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A brief of Somalia Conflict

Somalia and somalis are a people with a proud history of defiance against invaders and a rich, artistic culture, rooted in Islam and the nomadic way of life. Sadly, Somalia is today a nation wrecked by internal conflict - the consequences of prolonged clan warfare and latterly a power struggle between an Islamic movement and the Interim Government composed of former warlords. The lack of central administration has led to millions living in severe poverty and a virtual standstill in health care and education. Running contrary to this general situation are the semi-autonomous and self-governing north-western regions of Somaliland and Puntland, where more stable conditions have promoted redevelopment.

The October 2004 formation, in Kenya of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia was heralded as a breakthrough and a possible remedy to Somalia’s protracted crisis. This optimism dissipated over the next year as internal divisions prevented the TFG from making any progress on state building tasks. In June 2006, after months of fighting between Mogadishu’s U.S.-backed militia leaders and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), the UIC took control of the capital city and appointed a hardline Islamic leader to head its new legislature. The takeover caused international and regional concern that the country could descend again into civil war unless the weak TFG, based in Baidoa, and UIC were able to agree on how to rebuild the country.

After the ignominious departure of US forces in 1994, the plight of Somalia was largely ignored by the international community, until in recent years concerns were raised that the country might serve as a haven for terrorists and drug smugglers. Such concerns came to a head with the emergence of the UIC, prompting US fears that Somalia may become an Islamic state, ruled along the lines of the Taliban in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda links – an accusation denied by the UIC. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that US ‘war on terror’ dollars were made available to support the Mogadishu warlords in their fight against the rising power of the UIC. The defeat of these warlords in June 2006 was viewed as a setback for US policy.

As the UIC has subsequently swiftly taken control of a majority of southern Somalia to within a short distance of Baidoa, so the international community is organising itself to back the hapless government. A resolution passed by the UN Security Council that international peacekeepers (IGASOM) be sent to Somalia from the African Union has not been backed with any funding and has also been rejected by the UIC. A US-backed International Contact Group of 11 countries is trying to stimulate talks but there have been limited negotiations between the two sides, and serious conflict is a real and present danger.

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