US urges dialogue with Islamists in Somalia
January 20, 2007
The US ambassador to Kenya is now urging the transitional government in Somalia to talk to “moderates” in the country’s Islamist movement.
What occurred in the last few weeks was that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) government was expelled, with tactical aid from the US as well as the involvement of the Ethiopian army; a new government has been installed. The US has also hit suspected terrorist targets in the country, though it’s unclear how successful these were.
What’s curious is that the UIC government, which had been in power for about six months, was that it managed to restore some order to the war-torn country. In fact, the new government may not be as welcome as it may seem, because that order is now threatened with the Islamists fighting back. The Ethiopians’ welcome will also come to an end soon, because the country is seen as very ambitious for influence in Somalia and those ambitions will not be welcomed by Somalis.
What the African Union peacekeepers, on their way to replace the Ethiopians, will be able to provide is unclear as well.
Right now it just seems like a very messy situation. The US ambassador in question, Michael Ranneberger, has said that all elements of Somali society should participate as long as they renounce terrorism, extremism and violence. That’s a fair statement to make, however members of the UIC have just been the victims of violence themselves, so they just may not be ready to renounce it quite yet.
Somalis who have witnessed the civilian casualties imposed on them by US air strikes on suspected terrorist targets can also be mobilized for violence and terrorism, much easier than before.