Somalia Reverts to Political Fragmentation

Posted in Africa | 23-Feb-07 | Author: Michael Weinstein

During the first three weeks of February, Somalia continued its slide into political fragmentation as violent attacks against occupying Ethiopian forces and militias loyal to the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) persisted on a nearly daily basis, inter-clan fighting continued to break out and the level of crime increased.

Although the T.F.G. claimed to be in control of security in the official capital Mogadishu, local media reported that its forces were failing to patrol the streets and that the Ethiopians were remaining in their bases, which came under attack, leading to exchanges of artillery fire that resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, mainly suffered by civilians. With approval of and pressure from the T.F.G., neighborhoods and businesses recruited their own security forces, restoring the situation that existed before the Islamic Courts Council (I.C.C.) had made its unsuccessful bid to unify Somalia in an Islamic state during the last half of 2006.

As the T.F.G. proved unable to establish itself as a legitimate and effective governing authority, external actors -- international and regional organizations, Western donor powers, and regional states -- continued to urge the T.F.G. to initiate reconciliation talks that would include conciliatory elements of the formally disbanded I.C.C. and would be geared to the formation of a national unity government, and to press for the deployment of an African Union (A.U.) "stabilization mission" (AMISOM) that would protect the T.F.G. and train its security forces. Although halting progress was made toward both goals, neither had as yet been realized, due to the reluctance of the T.F.G. to share power and of African states to contribute troops to the mission and donor powers to fund it adequately.

Ethiopia, whose invasion of Somalia in December 2006 had defeated the I.C.C. and whose troops and armor had been propping up the T.F.G. since then, had declared that it would pull out of the country in mid-February, but kept its forces there under Western pressure when AMISOM did not materialize as quickly as hoped. Some Ethiopian withdrawals were reported in local media, but they were only of marginal significance.

The T.F.G. failed to make progress on its top priority of disarming independent clan-based militias, which the United Nations reported were once again falling under the control of warlords who had divided Somalia into fiefdoms before the rise of the I.C.C., and suppressing criminal groups and the militant elements of the I.C.C.

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