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Piracy raises pressure for new international tack on Somalia

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A coalition of these different parties, called the Union of Islamic Courts, formed a government for six months in 2006, but its grandiose talk of creating a "Greater Somalia" – taking away territory from neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia where ethnic Somalis live – prompted Ethiopia to send in troops in December 2006 to back a secular transitional government. The failure of that government to extend its hold beyond the city of Baidoa is prompting many experts to suggest that the more popular Islamists should be given another try at government.

"People see the Islamists as bringing law and order, security, and stopping the fleecing of people through roadblocks and unnecessary taxation," says Iqbal Jhazbhay, a Somali expert at the University of South Africa in Tshwane, as Pretoria is now called. Somali clan elders are likely to "be a check and balance on the hardness of the Islamists," he predicts, and "the international community can use back channels through the Saudis and the Qataris to make sure that the Islamists don't make use of terror outfits" to get arms or recruits.

"One way or another, Somalia is likely to be dominated by Islamist forces," says Daniela Kroslak, deputy director of the International Crisis Group's Africa Program, in a recent report. "It makes sense, therefore, to offer the incentives of international recognition and extensive assistance in return for an agreement that is based on compromises by all major Somali actors and promotes the rights and well-being of all Somalis."

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