the AU summit

I just found out that the AU’s annual summit is underway in Addis. I blame it on the African media. But it says a lot about the activities of this organization when mainstream media does not think of its summit as important, given the many troubles afflicting the African continent.

I suspect that it will be business as usual. There will be talk on the coup in Guinea, the everlasting crisis in Zimbabwe, may be a mention of the food crises all over the continent and some side-talk on the conflicts in the DRC, Darfur, Northern Uganda, among other places. A few representatives – go Botswana! – will be forthright and say some bad things about bad African leaders. Most of the speakers, however, being tyrants themselves, will not say anything about leadership and democracy and respect for human rights. Not to be forgotten will be the pipe dream of a United States of Africa.  Nobody seriously thinks this is possible but it will be discussed anyway, perhaps to pass time because there is absolutely nothing better to talk about.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the donor community. They will be present, as monitors and guest speakers. They will be begged for money and they will talk about their plans to save Africa. A few of them will say some politically incorrect things. Most of them will act like they are among rational grown ups – and then call their wives to vent about how crazy some of the leaders they deal with are. I bet I would do the same if I had to discuss the global financial crisis with Gideon Gono.

At the end of the summit on February 3rd everyone will go back home, having wasted their tax-payers’ money on plane tickets and hotel fees (highly inflated of course). Somalia, the DRC, Zimbabwe and the rest will remain unchanged. …………..When will this madness stop?

somalia: may be we should give the Islamists a try?

Before the US decided to use Ethiopia to invade Somalia, the southern portion of the failed state – including the capital Mogadishu – was largely run by a group calling itself the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU was into strict Sharia Law, something that did not go well with most of the secular warlords (who were simply out to make a profit from the chaos that is Somalia) and most of the West (read the US). Financed to some extent by Eritrea, (to Ethiopia’s chagrin) the ICU called for a Jihad against the Ethiopian government for colluding with the infidel Americans. Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia was partly motivated by the Islamist group’s support of the cause for the liberation of the Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia inhabited by ethnic Somalis and which has been the poster-child for irredentist dreams of Somali governments and warlords alike.

And so when the ICU seemed to be gaining too much power than the Ethiopians and Americans would have liked, a decision was made to take them out. It also emerged that the ICU was sympathetic to terrorist elements – inluding the plotters of the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya (more than 200 Kenyans were killed in the attack in Nairobi) and Tanzania. Beginning in July of 2006 Ethiopian troops started moving into Somalia to take out the Islamists – and for some time they succeeded, even enabling the installation of the Somali transitional government in the sleepy town of Baidoa.

But now the Ethiopians have decided to pull out and the Islamists are back. As soon as Ethiopia withdrew, the ICU overran Baidoa and vowed to reinstate Sharia Law. This latest turn of events proves that the ICU is not a mere rag-tag group of bandits. They seem to mean serious business and perhaps it is time the international community took them seriously. Yes they have supported terrorists, but that can be changed by a stroke of a pen on a cheque book. They support the terrorists because the terrorists fund them. I am sure they can be co-opted into the global force for good in exchange for their restoration of order in Somalia.

And about Sharia Law, why should the US and the rest of the international community complain so much while it is the norm in Arabia and the gulf? What makes it different when the Somalis do it? I am all for respect for human rights and all, but I think it is imperative that global do-gooders (and all of us who believe in sensible liberalism) realize that justice is political and therefore should be pursued with regard to the particularities of the societies involved. A realistic approach to Somalia ought to allow the Islamic Courts to be if they can guarantee order and some semblance of  a state in exchange for some cash and a promise not to fund or harbour terrorists. America and Ethiopia must accept the fact that the ICU has some street credibility among Somalis. This is no time for ideological struggles. Somalis have suffered enough.