'Winners' And 'Losers' In Somalia?

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Ethiopia is on a war footing, its troops having chased members of the Islamic Courts Union to Somalia's southern border. The U.S. has acknowledged a bombing run aimed at eliminating an alleged Al-Queda cell. Kenya has lent its support to the U.S. 'anti-terror' drive, as has Djibouti, a small country with a large U.S. base.

Peace has not yet returned to the troubled zone yet there are already winners and losers according to Said Sheik Samatar, an African history professor at Rutgers, in New Jersey, speaking this week at a Roundtable on Somalia. Among the winners are Ethiopia - the Colossus to the North, Kenya to the southwest, and Djibouti, wedged between Ethiopia and Somalia, for their cooperation with the U.S. war on terror, he said. Losers are Egypt, Eritrea and the routed Islamic Courts.

Samatar suggested that the entry of the U.S. into the regional disturbance was a reflection of the country's role as the sole global superpower. Power flows into a vacuum, he said, although an African solution would be preferred. "Africa must get its house in order," he said, adding that the process is underway with democratically elected governments in more that a dozen countries on the continent.

Samatar challenged the relevancy of the nation-state in a region with overlapping cultural and ethnic identities. Somalis for example are the third largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, he pointed out, numbering 4-5 million, with close to 2 million in Kenya and half a million in Djibouti.

Prospects for peace would be greatly enhanced by a peacekeeping contingent from the African Union, he said. Such a move has already been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

Samatar, a refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia, has served as managing editor of Horn of Africa since 1988. A member of the executive committee of the Somali Studies International Association since 1979, he is currently working on a project titled, "The Somali Collapse: Its Causes, Consequences and Context." He teaches African history at Rutgers College in New Jersey.
He was speaking Jan. 10 at the monthly Africa Roundtable series hosted by Global Information Network in NYC. The Roundtable on Somalia was moderated by Milton Allimadi, publisher of The Black Star News and co-sponsored by Alwan for the Arts.

(GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada).


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