The Islamist coalition which controls Mogadishu is spreading their territorial control – South Africa’s Independent reports that the coalition seized Beletweyne, a key town north of areas they currently control. Beletweyne may be a stepping stone towards Galkaayo in Puntland, a functionally autonomous region allied with the largely powerless secular government based in Baidoa. It’s also very close to the Ethiopian border, a situation which likely makes the Zenawi government very nervous. The Ethiopian government announced that they’d captured and killed 13 rebels affiliated with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, allegedly armed by Somali Islamists and Eritreans.
Image from an article on CulturalOrientation.net
The International Crisis Group, which has a pretty good track record of alerting the wider world to potentially explosive conflicts, is warning that the Somalia standoff could erupt into regional conflict. An Islamist invasion of Baidoa, the only stronghold of the secular government, would likely provoke further incursions from Ethiopian troops, which might pull Eritrea into a regional war as well. Their report, “Can the Somali Crisis Be Contained?” suggests that the answer is “Nope, not without lots of diplomacy and international cooperation.” Unfortunately, international cooperation is in short supply lately – I’m not sure there’s any to spare in the Middle East, never mind in the Horn of Africa.
The Economist has an excellent, thoughtful article that helps contextualize the conflict in Somalia, setting it against a backdrop of population explosion, food insecurity, migration, easily available small arms, as well as religious tensions. For those less interested in all the subtleties, there’s always CNN and AP, which are portraying the situation in terms of “holy war”, with provocative photos of Islamist Somali leaders with guns. The story reports that the Union of Islamic courts is urging solidarity with Lebanon… though it’s unclear just what that would mean in terms of the local conflict.
Conflicts create refugees, and IRIN warns that refugees are trickling into Kenya, joining camps that already house tens of thousands of Somalis. Should the conflict expand, one can expect trickle of refugees currently coming to Kenya to expand into a stream.
The Economist article is heartbreaking. The situation is complex, but as the article points out, there is an elephant in the room. Population growth. What seems to be even more unmentionable is that the lack of human rights for women is the mother of the elephant in the room. That is the part of the world with widespread genital mutilation. The appalling crimes of sexual torture committed in places like Darfur are, if I’ve understood some of the reports from the area correctly, not even directed at women. They’re committed to get at men by hurting their families. Women count for, literally, nothing at all.
The result is everywhere. Baby machines with no rights are, well, baby machines. Women (under current social conditions) tend to be a voice for moderation. But they have no voice, and moderation is nowhere to be found.
Addressing the issue involves divorcing Islam from cultural barbarism that has nothing to do with the religion, and that, perhaps, is the Great Big Momma of all the ignored elephants in the room. Nobody wants to touch that one for fear of being accused of bigotry, colonialism, orientalism, or some damn thing.
I think we’re making a big mistake. We should call bullshit in our own houses first, for sure. But that doesn’t let us off calling it elsewhere, especially when it’s killing millions of people and devastating a whole regions of the world.
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Quite interesting. Thank you for the clarifications, Sir Ethan!