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Ethiopia Offers Hobson's Choice for Christmas
[Opinion] Somalis suffer a harsh Islamic regime, but the alternatives are worse
Liam Bailey (wordsworth)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-30 15:13 (KST)   
Predominantly Christian Ethiopia gave its Muslim Somali neighbors perhaps the worst Christmas present of all: the reinstatement of full-blown war to replace the weeks of sporadic artillery fire and months of socially restrictive calm brought by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) sweeping to power in June.

Ethiopia entering the conflict proper by launching air-strikes on UIC towns and positions on Dec. 24, brought report after report of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces taking towns and of the courts in retreat. Reports on Dec. 27 put the advancing forces at 50 kilometers from Mogadishu, having taken control of all major towns en route to the capital.

Upon Ethiopia's entry into the conflict, the U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting in which members met regarding a call to end the fighting in Somalia. No call was made however, because the U.S. and several of its allies objected to the text, saying that it singled out Ethiopia and that stability from a political agreement was needed before foreign troops could leave. This is Lebanon/Israel all over again, I wondered how many Somalis would be killed and displaced before the U.S. let the U.N. pull its finger out. Literally, to point objectionably and tell them to "stop it"--about all it is good for of late.

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The U.S., of course, supported Ethiopia in fighting the UIC, viewing the action as part of the broad War on Terror. Again, similarly to the war in Lebanon earlier this year, the U.S. urged restraint by Ethiopia, and the maximum protection of civilians. Clearly the U.S. has learned nothing from Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Islamic fundamentalism is not like any ideology or threat the world has ever faced and cannot be dealt with by military force. The current wave of terrorism around the world is fueled by the literal Quranic interpretations of Salafism and the jihad it presents as central to Islam. Not only literal interpretations are the problem though, the translation of Islamic texts to suit an ideology of terrorism also contributes to the besiegement of the world.

Take the recent spate of suicide bombings. Suicide is forbidden in the Quran, but Salafism hails jihad above all else, so suicide bombing as an act of jihad, therefore, is acceptable in their ideology. According to the same ideology those fighting jihad are seen in a special light by Allah and those dying while doing so go straight to paradise, suicide bombers included.

Dec. 28 reports from Somalia were that the UIC had surrendered in Mogadishu, returning it to clan rule. The courts had said they would regroup there and continue the war.

Somalia's envoy to Ethiopia told reporters Dec. 27 that they planned to avoid civilian casualties by not fighting for Mogadishu, instead surrounding and besieging the capital until the UIC surrendered. Their strategy worked in a far quicker time than the court's rhetoric would have suggested.

It does now look like the transitional federal government has regained control of Somalia with Ethiopia's assistance. What happens now, however, is unclear.

Ethiopian ministers have stated that they do not intend to impose a government in Somalia and that they are there to defend their interests only. They had also said that TFG forces would be on their own in fighting for Mogadishu. Somalis reported Dec. 27 Ethiopian tanks and troops marching towards the capital with TFG forces.

If Ethiopian ministers speak the truth and indeed intend to leave Somalia now that the courts have surrendered, Somalia will undoubtedly return to the anarchy of the 15 years before. On the other hand, if Ethiopia does intend to take some part in the running of Somalia, I hope it is planning for a long conflict. Somalis may have been worried about the loss of personal freedoms under the Courts, but as the recent demonstrations in Mogadishu displayed, they want to be ruled by Ethiopia even less.

Either way in one of the world's poorest countries, already enduring severe drought, famine and the aftermath of severe floods, things are set to get far worse for the Somali people. The war has already put an end to the humanitarian efforts being made and created thousands of refugees. In the coming months Somalia's population will be faced with an environment similar to Iraq, with ex courts militiamen, foreign fighters and clansmen waging unconventional warfare in jihad against the Ethiopian occupiers. Or they will be returned to the previous 15 years of lawlessness, chaos, insecurity and violence: again, pretty similar to Iraq.

Somalis don't get a say in the matter, but if they did it would be Hobson's choice.
This article will appear on War Pages
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Liam Bailey

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