Guess the bad kids on the block no doubt are the al-Shababs who are trying against all odds to rule troublesome Somalia. On the other side of the divide are the transitional government leaders who are resisting the onslaught.
And caught in the web are the so-called peace-keeping forces of the African Union which still have no peace to keep. In such an equation, the difficulty is that hardly anyone knows how it will all play out and most crucial-how soon.
From the intricate network of the al-Shabab, Somalia is in for trying times. They are hell bent in dismantling the little signs that still make Somalia albeit a failed State. For the al-Shababs, nothing is good so far in the wrecked stamp unless it had the stamp of their organization.
Women are to be restricted to the back-burner, hooded when going out, wear flowing robes are barred from any form of make-up. They would be made to wear flat-footed even heel-less shoes and go out only with a husband-escort.
Penalties will stretch from head shaving to amputations of the hand or limb depending on the gravity of the crime. Snatching of mobiles risks execution and so would be prostitution and other thefts. Sentences will be administered by a court of clerics where there is no cut out distinction in the presentation of irrefutable evidence.
On the other side of the divide, the transitional government believes that Somalia needed to be brought back on track since it was politically torpedoed after the rule of President Said Barre in 1991.
They believed that the country urgently needed a kiss of life to resuscitate it from dozens of troublesome problems such as piracy, wrangles in the Somalian Parliament and even the survival of the transitional government itself.
Adding to the government’s pressure is the issue of Ethiopia and Eritrea-two sworn enemies. Somalia inadvertently finds itself enmeshed in the dispute between the two countries- and none of its own making.
When Ethiopia packed off troops to beef up security in Somalia, first glance was that it was done in the spirit of African solidarity, a sort of helping a strangled brother. What it all turned out after all was an attempt to snob the Eritrean regime and isolate it all the more.
After series of reversals and troop loses, the Ethiopian authorities beat a hasty retreat and pulled out of the steam. Its no use asking who lost face in all but Somalia has ended up holding a false cheque. So what has left Eritreans so bitter to the extent that Somalia is suffering from what has not been its doing for alleged crimes by Ethiopia.
Many Eritreans I have met would start a conversation saying the Ethiopians took our cows. In rural Africa, if you lose your cows, you lose your dignity, one Somalian once said. So Eritrea took it hard on Somalia for allowing Ethiopian troops into the country and backed the al-Shababs allegedly with weapons and freelance fighters.
Eritrea’s war with Ethiopia began as far back as 1961 and remained for three decades. More than 150,000 Eritreans died out of a population of three million. Violent struggles have been the sign posts of Eritrea since the country passed from Italian into British hands during the Second World War
In 1952, the UN declared the colony an autonomous federated state within Ethiopia which had long sought an outlet to the Red Sea. The build up of hate for Ethiopia flared up with the demand that all Eritreans must speak Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia and the conversion of Eritrea into a province.
After the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie by the army in 1974, torture and extra judicial killings became a daily affair. The embattled forces of the EPFL which took over the Eritrean capital in 1991 stood their grounds until 1993 when under UN supervision, Eritreans voted for Independence.
Since then, Ethiopians and Eritreans have never shouldered with each other. As signs of the continued hostility, flights to Eritrea across the shorter route through Ethiopian airspace have been banned for some10 years now.
“It used to be just four hours from Cairo (in Egypt) to Asmara (the Eritrean capital but now we have to round the route to South Africa which means some eight hours flying time,” confessed Testi Abdallah, a Health Information Specialist.
With such hostile strains, it is logical that anywhere there is an Ethiopian involvement like in Somalia; Eritrea will work to fuel the opposing side. In the main however, Somalia is only delaying its own comeback to the international arena; and the soonest the better.
By Rod Mac-Johnson