The New York Times reports this morning that Somalia’s transition government, backed by the Ethiopian military, has taken back the Somali capital Mogadishu from the Islamic Court Union. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, leader of the ICU, has apparently resigned, and the nation’s transitional government now has to bring peace to a shattered city. Even with the routing of the ICU, Reuters reports, warlords still rule the streets of Mogadishu as most of the city’s residents remain behind bolted doors.
I’ve followed this story for the last few weeks for several reasons. One, my neighborhood in Washington, D.C., is pretty much at the center of Ethiopian culture in the National Capital. Washington has the largest population of Ethiopians outside of Africa, and I have been amazed at how friendly, diligent and warm-hearted the Ethiopian immigrants in the city have been over the last decade.
And I know those same people have watched cautiously as the Ethiopian military, the strongest in East Africa, backed Somalia’s transitional government. When the military campaign started earlier this week, I wondered what it must be like for the city’s Ethiopians, many of whom left that country and came to Washington during the 30-year civil war that led to Eritrea’s independence.
I’ve also watched the conflict in Somalia because, in my own mind, I draw parallels to the situation in Darfur, where armed militants, the Janjaweed, are killing and pillaging. After seeing the swift victory in Mogadishu (which, I should add, came at a bitter price with the death of more than 1,000 Islamic fighters, most of whom, the Times reports, were adolescent boys), I have to ask what a military intervention in Darfur could accomplish.
I am loathe to support a military option for anything, but with the toll the Janjaweed have taken in Darfur, a swift military campaign could likely end the genocide there.