The headline on Les Neuhaus’s AP article from Mogadishu this morning announces, “Somalia’s PM greeted by cheers“. Reading three paragraphs into the article, the situation becomes a bit more complicated. While “hundreds of cheering residents” greeted the heavily armed convoy, “several thousand demonstrators” took to the streets to demonstrate against Ethiopian troop presence, burning tires and using cars to block the main road. And “dozens of young men” threw stones at prime minister Gedi’s convoy.
Wouldn’t a more accurate headline have been “Somalia’s PM greeted by cheers, protests”? Oh well. I guess there were no statues left standing in Mogadishu for the Ethiopian army to pull down for the news cameras.
PM Gedi is evidently not too concerned by symbolism. He was installed in the US Embassy complex in the southwest of the city, brought into Mogadishu – which he had not previously entered during his “rule” – by a procession of 40 Ethiopian tanks. Given anti-Ethiopian and anti-US sentiment – not to mention anti-provisional government sentiment – it’s hard to believe this particular entrance into Mogadishu is going to endear the PM to most Somalis.
Martin Fletcher has been reporting about Somalia for The Times of London, and has strong feelings about the folly of US support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Here’s his analysis of the popularity of Gedi’s government:
Most Somalis detested the official Government, which was created after two years of tortuous negotiations in Kenya between rival Somali factions, but was stranded in the town of Baidoa until this week because it dared not return to Mogadishu. The so-called Transitional Federal Government contains some of the warlords the Islamists drove out in June. It has relied for its survival on thousands of troops from US-backed Ethiopia, Somalia’s most bitter enemy, whose Christian Government feared the Islamists would foment trouble among its own sizeable Muslim minority.
As for Washington’s role in the situation:
Washington backed the warlords in their losing battle against the Islamists. And it tacitly approved Ethiopia’s military intervention to support the TFG.
It has even been passing aerial surveillance reports to Addis Ababa, according to US news reports.
Preoccupied with the spectre of Islamic terrorism, the White House is thus party to an attempt by a repressive regime in Ethiopia to replace a popular de facto government in Somalia with a widely reviled official one. It is a dangerous gamble.
But hey, don’t worry about it. We’re barely hearing about the Ethiopian invasion in the US media, and we’ll probably hear almost nothing when Mogadishu descends into the chaos Somalis have grown so familiar with when Ethiopian troops are forced to pull back. In the meantime, why not stay with CNN and watch the 24/7 Saddam Hussein deathwatch? That’ll be fun, won’t it?