Somali Shabab forces struck at an AU base in the capital,
This was the latest round of spiralling changes following
The previous month, pro government militias including the AJW were in jubilant mood following the tactical withdrawal of the Hizbul Islam, a Muslim group allied to the Shabab from the town of
Both towns were quickly seized and easily recaptured by the respective pro-Shariah groups. On Thursday 20th August Somali government forces fought fierce battles with the Shabab in the town of
Earlier, the key town of
Jowhar was selected as the temporary seat of parliament since 2005 and is the hometown of the country’s pro-US President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif. The government has been losing ground for weeks but has downplayed its defeats.
The Shabab had similarly annexed the City of
Hudur is 180 miles northwest of
The Ethiopian Army left
As it withdrew its forces, the last remaining outposts were dismantled and then the power vacuum which several secularists and other anti-Islamic hardliners had long since forewarned materialised.
The Ahlus Sunnah Waljamaca (ASW), a self-styled so-called ‘Islamic’ group’ is likely to be have been armed by withdrawing Ethiopian forces, and is waging the weak Somali government’s war on the Shabab with varying success.
No one had heard of the group until very recently and to this day, no one seems to be interested in its origins, ideologies, strategies, sources of military arsenal and actual purpose.
The fact that the World Media calls them ‘Islamists’ sheds some suspicious light on them, the US hates any group that says they are all for Islamic governments, so why the silence on the ASW and lack of condemnation.
The Shabab meanwhile are still the most powerful army in Somalia and the sudden emergence of the ASW, is likely to have been a response to contain the Islamic forces from assuming office and delay the inevitable; an Islamic Emirate in the African continent.
African Union forces (AU) from
They were nowhere to be seen however; when the presidential palace was heavily shelled from hilltops overlooking the building on the same day the Ethiopians completed their withdrawal.
Both before and after the Ethiopian military left
Interestingly, the AU forces have not condemned the ASW, which shows tacit approval from their side and similarly the new Somali President, elected in February 2009, is only interested in moving against the Shabab alone.
The AU however have since lost any popular public support if ever they had it after opening fire on civilians when one of their convoys was attacked via a roadside bomb in early February 2009.
The resulting gunfire from AU troops left over a dozen Somali men, women and children dead and a growing distrust towards foreign forces and their exact intentions. The AU suffered no casualties both from the earlier explosion or the ensuing firing by their own troops.
The Shabab meanwhile have assumed actual consolidation of Baidoa, pockets of
Its chief rivals, the ASW, have since largely disappeared from sight, but briefly took the empty police stations and checkpoints across the capital following the Ethiopian withdrawal.
A so called ‘moderate islamist’ (in reality a
11 Burundian soldiers were killed in February 2009 after a vehicle carrying explosives crashed into a military building used by the AU troops.
Officially there are only three fronts the
Despite International press reports, only southern
Aside from that, the Somali government, once supported by Ethiopian troops backed by US weapons and subsidies from Djibouti (where US forces are stationed), controls only Mogadishu and until early 2009 held Baidoa (where the Somali Parliament is situated) in addition to a few army barracks.
Despite this it is still recognised as the legitimate government by the International community led by the
The Somali President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a US puppet ruler who resigned in late December 2008 over problems he encountered with the Prime Minister and his ministers in dealing with the Mujahideen, had little authority or jurisdiction outside the capital, Mogadishu.
In November 2008, he further admitted the errors of his own government in tackling the nation’s anxieties and the Somali Mujahideen, known as the Shabab, were now as invigorated as ever.
“Islamists have taken over everywhere else, so if I ask you parliamentarians: do you know the situation we face? Who causes all these problems? We are to blame.”
The following month, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, announced African forces in Somalia namely from Uganda and Burundi, supporting them now also want to leave the country soon.
His comments came during Prime Minister’s Question time in the Ethiopian Parliament, which showed the seriousness of his statements. The two named countries then promptly denied this.
Members of the al-Shabab group now control most of the country and had advanced to the suburbs of
The Al Shabab have since consolidated their gains and are now fully in control of all conquered territories. Shariah law is legislated, implemented and regulated with adherence to the strict guidelines of the Sunnah and the Qur’an.
Nationalist militias and different warlords with a variety of agendas (some local, others tribal and a few regional) across the country also make their presence felt with much greater effect than the government and pirates roam in the sea.
All organised military factions are held together by one common aim- the expulsion of the Ethiopian presence in their country. There is further displeasure at American interference of their national affairs and forcing their government to spend less on the economy and overcoming poverty and more on waging war against the pro-Shariah Somalis .
In December 2008, a new group incorrectly calling itself the Ahlus Sunnah Waljamaca, declared war on the Shabab. The new group is made up of several creeds and factions with little or no connection to one another and are not interested in the legislation, implementation or enforcement of Shariah, only in causing confusion and anarchy among Muslims in
The new group is indirectly supported by the US to divert attention to the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces and assist the fledgling Somali government for as long as possible which is otherwise due to collapse once all foreign troops leave.
The group is said to be strong and has engaged in several confrontations with the Shabab allegedly with some level of success, the probability is it was supplied with weapons, military information and surveillance from
The Shabab themselves, projected as the villains of the Somalia with links to Al Qaeda, however, are different from the six-month old Islamic administration of Southern Somalia of 2006, known as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).
The latter still exist, but have no direct links or influence on the Shabab. The latter started as a junior member of the UIC, one of many groups who supported the UIC in its aims to legislate and implement Shariah law, but have since broken away. It is the Shabab now who hold the key to the best salvation for the entire nation.
While the UIC never assumed the reins of government in its entirety, the lands and territories that passed under their control were administered with fairness, tolerance, peace and a degree of prosperity not seen for 16 years.
They emerged initially as a formation of interests by different classes of people and quickly ascended in popularity. Representatives intervened on behalf of people wronged by warlords and championed their causes.
The Islamic successors to the UIC, the Shabab, upon assuming power, have attained personal popularity, brought law and order and a semblance of peace to an otherwise shattered nation in the areas they now hold.
The present Somali puppet government has declared the Shabab as the ‘Somali Taliban’ and the
The Ethiopian Army remained in
However, in recent months, despite superior weaponry, military arsenal and larger numbers of servicemen and recruits, the Ethiopian military became bogged down and was unable to contain the onslaught of the new Muslim revolutionary forces.
At first, reports of defeat on the battlefield were played down and denied but as town after town fell and the fatalities started to mount heavily, the Ethiopians grudgingly started to come clean about its failures both on the ground and in the air.
It was airpower that enabled the Ethiopians to retake
The Shabab first came to light in the mid 1990s, but were initially overshadowed by the larger, more powerful and influential UIC, whom it allied itself with voluntarily in its early years.
It was in June 2006 the UIC made headlines when they captured the Capital,
No massacres, genocide, famine or pestilence came as a result. By December 2006, the Somali government felt it couldn’t stem the thrusts of the UIC Mujahideen, enter the Ethiopians.
The same month, the UIC launched a Jihad against the Ethiopian army. It was not until 25th October the Ethiopian government announced it was technically at war with the UIC.
In late November 2006, a resolution in the Ethiopian Parliament was passed allowing the government to take any legal and necessary steps against aggression by the UIC Mujahideen towards them.
In early December, the UIC Mujahideen announced they had been involved in a battle with the Ethiopians. Fierce fighting then erupted lasting almost the entire month between the two sides.
By January, government forces supported by an enormous Ethiopian army and air force using US arms, gun ships, helicopters and mortar fire carried the day. Since then a weak government supported by the
In mid 2008 however, the Shabab, the successors to the UIC Mujahideen emerged alone (and had since broken with the UIC) with more firepower, recruits and determination.
It has since had several successes in military terms this year, both against the Somali government and the Ethiopian army in addition to evading US missile strikes from across the border in
In three short months they captured five major cities and are now on the verge of taking a sixth, the capital,
In August 2008, the Shabab conquered the key
In October, pro-government militias withdrew from Merka, also in the south and Shariah was again instituted there. All shops, merchants and trading stops at the call to Prayer and the Criminal Law of Shariah restored order, bringing a sense of security and life to the society that had been languishing in darkness. Residents welcomed the change arguing the old ruler had been tyrannical and despotic.
Later in November, the Shabab annexed the cities of Barewe and Elasha, the former is a seaport 180 km from the capital. Although the government is still nominally in charge of
Like the Ethiopian Army before them, Somali government forces and pro-US militias are in a state of constant and almost daily assault as the Shabab continue to encircle and re-conquer the south fully.
Time is all that is left for the present government to fade from history along with its supporters and lack of actual Western promises of economic or military assistance and aid.
Food, or the lack of it, is a bigger issue for both the Somali and Ethiopian governments as poverty, rising unemployment, excess inflation and a colossal increase in crime drives more and more people against both.
While Ethiopian forces were poised to leave in January 2009 while Burundi and Uganda, which make up the military relief columns of the AU (African Union) services earlier voiced discontent at being left to face the Shabab themselves once Ethiopia withdrew.
The Ethiopians were further undermined by a less than committed ally in the form of the
At the time of departure, they had none of those essentials and as such, preferred to leave
The AU has already announced it wants to protect certain figures and places only, not take on an offensive role or become the object of attack themselves. The AU hopes a full UN force arrives to relieve them soon. A
There were 3, 000 Ethiopian troops as of January 2009 and now there are 3, 200 AU troops, from two African nations as well as the official Somali government military and a small number of militias and warlord factions who support the present administration.
The AU forces are present only in
While the Ethiopians left in January 2009, both Burundi and Uganda were to supply an extra battalion later while Nigeria said it would also despatch a force of 850 personnel in January as well, but didn’t.
The Americans maintain both the UIC and the Shabab are an offshoot branch of Al Qaeda in Africa and are as such sponsors of Terrorism, hence their principal cause of opposition to an Islamic Emirate in
The support was verbal alone and involved no military supplies as such, the Ethiopians agree to the first point, but not the second. It is because of failed promises of both economic and military aid to
Pestilence, famine and economic ruin in Ethiopia itself as well as harassment across the frontier with tiny Eritrea (Ethiopia’s most dangerous adversary) and Somali tribesmen in the troubled Ogaden Province (the only area in Ethiopia where Somalis make up the majority and Somalia itself claims as its own) mean there is now only consequence, bankruptcy and political disaster foreseeable as long as it remains on foreign soil.
The official line to the Ethiopian withdrawal is an agreement drafted in December 2008 between the present administration and several factions including a former rebel group to form a new government once all ‘foreign forces’ leave.
Since no one liked the Ethiopian army, especially the civilians who staged a series of several peaceful protest marches over the years, the reference to ‘foreign’ was both open and blunt for all to see.
Meanwhile, the US itself operates a military base with a small contingent of troops in neighbouring Djibouti and the Somali government has since sold its sovereignty, soil, airspace and civilian population to American fighter bombers; the only military the USA is willing to send to Somalia themselves.
As it has planning permission to demolish
In early September 2009, the
Somalis can aspire for, desire and dream of an Islamic Emirate under Shariah, but must get a democracy instead, so much for real representation of the people, by the people and for the people.
The present administration does not represent the population, is unpopular and controls less than 1% of
Few outside observers have noted the relevance, importance and necessary consequence of the
Even before 1991, when Somalia last had a united and functional government under President Siad Barre (ruled 1969-1991), Ethiopia was seen as the country’s most hated neighbour and opponent.
It was chiefly due to
However, since the 1990s, the Ethiopians hold the military advantage, thanks largely to a more stable government and earlier
Against one another, the two nations have fought twice and continued a war of attrition across the border, but chiefly in and around the
The first war in 1964 was brief, yet bloody nonetheless. Both sides gained little and no agreement was reached. The second, between March 1977-July 1978, lasted longer and almost resulted in a complete Somali victory until close to the end of the war.
Under the direction of Somalian President Muhammad Siad Barre, who had been a major before staging a coup in 1969, Somali forces occupied up to 90% of the Ogaden in the early phase of the war.
By July 1977, after just four short months, Somali forces had all but won the war and pushed the Ethiopians out.
Ethiopian forces rallied with fresh and regular supplies through heavy Soviet support throughout the war to push the Somalis out of the Ogaden. The resulting shift in fortunes ended in a crushing Somali defeat.
This was especially distressing since the Somali army and air force are actually stronger and more powerful than the Ethiopians. While
Siad Barre had made the mistake of switching allegiances from the Soviet Union to the
Siad Barre had also misjudged the converse reactions of the
The change in military terms gave
The terms of the ceasefire in 1978 were heavily in favour of
Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, and with his downfall, the natural consequence of instability; civil war in Somalia while Ethiopia continued its war with Eritrea (then a rebel province) until 1994, when it too became an independent country after almost thirty years of insurrection against the Ethiopians.
In the face of internal troubles between them, neither side looked to the Ogaden seriously, but now that the disturbances within each nation are coming to a close, the issue of the independence of Ogaden is likely to resurface once more.