Sunday, December 24, 2006

Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Despite the fact that December is regarded by many people in different countries (most remarkably in the western hemisphere) as the time of the year when peace, friendship and good intentions should reign, there are zones in the world where such feeling is just not shared. One of them is the Horn of Africa.
In what is feared to be the beginning of an imminent war, there have been several clashes in Somalia lately. The government in that country has been seriously weakened in recent years by the spreading of an Islamic militia movement, known as the Islamic Courts Union (or ICU), that has been gradually taking control of the southern part of Somalia including its capital city, Mogadishu.
What exactly is the purpose of the ICU? Some of its members are trying to develop a system based on the Islamic Sharia law as a method to end the high rates of crime recorded in the country, which is regarded by some inhabitants as a necessary step. However, some other members of the militia are aiming to impose in Somalia an Islamic state... pretty much the same idea that took the Taliban movement to power in Afghanistan some years ago.
The Somali government is aware of the ICU's power and intentions, so they were forced to look for some help to fight them: the big neighbor, Ethiopia, considered that the ICU could also represent a menace for them, so they recently decided to take part of the battles in order to backup the Somali government's cause.
Obviously, the UIC militia didn't like the idea of having some foreign support for the Somali government. The intervention of Ethiopian forces has begun a series of battles, mainly in the Somali area known as Baidoa, that could unleash an international conflict that will involve Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. The lattermost nation has traditionally had a hostile relationship with Ethiopia and is allegedly giving support to the ICU movement.
The situation has been worsening in the last days, and although some international organisms (such as the Arab League) have been actively trying to convince the parties to negotiate, it looks that it won't get any better. It looks like a full-scale attack is imminent.
This is precisely what the world doesn't need right now: a large-scale conflict in a zone of the world where hunger and poverty have nearly devastated the local population. Hasn't Africa had enough suffering in the last centuries? Why would some individuals keep trying to bring instability to the region? Those are indeed questions that need a profound socio-political analysis to be answered.

Photo by AP


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