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[Jul. 24th, 2006|12:43 pm]
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anljeducation

[slammerkinbabe]
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I know no one actually asked this question, but I found this an interesting enough link that I thought I would post it here anyway: Slate has a Middle Eastern Buddy List that purports to decipher all the complex and interconnected relationships between various Middle Eastern countries and political factions. I haven't had much time to look at it, being at work, and hope to give it a much closer examination when I get home. I don't know exactly how it's sourced, and if any of it is wrong, maybe some of you can tell me? But I thought it was a neat primer.

Also. What is the deal with Somalia? Can anyone tell me? Last week when I was scanning through news sites for info on what's going on in the Middle East I registered a little blip, somewhere in my surfing, that seemed to be indicating that Somalia was tied in with the whole mess. That particular link was extremely uninformative and I didn't follow up on it today; now I'm finding a bunch of scattered and mostly equally uninformative links, but they are making it clear that Somalia's in a fair mess too right now, and that al-Qaeda and other Islamic militants are involved. But I have no context for this. Whatsoever. I know next to nothing about the history of Somalia, I have no idea how al-Qaeda got there or what they are doing there, I get that Somalia has a fragile UN-backed government but I don't know how *that* got there, and I don't know why people are executing people. Does anyone have any info at all? I'm sure understanding this is going to require a loooot of research (if "going to Wikipedia and surfing links out from there" can be termed "research"), so anything anyone can offer would be cool.
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Comments:
From: consectari
2006-07-24 09:34 pm (UTC)
I'm on my way to work, so this'll have to be brief, but I've got a link (to one of my favorite geeky websites) that seems to cover quite a bit of ground. Try this.
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[User Picture]From: slammerkinbabe
2006-07-24 09:42 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, that site wants me to pay before it'll let me in - which is a shame, since it looks so comprehensive!
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From: consectari
2006-07-24 10:02 pm (UTC)
Whoops! Sorry 'bout that. Have you tried The CIA World Factbook? It's free, too...I double-checked.
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[User Picture]From: slammerkinbabe
2006-07-24 10:12 pm (UTC)
You know, I used that for stats on Cambodia pretty recently, but then lost the link. I have got to start bookmarking these things, because that's really helpful. Thanks much!
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[User Picture]From: winterbadger
2006-08-02 05:10 pm (UTC)
Just some vague impressions here, but Somalia is a classic example of the fialed state, a phrase that's been tossed around a lot in the last ten years in foreign policy circles. The phrase may be new, but the reality has been around for a while.

The link to problems in the Middle East is, I think, a matter of shared religion (Somalia is mostly Muslim), shared culture (there are many connections to Arabia and the Gulf states along the Red Sea and the east coast of Africa), and economic ties. A state with a large Islamic population and no fixed government was seen as a desirable target by Islamic militant groups like al Qa'ida, and it's my impression that a good deal of the population has been happy to support organisations that promise them more structure, security, enforcement of a moral code, and public services that no one else is providing.
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[User Picture]From: winterbadger
2006-08-02 05:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that should be "failed state". *sigh*
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-21 05:41 am (UTC)

Somalia

That's pretty much right. The thing about Somalia is that it doesn't have a government, at least not in the sense that most countries do. The fragile UN backed government that the original poster mentioned is headquartered in Kenya and at best controls a couple of small towns near the Ethiopian border (although those towns are now basically controlled by the Ethiopian army). The Islamic militant ties pretty much come from the Islamic Courts Union which recently established control over Mogadishu and have been expanding their influence throughout Central and Southern Somalia.

That's another thing that needs to be remembered, whenever people talk about the situation in Somalia they're essentially talking about the situation in the Southern part of the country, the north being controlled by two breakaway states, Somaliland in the west and Puntland in the east, that for the most part operate independently of the troubles further south. Somaliland is attempting to get international recognition as an independent country, which makes sense because unlike the rest of the country it actually has things like infrastructure, elections and a functioning economy and like the rest of the countries in Africa it coincides with colonial borders (Somalia was formed from the former colonies of British and Italian Somaliland, the British portion is Somaliland the Italian portion is the rest of the country). Puntland on the other hand wants to remain a part of Somalia but in a federal rather than unitary state.

But back to the area that has most of the problems, the south. Basically in 1991 the central government, led by military dictator Siad Barre, was overthrown by a coalition of left-wing militant groups led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (who is currently the president of the UN backed transitional government). Unfortunately the coup leaders were not strong enough to actually take control of the country and the various regions fell to the control of various local warlords. A UN force was in the country from 1993 to 1995 but, while it was able to help out people suffering from famine, it was not able to help establish order in the country and to this day, with the exception of the breakaway republics of Somaliland and Puntland there is no effective government.

Earlier this year a coalition of Islamic militias allied with the Islamic Courts Union, which seeks to establish Sharia law in Somalia and has been tied to terrorist groups by various foreign intelligence agencies, took control of Mogadishu from a group of allied warlords. The Islamic Courts Union blames the U.S. for the problems of Somalia, claiming that the CIA funds warlords opposed to them to keep them from taking control of the country. The U.S. has neither confirmed nor denied these claims, but it's entirely possible that they're true.

The Islamic Courts have by all acounts been fairly popular among the people of Mogadishu, probably because after 15 years of warlords and civil war Sharia law is better than no law at all. Simultaneously the international has since 2000 been attempting to help a Transitional National Government, currently based in Nairobi, Kenya and led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed (the same general who helped overthrow Siad Barre), into power. The Transitional Government and its allies control several towns, mostly along the borders of Kenya and Ethiopia but it's not particularly popular, especially since earlier this summer when Ethiopian forces entered Somalia to protect a couple towns controlled by the Transitional Government from militias allied with the Islamic Courts. This action has led many Somalis to view the Transitional Government as a puppet of Ethiopia.

And that's pretty much where it stands as of now. If I've made any mistakes please correct me.
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-21 05:50 am (UTC)

Re: Somalia

"the international has since 2000 been attempting to help a Transitional National Government"

Excuse me, that should read "the international community", not just "the international".
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-23 06:44 pm (UTC)

Re: Somalia

I should point out that I was wrong, or rather outdated, about one piece of information, apparently the Transitional Government has moved from Kenya to the city of Baidoa, which is actually in Somalia, it's a town near the Ethiopian border and one of the areas where Ethiopian troops have entered to protect the Transitional Government from the Islamic Courts.
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