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ICC NOTE: The UIC has an agenda bigger than “stabilizing” Somalia – its true agenda is to bring a highly politicized, radical Islam into the Horn of Africa. If they are able to in fact gain authority in Ethiopia and Kenya, or even the borderlands, Christians in the region will be a target for violence and oppression.

A new war front brought a different challenge for the Jihadist Movement, now in Somalia

The American Chronicle

December 4, 2006

The new radical Islamic movement under the umbrella of U.I.C from the southern city of Somalia , Mogadishu , has spread rapidly but not without any difficulty.

The United Islamic Courts (U.I.C.) has strengthened their hold on southern Somalia since June and has brought a more strict interpretation of Sharia law with them. However their opposition, the Somalia Transitional federal government, is recognized by the African Union, the United Nations and the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Despite bringing law and order to Mogadishu and other areas, the extreme system of U.I.C. has forced many Somalis to flee including some in Kismayo. After a suicide attack on the base town of the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G) and an attempt to assassinate the T.F.G. leaders, peace talks between the two groups have plummeted. Various states are said to be arming both sides with Ethiopia & Yemen supporting the T.F.G. as well as Eritrea & several Arab states arming the U.I.C. The situation escalated after the U.I.C. stated their goal to take Ethiopian & Kenyan lands populated by ethnic Somalis. After a repeated call for jihad against Ethiopia , they are now in danger of starting a new war with Ethiopia which can engulf the whole East African region.

Even though U.I.C. has used nationalism techniques to gain more support against Ethiopia , various Somali groups oppose the U.I.C. and the jihadist forces inside it. Particularly, the semi-autonomous state of Somalia , Puntland, opposes the radical Islamists. Ironically as the U.I.C. Mogadishu Islamists gained more power, Puntland, pressured by its own Muslim leaders, adopted the Sharia law. However Puntland’s leaders say their interpretation of the Sharia law is not the same as the extremists’ interpretation in Mogadishu , where Somalis have been striped off of their basic rights and have been beaten & executed for violating the rules. The leaders of Puntland also accuse U.I.C. saying that the Islamists in Mogadishu practice politicized Islam and plan to seize regions of other countries. Another factor is Puntland’s allegiance to the president of the transitional government, Abdullahi Yusuf, who is a native of Puntland. The information minister of Puntland, Abdurahman Moammed Bankah, has already criticized the radical Islamists in Mogadishu as extremists who “amputate hands of hungry people who steal something to survive, or flog the vulnerable.”

The radical Islamists might also face roadblocks in various southern regions because of the forces allied to the Somalia transitional government, including the Jubba regions and partial sections of the Mudug & Hiraan regions.

Another factor is how long the Ethiopian separatist groups like Oromo Liberation Front would fight alongside the Somali jihadists and against Ethiopia . Regional analysts say OLF is training in various locations with the jihadists including in Qorioli, southern Somalia and ONLF has always been training with the help of the jihadists and the Eritrean government. Also the ethnic Oromo Ethiopians who make up more than 30% of the Ethiopian parliament seats accuse OLF for choosing armed resistance over peaceful ways to improve the conditions of Oromos inside Ethiopia , while other Ethiopians accuse OLF as being a separatist & ethnocentric group. Generally, OLF’s evolution in Somalia would likely depend on whether or not they want to lose their relationship with the United States , especially since OLF executives enjoy refugee in America . So far, American governments have stayed neutral on the issue of OLF and the problems facing ethnic Oromos in Ethiopia , hoping that the 80 plus ethnic groups in Ethiopia would solve their own problems. However America accuses the U.I.C. of sheltering suspects of the September 11 attacks and the U.I.C. leader; Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, is on the US list of individuals linked to terror groups. These conditions can alter the neutral position of America regarding OLF. The Eritrean government also plays a big role and it has been accused by the West of provoking another war front with Ethiopia . Eritrea , the only African nation without a private media and a government with numerous human right violations, was also accused by the Somalia transitional government for arming the Islamists. However the Eritrean government has already expressed its hatred for America as well as for United Nations by accusing it of “neo-colonialism” and “invasion.” So the various rebels that Eritrea sponsors to destabilize Ethiopia , including ONLF & OLF, might follow the anti-West attitude if their safe haven in Southern Somalia is threatened by the Somalia transitional and Ethiopian governments.

Traditionally Christian Ethiopia has a large but minority Islam community that is probably one of the most moderate of other Muslims in the world. And despite one major conflict a long time ago, Ethiopian Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace since Islam’s foundation many centuries ago. This week, Ethiopia ’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi challenged both the political and religious ideology of the radical Islamists in Mogadishu .

The Prime Minister continued to accuse the U.I.C. who waged jihad on Ethiopia . He used an old Ethiopian proverb perhaps best translated to English as “the kid (baby goat) that munched before she reached (branch leaf)” to describe the jihadists in Mogadishu as extremists who made themselves Prophets over the authority of the Prophet Mohammed who ordered Ethiopia to be exempted from jihad. Likewise the Ethiopian Muslim community leaders accused the U.I.C. jihadists for politicizing Islam and pursing “disgraceful” aspirations in the name of Islam to destabilize the region.

However many Southern Somalis, under the influence of U.I.C., were already preparing for a holy war against Ethiopia . A 72-year-old farmer said, “I am ready for jihad. I have a lot of experience. I fought Ethiopia in 1977,” as he stood next to a six-wheeled Islamists’ truck bearing an anti-aircraft gun. Islamist fighters shouting “God is greatest” continued to motivate southern Somalis to start a holy war against the Ethiopians. Even though ethnic Somalis from Puntland, Baidoa and various Somali forces are allied with the Ethiopians, so far the Islamists in Mogadishu are systematically ignoring the alliance by calling jihad only on Ethiopians. Most likely, the Islamists in Mogadishu would need a balanced dose of nationalism and religious schemes, by exploiting traditional Somalia enmity against rival Ethiopia if they want to have the edge on the imminent war. Otherwise it has the potential to be a lopsided war, with U.I.C being left with only its foreign recruits for suicide bombing tactics and with an outstretched & weak militia.