General Aidid, left. Ali Madhi Muhammed, right.
January 1991. The USC overthrows the Barre regime but cannot come to terms with other movements such as the SNM. What’s more, Ali Madhi Muhammed more or less declared himself interim president. Needless to say, Aidid was not very amused with this. The USC splintered due to this, and while Muhammed was internationally recognized as president, he wasn’t able to exert any control. So with a situation rapidly spiraling out of control and no leadership, the United Nations decided it would be a good idea to get involved. Malnutrition and starvation were becoming major problems throughout the country and the United Nations sent aid. However, the UN couldn’t manage to keep up with all the constantly splintering factions. Agreements made with one faction would not be honored by other factions. Aidid became notorious for playing factions off each other and the UN. The UN had the wonderful idea to try and disarm the Somalis. That didn’t work.
So with the United Nations proving itself to be an ineffectual organization that is a massive waste of everyone’s time and money with the utter failure of UNOSOM I, what should you do? Call the world police, the United States of America, and see if they can have better luck negotiating with people who don’t want their help. Then name your next program UNOSOM II and hope it’s not more of the same. By this point Aidid just did not give a fuck and attacked a group of Pakistani peacekeepers who had the audacity to inspect a suspected weapons cache of his. 80 UNOSOM troops died and Aidid attacked a food distribution center and stole a bunch of it to give to his people. UN troops began acting a fool and stopped giving a shit about collateral damage. The Somalis quickly came to hate these foreign assholes who kept killing women and children. The US thought it was a good idea to send in some helicopter and shoot shit and totally not kill innocent civilians but you know that they can’t help that sort of thing. Collateral damage and all that.
I like where this is headed
This is the part of the story you’re all probably familiar with. The US put a $25,000 bounty on Aidid and wanted to try him for “war crimes” as if this would have any effect on the state of things. Some of those aforementioned badass motherfuckin’ Rangers got themselves blown up by a remote controlled bomb and Clinton did the only thing that makes sense when Americans get hurt: Try to kill the people who did it and then some. And kill they did. In an attempt to capture Aidid, the United States had two Black Hawks shot down and 19 Americans died and it was really sad so the only solution to was to rampage through the streets of Mogadishu (Somalis call it Xamar by the way) killing hundreds of Somalis indiscriminately. Not so long story short, the US bailed the fuck out because of this and to this day is too scared to go back. If you watched the movie you’d realize it was just like Vietnam and we won and left as well-hung hypermasculine heroes. Thanks Ridley Scott.
General Aidid went on to write a best-selling novel about his experience defending his country first from the Marehan dictator Siad Barre and then from the Western aggressors and lived out his days in a country villa near Bosaso. Haha just kidding. The CIA assassinated him in 1996, long after the US was gone. Guess we were a little butthurt. His son was a Marine at the time all this went down and really never did anything of note.
So About That Somaliland?
Flag of the secessionist Ethiopian puppet state of Somaliland.
So after General Morgan earned himself the title “the Butcher of Hargeisa” and the Hawiye had driven out Siad Barre, the SNM and the Isaaq decided the best way to move forward was to form their own state. They felt they had basis for this. The Europeans didn’t do a great job of colonizing Somalia. The British had the northern part, the Italians the south, and the French had Djibouti. The Isaaq decided that they should model their government after the British parlimentary system, have their own currency, the Somaliland shilling (recognized by no one), and use their strong regional presence to build a state. Somaliland has been very successful considering the rest of the country. They’ve also become militantly opposed to ever reuniting with the rest of Somalia and Ethiopia, the only country in the world to even somewhat recognize them, is laughing its ass off.
If you ask who’s to blame for the state Somalia is in right now, it varies depending on the clan the person is a member of. Darod will blame the Hawiye for the civil war, Hawiye will blame the Darod for the oppresive dictatorship, the Dir will mind their own business since they’re mostly in Djibouti anyway, but when it comes down to it there is a very special place in hell for Somaliland and the Isaaq for more or less abandoning Somalia. More Somalis would like to see Somaliland to be more like Puntland, which organized itself as an autonomous region and has stabilized itself to some extent yet has no secessionist aims. Somaliland plays right into Ethiopian hands and the Isaaq should know better since divide and conquer isn’t anything new, but they do it anyway.
The Origins of Piracy
These guys don’t have parrots
One of the few good things about LF is that there have been topics in the past explaining the piracy off the Somali coast to some extent. However, since we’ve got a ton of lurkers who don’t know shit but read LF to educate themselves or laugh at “ironic racism” (it’s probably the latter) an explanation is in order. The majority of Western media is not interested in honest discussion of the root causes. The BBC is pretty fair about it, so is Al-Jazeera. It will absolutely not be talked about in the West. A few months ago in Foreign Affairs, perennial douchebag Max Boot wrote an intellectually dishonest article about the pirates that hinted heavily hinted at connections between the pirates and Islamist groups such as the ICU and Al-Shabaab, ergo the pirates are Al-Qaeda. Let me cover how and why piracy started before I get to why this is patently false.
So when you don’t have a government anymore you don’t have anyone left to pay government employees. This includes the military. The army returned to their clans to fight for them and defend their territories, the navy ceased patrolling the waters and their ships ended up rusting in ports such as Kismayo. Somalis were never traditionally fishermen and despite having such a long coast fish was never a major part of their diet. Siad Barre had sought aid from European and other countries to develop Somalia’s fishing industry, as Somalia has rather rich fisheries. After he was removed, the industry effectively collapsed, though I do know there is an active and modern processing plant currently operating in Puntland. So you have unpatrolled waters, rich fisheries, and a non-existant government. Who would take advantage of such a situation?
Yeah, of course it’s the Japanese
The Japanese are probably the most irresponsible fishers in the entire world, repeatedly violating quotas and doing shitty things like taking control of the International Whaling Commission so they can subvert the whaling moratorium. They saw a great opportunity off the Somali coast. So did the Chinese and the Spanish and many other nations. After America, the Japanese and Chinese have contributed the greatest number of ships and personnel to Combined Task Force 151, which aims to combat piracy in the region.
This is CTF-150, which operated in the same region as part of the “War on Terror.” They love this circlejerk shit
And so it begins. Local fishermen notice these trawlers off the coast and begin boarding them and demanding what would equate to a tax or a fee for using their waters. This became a fairly common practice until they realized that it wasn’t really a fair exchange they were asking for and ransom paid better. Hostages were taken care of fairly well with no deaths except in two incidents, one being caused by a French rescue operation. The fishermen were soon joined by clan fighters from inland and some even received financial backing from warlords. Once the pirates started going after tankers and container ships frequently pass through the Gulf of Aden to or from the Suez Canal in addition to trawlers and were able to receive significant ransoms, young men flocked to the coastal cities of Eyl and Xarardhere/Harardhere (which apparently translates to “long shit” with dhere long or tall and xarar being shit) to join up with the pirate gangs which have clever names like “National Volunteer Coast Guard” and the “Somali Marines.” The pirates seem to be the only group in Somalia that has managed to transcend clan division, and while the ransoms have caused extreme inflation in towns where pirates operate from, the money has been generally more of a blessing than a curse. The pirates are well regarded by most diaspora Somalis, and by a good number Somalis in Somalia proper.
There’s at least two groups that aren’t fans of the pirates. The first is the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is actually fairly Islamist in nature since it incorporated a good portion of the ICU into it, with the current president being the former leader of the ICU. They’re against it for the more obvious “piracy is illegal and we’re trying to have a state here” reason. The second group is Al-Shabaab (pronounced Ash-Shabaab), the guys who weren’t down with the deal the ICU reached with the TFG because they believed it effectively made them Western puppets and broke off.
Now we get into why any insinuation that the pirates are in league with any Islamist or terror groups (THEY’RE ONE AND THE SAME GUYS, RIGHT?) is intellectually dishonest and utter bullshit. If you didn’t know, theft is really sort of frowned upon in Islam. What’s frowned upon more is when Muslims steal from other Muslims. Can you guess what the pirates did? They started nabbing ships owned by the Saudis. Not that they singled out the Saudis, but they really didn’t care. $100 million in crude oil is quite a prize. Can you see why Al-Shabaab wouldn’t be down with this, let alone actively affiliated with it, and why it would be dishonest to hint at such an affiliation?
But why would someone do such a thing?
You do it to justify proxy conflict! As I’ve mentioned before, the US is scared shitless to go back to Somalia? America lost 19 soldiers during UNOSOM II. 19. Sure they may have been HARDCORE RANGERS and DELTA FORCE GREEN BERET NAVY SEALS but you can get plenty of them on the internet. Mogadishu just looked awful when your helicopters got blown up by some angry men with RPGs and decent aim. Since the UN eventually ended up in the same boat of being too scared to go to Somalia, your only choice is to find someone else to do your dirty work. You’ve only got a few choices, so choose wisely. Djibouti? Too small. Kenya? Doesn’t care enough, has problems of its own. Yemen? Hahahaha no.
Ethiopia’s has a lot to gain from this proposition though. Money from the US and an opportunity to take a hands on approach in ensuring that its neighbor stays chaotic. No one really cares about war crimes they commit every time they invade Beledweyne. You’ve probably never even heard of Beledweyne, or care that it’s been invaded three times by Ethiopia. Here’s a quick little blurb that was probably not anywhere close to the main page of MSNBC about the second time they invaded in 2008. Note the obligatory AL-QAEDA IS IN SOMALIA remark.
NAIROBI, Kenya – The United States and other Western governments are ignoring clear evidence of war crimes by Ethiopia, a key U.S. ally that launched a military crackdown on rebels last year, a human rights group said Thursday.
Separately, a U.S.-based science group said satellite images confirm reports that villages have been destroyed in the country’s Ogaden region.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said America’s relationship with Ethiopia means an alliance with a country repeatedly accused of violating human and political rights. In recent years, Ethiopia has become a U.S. partner in the fight against al-Qaida, which has been trying to sink roots in the Horn of Africa.
“The United States is being willfully blind,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “Because Ethiopia is viewed as a key ally in the counterterrorism efforts, they are perhaps prepared to look the other way at abuses committed by Ethiopian soldiers.”
In a 130-page report, Human Rights Watch said Ethiopian troops have beaten and strangled civilians, staged public executions and burned villages during a year-old campaign against rebels in the Ogaden, an arid stretch of land on the border with Somalia. The group said the allegations were based on more than 100 eyewitness accounts.
The country in the Horn of Africa is an ally in President Bush’s fight against terrorism.
Somalia is currently a battleground for a multitude of different factions, all with their own aims that sometimes overlap but more likely conflict with those of the other factions.
Islamic Courts Union
Who they are: Islamists, chiefly from the Hawiye clan
Aligned with: Formerly Eritrea and al-Shabaab. Currently aligned with the TFG
Goals: To establish a krytocracy firmly rooted in Shari’a in Somalia
Outcome: In 2006, the ICU managed to conquer Mogadishu, expelling the warlords there and gaining control of most of central and southern Somalia. Ethiopia invaded and managed to force the ICU out of the cities it controlled, forcing the ICU to resort to guerilla warfare. The group splintered into The Aliiance for the Re-Liberation Somalia (ARS), al-Shabaab, and the remaining ICU forces. The ICU and ARS would later reconcile with the TFG. The current president of the TFG, Sharif Ahmed, was a former ICU leader.
Transitional Federal Government
Who they are: The internationally recognized government of Somalia
Aligned with: Ethiopia, United States, African Union, Puntland, Galmudug
Goals: Establish a functioning government with control over the state of Somalia
Currently: The TFG controls central Somalia and is constantly challenged by al-Shabaab. It receives heavy backing from the Ethiopian military and African Union peacekeepers, mostly from Uganda. The TFG has been viewed by some groups as a puppet of the West. While the inclusion of elements of the ICU has helped to shape the TFG into an organization more agreeable to many Somalis by negotiating the implementation of Shari’a as Somalia’s official judicial system, the fact that they have joined an institution that lacks legitimacy to significant portions of the population leaves the TFG as a fairly impotent force.
Who they are: Hardline Islamist remnant of the ICU, almost entirely Hawiye
Aligned with: Eritrea, Al-Qaeda*
Goals: Establish a hardline Islamist state in Somalia, expel Ethiopians and other powers
Currently: Al-Shabaab continually attacks forces of the TFG military, the Ethiopian army, Ugandan “crusaders,” and are able to bring areas under their control. They are opposed to the pirates but are not in a location to do anything about. They control most of southern Somalia and significant portions of Mogadishu. Eritrea has provided weapons, training, and logistical support to al-Shabaab and the ICU before it.
I bolded the asterisk next to al-Qaeda because any news report will inevitably label them as linked together and it’s bullshit. Here is what you need to know. Al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab are linked only by the facts they share some of the same beliefs, use some of the same tactics (suicide bombings), and both groups recognize each other as being on the same wavelength and have praised each other. However, al-Shabaab is an native Somali movement to establish their version of an Islamic state in Somalia. They are not an international movement like al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda provides them no actual support barring a few foreign fighters that have been known to be al-Qaeda members screwing around there. Linking the two together is just a wonderful way to bring the conflict under the aegis of the War on Terror, and if you’re reading LF you should know what a load of shit that is by now.
MOGADISHU, Oct 16 (Reuters) – Somalia’s hardline Islamist group al Shabaab has publicly whipped women for wearing bras they say violate Islam by constituting a deception, north Mogadishu residents said on Friday.
The insurgent group, which seeks to impose a strict form of sharia Islamic law throughout Somalia, amputated a foot and a hand each from two young men accused of robbery earlier this month. They have also banned movies, musical ringtones, dancing at wedding ceremonies and playing or watching soccer.
Residents said gunmen had been rounding up any woman seen with a firm bust and then had them publicly whipped by masked men. The women were then told to remove their bras and shake their breasts.
Who they are:Autonomous State, mostly Darod from the Harti confederation (Majeerteen, Dhulbahante, Warsangali)
Aligned with: TFG
Goals: Maintain a functioning regional government and economy, regain disputed territory from Somaliland.
Currently: When the government collapses, Puntland was able to more or less escape the conflict occuring to the south. They had the great idea to organize themselves and wait for the rest of Somalia to get its act together while they chilled. This doesn’t mean that rule of law or anything necessarily applies in Puntland. Eyl is a major pirate city located in Puntland, and though the TFG stands against piracy, the Puntland authorities tend to look the other way and make token arrests.
Who they are: Secular regional state formed by the Hawiye Sacad
Aligned with: TFG
Goals: Model themselves after Puntland, establish an economy and governmental control
Currently: Not really a key actor but of note because it was formed a secular response against the ICU. It hasn’t achieved the level of success Puntland has due to al-Shabaab roaming the countryside. Galmudug is where most of the veterans of the conflict against America and the UN ended up after Aidid’s death. The city of Xarardhere is located on the coast and is a major pirate hub.
Who they are: Secessionist state, mostly from the Isaaq clan.
Aligned with: Ethiopia
Goals: Build their economy and maintain their unrecognized independence from Somalia
Currently: Covered this in a section earlier so not much here. They took some land from Puntland that Puntland wants back. They also serve as a port for Ethiopia as Ethiopia is landlocked and on unfriendly terms with Eritrea.
Who they are: Neighboring country
Aligned with: United States, TFG, Somaliland
Goals: Support the TFG against al-Shabaab and other groups, act as a proxy for the US in the WAR ON TERROR, maintain regional supremacy in the Horn of Africa, encourage a divided Somalia
Currently: I’m not going to address Ethiopia outside of the context of Somalia. Ethiopia learned its lessons from the Ogaden War when Somalia and Ethiopia were fairly evenly matched countries. While I don’t doubt it wants a stable neighbor it also benefits from keeping Somalia and Somaliland as separate nations. Ethiopia has been committing war crimes in Somalia during their invasions, as covered earlier. The US handwaves anything they do because they’re fighting Islamofascist al-Qaeda pirates in Somalia. And the more dead brown people the better, right?
Who they are: Nation that gained official independence from Ethiopia in 1993
Aligned with: ICU (formerly), al-Shabaab, any other faction that wants to screw with Ethiopia
Goals: Shove it up Ethiopia’s ass anyway they can
Currently: Eritrea started handing out weapons, training, and logistic support like candy to Somali groups that were in conflict with the Ethiopians because of a messy war they fought against Ethiopia over a border dispute from 1998-2000. The African Union (headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) started hassling the UN to sanction Eritrea for violating the arms ban on Somalia, so Eritrea quit the African Union.
Who they are: Tiny coastal country between Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Ruled by the Issa of the Dir clan, but has a significant Afar population
Aligned with: Ethiopia, US, France
Goals: Rent-seek because Djibouti has no natural resources
Currently: Serves as a major port for landlocked Ethiopia along with Somaliland. Houses French and American military bases.
What’s ahead for Somalia?
It took me awhile to think of how I wanted to write this section. I can’t possibly know what the future holds so I figured I would outline some of my viewpoints on the situation to start with.
1. Somalis have lived in a nomadic, decentralized, clan based society for as long as there have been Somalis. Occasionally states would arise but had little control outside of cities.
2. Somalis have their own law system called xeer. It is deeply entwined with the clan system. A clanless Somali is offered no protection by xeer
3. Islam was spread to Somalia within the first few generations of Muslims. Somalis peacefully converted because it was found largely compatible with their culture. Shari’a was introduced but did not replace xeer, which exists to this day.
4. Somali culture is largely incompatible with with Western ideas of government. The closest Somalia came to having anything reflecting this was under a brutal dictatorship for 22 years.
5. Somalia immediately lapsed into a struggle between the clans for control of the nation. It is currently still being fought over.
6. The TFG in its current incarnation lacks legitimacy due to foreign involvement, chiefly from the US, UN, and Ethiopia, which are viewed as enemies by many Somalis. Al-Shabaab aims to transform Somalia into an Islamic state reflecting their interpretation of the religion.
7. Somalia is located in a strategic location where piracy is highly disruptive. The War on Terror is being used as a justification to target pirates due to their alleged but non-existent ties to al-Qaeda by way of al-Shabaab.
As far as I’m concerned, the TFG is Somalia’s greatest chance to become a functioning country, especially with the incorporation of the ICU. Sadly, the fact that the TFG is heavily backed by Ethiopia, the United States, and the United Nations undermines support among the Somali people. The TFG also doesn’t govern much of anything and will not stand up to the abuses that Ethiopia commits when it targets al-Shabaab. When it comes down to it, this version of the TFG is a failure and will just be locked in constant conflict. Fighting al-Shabaab is going to be like fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, fortunately the Ethiopians don’t have the capacity to bomb the shit out of weddings and funerals.
The way things stand, the United States has its fear of Somalia and is already committed elsewhere. It can dump all the warships it wants in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean but it’s not working so far. Ethiopia could commit to a large scale invasion to help the TFG secure areas but I’m afraid that would only lead to more abuse and in the end weaken the TFG even more. The only thing that I can think of worse for them than a bunch of Habesha soldiers milling all over the place is if they were Bantu instead. As for the UN, you all know they can’t actually do anything.
Solution: Scrap the TFG and start building the country around Puntland and Gulmudug. Puntland, aside from piracy, is a fairly stable area. Hell, I’d go to Puntland (HINT: LF can Bro Aziz me there if you want) Gulmudug is less so but has a needed secular basis. Both states are rebuilding in their regions while the TFG does nothing but struggle against al-Shabaab and act as the face of Somalia to the international community. Stop the fetishization of Mogadishu as the capital and focus elsewhere. Move the capital to Galkacyo since it functions as Gulmudug’s administrative seat and borders on Puntland, or just use Garoowe or Bosaso. Draw Somaliland away from Ethiopia but keep reconciliation down the road when there’s more stability.
Keep foreign involvement to a minimum, keep it as a Somali endeavor. Provide military aid directly to the Somalis to equip their armed forces as opposed to giving it to the Ethiopians to wipe their asses with. Do not make the pirates a major focus and stop trying to link them to terrorism. Use CTF-151 to fairly police the waters by going after illegal trawlers and dumpers. When it comes down to it, multinational corporations which are usually the victims have more than enough money to pay ransom or hire guards, the pirate aspect of it is merely sensationalism.
And that’s it. I’m done. I liked putting this thread together a lot for as much time as it took. I’ll still answer any questions and keep the thread updated if I see anything interesting going on. Thanks for reading.