Shifting Sands in Somalia

Jeffrey Gettleman has an interesting dispatch from Mogadishu in The New York Times about how Somalis may be turning against the Shabaab – the militant Islamist movement that controls chunks of the country

The best example of that backlash is already happening in Medina, a neighborhood a few miles from the center of Mogadishu. Just past the airport, it is a place of sandy streets and once beautiful homes now chewed up by gunfire and mold.

Shabab fighters, in their trademark green jumpsuits and checkered scarves, used to control parts of Medina. But in the last year or so the neighborhood, dominated by a single clan, banded together to drive them out.

This is exactly how Somalia’s messy, confusing politics plays out. Military victories are few and far between. Militias are generally locked in a bloody stalemate. They take and control territory by convincing clan leaders to back them. That’s how the Union of Islamic Courts came to power. And that’s how they fell from power as popular support ebbed. (Many observers believe they would have collapsed even without the Ethiopian assault.)

Understanding that is central to understanding Somalia and other failing or fragile states


3 thoughts on “Shifting Sands in Somalia

  1. This turn of events was highlighted a few months back when an al-Shabaab suicide bomber decimated a graduation ceremony in Mog of doctors and computer science majors, generating a strong backlash. Al-Shabaab denied that it was to blame when Somalis were outraged, and then tried to blamed the government.

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