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Unease as Islamists take over Somalia
30 Sept/1 October 2006
Is the world waking up to instability in Somalia now that the Islamic Courts Union is taking over towns once ruled by US backed warlords and threatening the existence of the Transitional Federal Government?" a Somali refugee in Nairobi responded when asked about the state of ‘instability’ in Somalia.
The refugee, who wished not to be named, is one of several Somali refugees in Kenya who see things differently from the US, UK, the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU).
"If it is instability they are worried about, the more than 10 million Somalis have had no government for the past 15 years. Lawless warlords have been on the loose, making the area one of the most dangerous in the world," the Somali refugee said.
"Many of our brothers and sisters have sought refuge in neighbouring countries as the transitional government has failed to rein in the warlords. But the Islamic Courts have managed to root out warlords in a matter of days," he added.
Installation of an Islamic State
When asked if it is the fear of political instability or inter-clan wars or even the gunfights between the warlords that are a matter of concern, he differed.
"No, no. They fear the installation of an Islamic State. It would be US and Britain’s worst nightmare if this comes to pass," he said.
The Islamic Courts emerged in Mogadishu in late 1990s and acted as the judiciary after the collapse of Siad Barre’s government in 1991. It comprises different clan-based courts dominated by the Hawiye.
They took over Mogadishu from the hands of US backed warlords in June and have maintained control over the city ever since. The courts have become popular in some areas as they have set up hospitals and schools. They have been maintaining some law and order.
The Islamic Courts Union also facilitated the re-opening of Mogadishu International Airport, which had been closed for more than 15 years due to civil strife.
Not all Somalis support the emergence of the Islamists. They argue that such a state would introduce Islamic Sharia laws, which they believe are harsh.
ICU has brought a semblance of law and order
Even in Somalia, the new Islamist movement has had a mixed reception, although it is growing popular by the day as it has brought a semblance of law and order in Mogadishu.
When the Islamic Courts Union took over the port town of Kismayu recently, the residents were divided. Some were supportive while others feared the imposition of Islamic Sharia law.
A Somali businessman living in Nairobi, who frequents Kismayu, argued that his business has grown since the Islamic Courts took over a number of towns from the warlords.
"I think the US, Britain and others are worried because they fear that the Islamic Courts will encourage Islamic extremism. But an Islamic extremist is not necessarily a terrorist. Terrorists are just terrorists and they can be Muslims, Christians, Hindus or even Buddhists. I guess the US and her allies just fear Islam," the businessman said.
He continued, "They have been associating Islam with terrorism for a long time and they become jittery whenever an Islamic group becomes strong in any country."
The US has been claiming that Al-Qaeda terrorist cells exist in Somalia, especially in areas bordering the Kenyan border, like Kismayu.
‘Bush’s aim was to have a puppet government’
Incidentally, Kismayu, which is an important port in Somalia and is close to Lamu, was taken over by the Islamic Courts.
The move sparked off protests from the transitional government’s Prime Minister, Mr Ali Mohammad Ghedi, who held a press conference in Nairobi earlier this week.
But some Somalis in Kenya said what they needed most in their country was peace and stability. Some believe that the US has been encouraging instability in the country to ensure stability and guard themselves against terrorist attacks.
They believe US President George Bush’s aim was to have a puppet government that would allegedly fund warlords to hunt for people he believes have links with Al-Qaeda.
The US government has been silent on the accusations that it had been giving funds to an alliance of Mogadishu warlords, the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), to arm itself to fight the Islamists. The funds were allegedly channelled through the CIA working with the Ethiopian secret services.
Islamists have opposed move to send troops
Some quarters blame the leaders of the Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (Igad) and the AU of dancing to the tune of the western powers some of which, they claim, are after the vast oil deposits in Somalia.
Several countries met in Nairobi recently and resolved to send peacekeepers to Somalia, a move that has been opposed by the Islamic Courts Union. The countries are Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, a predominantly Christian nation, fears having a hard line Muslim state as a neighbour.
This is in addition to the possible Islamist aspiration of creating a "Greater Somalia" that would incorporate Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. There also are fears over the emerging alliance between the Islamic Courts Union and its rival, Eritrea.
The intention by the AU to send a peacekeeping force to Somalia has instead provoked the takeover of the strategic port of Kismayu by Islamists.
Riding on trucks mounted with machine guns, the Islamists faced little resistance. Reuters recently quoted Islamist spokesman, Mr Abdirahim Ibrahim Mudey, as saying that they had moved into Kismayu to prevent AU troops using it as an entry point or base under a proposed peacekeeping force.
Islamists now control all Somali key ports
The Islamists burnt Somalia flags and raised their own once they took control of the port town.
"We heard Ugandan and Ethiopian troops were heading to Kismayu via the Kenya-Somali border. We will defend ourselves," Mudey said.
The take over of Kismayu extends the Islamic Courts Union’s grip on southern and central Somalia, effectively flanking the powerless central government on three sides.
Other than the semi-autonomous Puntland in the north and Somaliland, which had declared itself independent, the Islamists now control all Somali key ports.
Interestingly the intention by the AU to send troops to Somalia was also denounced by Osama bin Laden.
The Chairman of the Courts, Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed, has denied any links to Al-Qaeda.
Leader of the policy making body, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, has been considered by US officials to have terrorist links, which he in turn has denied.
Source: Kenyan Standard