Somalia – Islamists and Pirates Part II

At a new major peace conference in Kenya in 2002, the parties managed to form an internationally recognized government, in which the warlords were also represented. But the warlords were weak and unpopular among ordinary Somalis. Some clans, among them the Hawiye clan, and especially the sub-clan Haber Gedir, saw themselves as neglected at the peace conference. On it, Ethiopia, which many Somalis still considered an enemy, played an important role. For example, old Ethiopian allies in Somalia were elected both parliamentary and presidential.

At the same time, several sharia courts managed to unite. The Judicial Alliance had great popular support and managed to remove the unpopular warlords from Mogadishu. When the Sharia courts came to power in the autumn of 2006, Mogadishu was peaceful; the courts had created peace in the city.

4: In the north: relatively peaceful

At the same time, Somaliland – an area northwest of Somalia and based on the borders of the former British colony – experienced a peaceful development. After 1996, there has been peace in large parts of Somaliland. The region had declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but no country has so far recognized it as a separate state. Large clan meetings were held there to resolve conflicts.

Somaliland gradually developed a democratic system with a parliament based on both traditional Somali customs and Western democracy, with a clan-based upper house and a party-political lower house. Local elections were held in 2002, presidential elections in 2003 and parliamentary elections in 2005. All elections were declared free
by international election observers.

But not all of Somaliland was peaceful. Two provinces – Sool and Sanaag – were more closely related to the clans in Puntland, and parts of these clans would not join Somaliland. In the province of Sanaag, where the sub-clan Warsangeli is located, this has so far been resolved peacefully by the coexistence of Puntland and Somaliland. In Sool, however, there has been war in 2007, and there are still guerrilla battles in the area.

A relatively stable government was also established in northeastern Somalia, namely in Puntland in 1998. The region was not democratic in the Western sense, but had a parliament with representatives elected by clan leaders. Puntland has never been as stable as Somaliland, but still considerably more peaceful than southern Somalia.

5: The Sharia Courts and the Shebab Movement

The group of radicals in the sharia courts in the south worried both western countries and regional actors. Members of the judiciary threatened Ethiopia, which also supported many of its former allies in the internationally recognized transitional government. Ethiopia sent troops to protect the transitional government in early 2006.

Eritrea , which had lost a war against Ethiopia in 1998-2000, saw itself benefiting from supporting the enemies of Ethiopia in Somalia, and therefore supported the courts. In December 2006, Ethiopia, backed by troops from the Transitional Government, expelled the Sharia courts from southern Somalia. But Ethiopia increasingly faced Somali guerrilla resistance. The Western-backed transitional government was unable to organize an effective army or police force, and the salaries of soldiers and police failed. Thus, the civilians looted or sold their weapons.

In the autumn of 2007, the remnants of the Sharia courts tried to establish an alliance with secular (secular) opponents of the transitional government. This provoked the young radical members of the Shebab to declare themselves an independent movement; they did not accept the secular element. In a manifesto, they distanced themselves from Somali nationalism, Eritrea and secularism.

The Shebab leadership had in many ways an ideological basis that was new in Somalia and based on the philosophy of al-Qaeda . Several well-known al-Qaeda members also fought on their side. Al-Qaeda in Yemen also sent leaders to Somalia, a country located in Africa according to The Americans increasingly used force to kill these leaders, liquidating, for example, a Yemeni al-Qaeda leader in Somalia in 2007 and an East African in 2009.

Shebab established itself in new areas, but among many of the new recruits, the motives were not based on sympathy for al-Qaeda. Several joined the organization for nationalist reasons or also for their own gain. Many of the Somalis who came from the West to fight for Shebab were motivated by nationalism and did not pay attention to Shebab’s ideology. An effective training system, often with instructors from al-Qaeda, helped Shebab get a core of indoctrinated young soldiers.

Shebab was one of the most effective organizations in Somalia – with forces that were more mobile than others. During 2007, 2008 and 2009, the movement expanded strongly and eventually controlled large parts of southern Somalia. But Shebab’s ideology also led to opposition from other Islamic groups. Shebab’s leaders were so-called militant Salafists , who were described as dissidents by other extreme Muslims.

The Sufis were organized in different schools and prayed to God (Allah) through the historical founders of these schools, not unlike the way Catholics use saints. Radical Salafist-inspired Islamists like Shebab saw this as idolatry. They accused the Sufis of worshiping anyone other than Allah. Shebab cracked down on Sufism, which has been strong in Somalia. This created a backlash in which the Sufis in 2008–2009 took control of several provinces in the center of the country. They then inflicted on Shebab some of the movement’s greatest defeats.

Somalia - Islamists and Pirates 1

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