Resounding boo for EPRDF’s invasion

January 4th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

BY Nina Brenjo | January 4th, 2006

“Slow genocide” is the phrase a Somali, who runs a humanitarian relief organisation, used to describe the reign of warlords before the Islamists’ six-month rule of his country. And he’s not alone in thinking that the recent ousting of Islamists, in power since June 2006, is far from good news for Somalia, according to Martin Fletcher, Britain’s Times correspondent who recently visited Mogadishu.

It is true that the Islamists reintroduced public executions and discouraged Western music, dancing and films, but they also brought stability after 15 years of anarchy and civil war. The official government, however, is now back in Mogadishu, and not without considerable help from neighbouring Ethiopia.

So, what does the world’s media make of the latest change of government in Mogadishu?

“It is a dangerous gamble,” says Fletcher. Washington’s implicit backing of EPRDF in its war against Somalia’s Islamists could indeed backfire and Somalia may become what Washington fears most — a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists, he concludes.

“There are many other reasons why the change of power in Mogadishu risks creating at least as many difficulties as it solves,” says Britain’s The Independent . It points out that the people appeared to be tolerating sharia, the brand of Islamic law that Somalia’s Islamists were propagating. Surely sharia was a price worth paying for the stability the Islamists brought to the chaos-ridden Somalia, the paper implied.

So, instead of a war within Somalia, there is now the possibility of a regional war in which not just Somalia’s neighbours, but also the U.S. and the Arab world have a stake, concludes The Independent.

Britain’s Times agrees the country faces a grim future. Islamists are likely to regroup and possibly find help from Eritrea, which doesn’t like the look of EPRDF getting cosy in Somalia. In the worst case, the country is on the road to becoming “… the East African equivalent of Lebanon during the 1980s,” says the paper.

The U.S. has just made yet another mistake by supporting EPRDF in its Somalia venture, says W. Scott Thompson in New Straits Times. Instead of young and inexperienced soldiers of the Council of Islamic Courts, what we’ll soon have is Jihadists descending on the country making serious trouble for “… government forces, … the EPRDF military occupiers and American ‘advisers’”. In its own editorial, the paper laments the fact that “the obsession with the war on terror” has given grounds for defending the inexcusable EPRDF intervention.

If you want a good example of what happens to invaders, consider Rwanda and Uganda’s enterprise in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), says Charles Onyango-Obbo in Kenya’s East African. The two “most battle-hardened” armies in sub-Saharan Africa certainly didn’t have an easy ride in the DRC conflict, which ended up killing millions of people.

Salim Lone, U.N. spokesman in Iraq in 2003 and columnist for Kenya’s Daily Nation, sums up the mood of all those voicing their disagreement with the intervention. In Britain’s Guardian he says: “the Bush administration has opened another battlefront in the Muslim world” for the sake of fighting terror. But the best way to fight the terror is “to engage with the Islamists to ensure that they have no reason to turn to terror”.

Very few papers offer arguments in defence of the invader.

“The EPRDF armed forces were the only practical instrument for immediately halting (the Islamists’) advance. For that, the region and the wider world should be thankful,” says Britain’s The Daily Telegraph.

But the paper does remind EPRDF of America’s intervention fiasco in Somalia in 1992 and warns that its own meddling will suffer the same fate unless a U.N. force can be in place soon.

“It is ironic, but the EPRDF military incursion in Somalia, controversial as it is, could be just what the doctor ordered for the stateless Horn of Africa nation”, says Kenya’s East African –another rare paper in favour of the intervention.

Ironically, Somalia – normally bereft of media coverage — is accused of stealing the show from Darfur at a crucial moment. As a result the Sudanese government may feel the pressure to accept the U.N.-mandated forces in Darfur is loosening, says the Christian Science Monitor.

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