A Light at the End of the Tunnel, Somalia Edition
Over the last couple of decades, Somalia has frequently been categorized as the most fragmented, decentralized, and chaotic state the world has to offer. With three out of eight million Somalis needing emergency aid, and with 1.5 million Somalis displaced by clan, tribal and religious infighting, it is quite difficult to refute this claim. Add a pathetic excuse for a national government to the mix and Somalia certainly seems like a country that is beyond help.
Heck, even if the international community were willing to help, there is absolutely no guarantee that the assistance would reach the people who need it the most. Coupled with warlords to the north and Islamic insurgents to the south (Al’Shabab) and the prospects for improvement are slim…if not nonexistent.
But despite all of the violence and governmental ineptitude that has pervaded Somali culture since the early 1990’s, there is a silver-lining that could gradually lift the country out of the abyss. Coincidentally, this silver-lining could stem from a terrorist blast at a graduation ceremony that killed 22 people.
Sound strange? It shouldn’t, given the indiscriminate and gruesome nature of the attack. The incident has resulted in such rage from the population that ordinary Somali citizens have protested with unified demonstrations on the streets of Mogadishu. This is not exactly the type of response the terrorists were hoping for.
While this latest atrocity was certainly a blow to Somalia’s Transitional Authority- a government already weak and ineffectual compared to Al’Shabab- this bombing could have the effect of rallying segments of the population against Somali jihadists. I understand that this article is quite skeptical of this prediction, but it should at least be considered…and possibly exploited. After all, three years ago, many in the United States would have laughed at the proposition of Sunni tribes turning against Al’Qaeda in Anbar Province; a geopolitical move that quickly spread across the country. Cultural differences aside, how is Somalia any different?
Like Iraq, Somalia is a society that is heavily decentralized according to tribal and clan affiliations. Similar to the Iraqi Government only three years ago, Somalia’s TFA is unable to cement firm control over the capital city. Perhaps the biggest parallel between Iraq and Somalia is historical experience; the citizens of both countries have been forced to deal with extensive political violence for decades. With all of these similarities, a Somali-version of the Awakening Movement may not be that far off. Sure, the situation is depressing now- it has been for the past two decades- but bombings like these tend to create fissures between the mass of moderate Muslims and the most extreme fringe of Islam.
Cross your fingers.
-Daniel R. DePetris