Thursday, 7 December 2006

The Horn Melts Down Again

Ok, time for another serious post. I'm in a news analysis mood. Although I don't know a helluva a lot about what's going on, so I'll just rehash bits of what I've read. The latest may be read here.

The Horn of Africa (that bit sticking out in the east if you're unsure - read this for background if interested), is just about to blow up (again). The heart of the action this time is Somalia (it's usually Ethiopia-Eritrean border issues causing all the problems. Well actually, it's usually just Ethiopian meddling all over the show). Basically, a militia force calling itself the Union of Islamic Courts is pretty close to toppling the enfeebled Somalian 'government'.

I say 'government' because Somalia hasn't had one since 1991/2. They've had many many internationally-backed transitional 'governments', but never one that is recognised as legitimate by all interested parties. The UN-recognised administration that is there doesn't even work from the capital, Mogadishu. It's really therefore no wonder they've also had many insurgencies like this current one. This is, however, the first explicitly involving Islamist elements.

And yes, this is all part of the ongoing fallout from the mess the US involved itself in in Mogadishu right at the end of Bush senior's term (about 1992 - see Black Hawk Down for Hollywood's interpretation). He thought he was helping restore order. He didn't, and left the mess to Clinton.

The UN Security Council has just passed a resolution saying an African Union (AU) force may intervene. This is unlikely to help at all (c.f. Darfur).

But the conflict has already pulled in about 10 countries: Libya, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda (who's also dealing with rowdy Congolese, Burundian, and Rwandans on it's western and southern borders) Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Djibouti. And the US is of course also involved. Apparently all of these have some sort of interest in influencing Somalia's future, and have had since the last stable government toppled in 1991. For example, Eritrea, supporting and funding the Islamic Courts, sees this as a great way of getting one over the Ethiopians, who are trying to prop up the 'government'.

This is clearly not an isolated problem; it really isn't just Africans ruining their own futures again, as some critics are wont to argue. It's linked to religous radicalisation in Africa, the terribly misguided and ineffective global war on terror and crap US foreign policy, UN and AU legitimacy and (in)effectiveness, and so on. Given this region's horrible history, ongoing tension between Ethiopia and just about eveyone in its neighbourhood (Ethiopia happens to have a massive army, despite the country's gross underdevelopment, hunger, poverty, etc.), the repressive, ruthless maniacs running Sudan, and, of course, strong man Gadaffi over in Libya, it really does have to the potential to become very serious shit.

The bottom line is this is bad, and will deteriorate because it's happening in a very bad neighbourhood. Who will lose? Impoverished Africans. Again.

On a happier note, it's 2 weeks to Christmas! YAY!

The Doctor.


talchal said...

hey phil

wow, that's pretty crazy stuff. What can be done about it? How can it be facilitated? Who can step in? The US? The UN? How would SA have any impact? Or isn't it something SA could do anything about?

What is the immediate action that could be done? Flying in peace keeping troops en masse? Immediate sanctions?

It's really crazy hearing it.. because you know it just means thousands more people dying, loads more displaced people, camps, disease.. etc etc


Dr Phil said...

Tally, those be the burning questions. No-one, as yet, seems to have any answers... The US fucks it up more often than not, the UN is toothless (the AU even more so), it's quite far from SA's small sphere of influence (geographically, historically, and culturally). Ya who knows. Megalomaniacal leaders in the region need to stop using Somalia as a proxy for other issues...

talchal said...

What is US's relationship with the region? Aid?
What do you think they ought to do? How would they not 'fuck it up'?
I fnd this stuff fascinating.. because it inevitably means so many human rights abuses.. but if one know it's going to happen now, it's such a shame not to be able to mobilise and do something to prevent it.

Dr Phil said...

Well Tals Africa is a little peculiar in its penchant for state victimisation of the people said states are supposed to be governing. Happens all over the world of course, but not to the same degree as in Africa. If you believe that the vital ingredient in preventing stuff like this is that the power-holders involved must actually want to prevent it, you struggle to see how external intervention would change anything in any fundamental way.

The US's interest goes back a long way - E Africa has always been unstable, susceptible to Islamism, and has had many terror incidents, sometimes involving US Embassies. Plus Saudi Arabia is just across the Red Sea. How would they not fuck it up? No idea. But Iraq right now suggests they wouldn't not fuck it up if they decided to use force...