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?
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Actually Ethan the events that led up to this routing of the Union of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu and all the way down to the border with Kenya is MUCH more complicated and intriguing than many pundits and journalists have reported over the past few weeks.
John Pendergast who I admire greatly has already put his foot in his mouth re: U.S. government strategy for Somalia by calling the efforts of the State Department and especially the work by U.S. Asst. Secretary of State Dr. Jendayi Frazer “idiotic”.
Germany’s Der Speigel magazine finally got something up about Somalia at their English-language site by January 2nd, but if you look carefully they haven’t reported anything else about Somalia since August 2006. Now that all hell has broken loose (or surprisingly not yet broken loose) in the country it is a Big Story.
The European press and TV news media and politicians over here have “all of a sudden” taken a very keen interest in the fast moving situation on the ground there. It’s rather disgusting to watch to be frank knowing that many European capitals with the exception of London and Oslo could give a damn about what happens to the people of Somalia.
Bill Ainashe of Ainashe.net has been writing at his blog regularly about the various crisis unfolding in his native country as has our mutual dear friend and fellow blog author Yvette Lopez of Inside Somaliland (see new URL below) who is now based out of Sudan. Another good blogger writing about Somalia is the Aljazeera analyst Abdurahmen Warsame at the No Longer at Ease blog. Interestingly none of the above named bloggers have posted much since the fall of the Union of Islamic Courts and their related militias. Go figure.
I wonder who is in the mix of the alleged jihadists and other foreign fighters trapped with their backs to the sea along with the top UIC leaders and militia commanders? If they are somehow rounded up and brought before the TFG and the international news media that will be the Scoop of the Month.
Dr. Michael Weinstein of the Power and Interest News Report (PINR.com) has a comprehensive roundup on the recent defeat of the UIC. See his latest report titled “Requiem for Somalia’s Aborted Islamic Revolution”. Weinstein… isn’t that a German name?
Ainashe by Mukhtar “Bill” Ainashe
Inside Somaliland by Yvette Lopez and friends
No Longer at Ease by Abdurahmen Warsame
Power and Interest News Report (see New Reports)
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Dr. Jendayi E. Frazer bio at Wikipedia
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Hi Ethan – SomaliBlogs has what looks like the definitive list of Somali Blogs.
As it is a Blogspot blog we are having to use PKblogs to see it over here. Here’s the link – http://www.pkblogs.com/somaliblogs
Sounds like you really know what the fuck is going on from you computer, homeboy. Try doing some real reporting, then come and talk about other reporters’ copy.
Thanks for that polite and thoughtful comment, Les. I do, indeed, do reporting in the real world, though generally in the technology world, and I certainly have a lot of respect for real-world journalism. Indeed, it would require a pretty serious misread of my post to have me dismissing all journalistic accounts from Somalia. I disagree with the tone taken in some of the accounts – you disagree with my disagreement. That’s fine, but there’s really no need to be abusive in your language here.
My apologies … after covering this for so long though (in the context of the last three years, specifically the TFG, etc), that seeing pundits say this and that from afar is rather annoying …
Les, I can understand why you might react the way you did. But I’ve been writing about this situation for two years on this blog, and about African politics as a whole for several years. I’ve also lived and worked on the continent for much of my adult life. I understand that it can be unpleasant to be critiqued by bloggers as a pro journalist, but I think you do yourself a disservice by reacting the way you initially did. Thanks for the apology.