations with the United Nations for the distribution of humanitarian aid, and expanding its territorial scope. As the I.C.C.'s star ascended, Addis Ababa sent armed forces across its eastern border with Somalia, into the provincial town of Baidoa where the T.F.G. is isolated and into the breakaway sub-state of Puntland, which is determined to resist I.C.C. penetration from the south.

The pressures exerted by the Ethiopian presence forced the I.C.C. into a defensive posture, stalling the momentum of its social revolution. The Courts movement responded to the threat from Addis Ababa by clamping down on opposition in the areas under its control, attempting to mobilize popular sentiment against an African Union (A.U.) sponsored peacekeeping mission supported by Addis Ababa, and devoting its attention to recruiting and training its armed forces.

Addis Ababa's principal interest is to prevent the I.C.C. from becoming strong enough to give effective support to the flaring insurgency in Ethiopia's ethnic Ogaden region, which borders Somalia.

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The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of [email protected]. All comments should be directed to [email protected].

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