The Ramadan Remedy
August 12, 2010 3 Comments
As the sun rises in Mogadishu this morning, it does so with a new spirit and a new prospect. Its luminous rays glow with the promise of hope and suffuse the hearts of these suffering souls with renewed optimism; it is optimism intertwined with some pessimistic undertones. But with the spirit of Ramadan saturating the surroundings of this bullet-battered city with its unique sense of jovialty and peace, some of the long-lost passions of the people have also been revived. Just like in its glory days, when Mogadishu was pulsating with youthful vitality, an animated public move about the city in preparation for the month of Ramadan. Ebullient Mogadishan women fill their baskets with dates in preparation for the holy month and buoyant kids are already counting down towards the Eid festival. All around, the city is bustling with a fertile effervescence and yet has a distinctive aura of tranquillity about it. It is surrounded by a peculiarly soothing ambiance which has somehow managed to remain defiantly placid despite the ricocheting bullets and the menacing mortars.
But while the high spirit appreciably diffuses some of the tensions in Mogadishu, a strong sensation of hostility also seems to pervade every part of the city. Ramadan, as the people of Mogadishu have come to learn, is a month of intense battles. The UN is increasing its international and local personnel in Somalia, though they are still not venturing out into the deadly Mogadishu streets. The African Union troops are positioning their mortars and have promised to increase the war. The mystic Sufis have declared war on Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabab. And the Islamists, on their part, have also vowed more attacks during Ramadan and have promised to defeat the ‘Christian Crusaders’ and the ‘enemies of Allah’ in the path of their holy war.
Ethiopia, sensing the precarious situation of her neighbouring country and fearing for the safety of AMISOM troops, has also showed a eagerness to send her troops to Somalia once again.
“We will provide all the assistance that we can from our side of the border but we will not cross it, even if the TFG (transitional government in Mogadishu) is threatened,” Meles told journalists in Addis Ababa.
“The only time when we may cross it is if the lives of AMISOM troops are under threat, and if they ask for our assistance. Then we will intervene without hesitation,” he said.
Meles said such an intervention would only involve facilitating the evacuation of the peacekeepers through Ethiopian territory.
“In such an eventuality we would be prepared to go as far in to Somalia as necessary to help AMISOM to do so. But this is completely hypothetical and I don’t expect it to happen,” he said.
Of course, the survival of the TFG, by all means, looks, or perhaps is, unfeasible, but the story that is making the rounds here in Mogadishu is Ethiopia’s bold willingness to enter Somalia in the possible event of the Islamists, who are inching closer to the presidential palace, defeating the Ugandan and Burundian forces. Analysts here believe that an Ethiopian incursion, or American or any other foreign entity for that matter, into Somali soil would galvanise the public into action, thus giving Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam a strategically strong advantage at this crucial stage. More interesting, however, is Ethiopia’s insistence on saving the lives of African Union troops and leaving the fate of Sheikh Sharif and his weak TFG to the hands of the Islamists. Could it be an ‘inconspicuous religious warfare’ as one political enthusiast put it?
And where is the US/EU/NATO in all of this?
Well…here they are:
“The Pentagon has between 2,500-3,000 troops from all four major branches of the military assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa stationed in Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Somalia’s neighbor to the north. France has its largest overseas military base and 3,000 troops in the same small nation. Several hundred troops from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain have also been deployed there under NATO auspices since the beginning of the decade. The U.S. has used its airfield in Djibouti for attacks in Somalia and Yemen.
Last year the Pentagon secured its second major installation in the area, in the Indian Ocean nation of Seychelles, where it has deployed over 130 troops, Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and three P-3 Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.
In addition to the U.S.-led multinational Combined Task Force 150 and Combined Task Force 151 naval deployments off the shores of Somalia (with logistical facilities in Djibouti), NATO and the European Union are running complementary naval operations, Operation Ocean Shield and European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia – Operation Atalanta, respectively. This March NATO announced it was extending its deployment for another – unprecedented – three years, until the end of 2012. Last month the Netherlands “agreed to a NATO request to deploy a submarine off the coast of Somalia….” 
And of course they are still pumping millions of dollars and tonnes of weapons to keep the Sharif’s government from being overrun by the Islamists; or perhaps to keep the flame of hostility ablaze.
And that is not all. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said in a meeting with the head of an African organization on Sunday that Tehran was now ready to resolve the ongoing Somali crisis.
What more. Well Ramadan Kareem, I guess. Things look unpromising here. The remedy is sought in the bullet.