Some Reactions to Uganda Bombings

Blogging will remain light and laconic for the foreseeable future, it seems, because WordPress runs very slowly in internet cafes here in Kano. So I would probably have more to say about al Shabab’s recent bombings in Kampala, but I’ll settle for just linking up a few good articles.

Elizabeth Dickinson:

al-Shabab has shown its ability to threaten its East African neighbors as well. It’s a scenario that has kept East African counterterrorism analysts sleepless for years: a functional jihadist cell that can plan and execute civilian attacks internationally.

In Somalia’s two-decade history of ungoverned chaos, it has been well-meaning foreign intervention — whether military or political — that has consistently refigured the country’s course. Usually, for the worse. Now the attempt to address al-Shabab’s broadening capabilities could kick off another round of international intervention in Somalia, with equally dismal results.

Business Week:

“It’s meant to send a signal to others in the region, mostly Ethiopia, that meddling in Somali affairs, whether its peacekeeping or occupation, would have consequences,” said Philippe de Pontet, Africa analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group.

U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006, ousting the Islamic Courts Union government that had captured the south of the country. The army occupied Mogadishu and the southern town of Baidoa in an effort to bolster the government, though the forces became bogged down in a guerrilla war with the Islamists who now control most of the country. The Ethiopians withdrew in January 2009.

“Al-Shabaab hates the Ethiopians because they’re the people that kicked the Islamic Courts out of power in Mogadishu,” Stewart said. “They really have an axe to grind against the Ethiopians.”

What do readers think? Anyone versed in Ugandan politics have a perspective on what the response will be there?

4 thoughts on “Some Reactions to Uganda Bombings

  1. Mr. Stewart’s analysis of why Ash-Shabaab hate Ethiopia is much too narrow — you wonder how an “expert” with a think tank can with a straight face produce such superficial stuff.

    As everyone only lightly familiar with the region can tell you, Ethiopia (and to an extent Ethiopians) to many Somalis simply are the arch-enemy. That is something mostly so self-evident to them that no explanations for this are needed.

    If one looks for them nonetheless, there is of course a long history of antagonism that one can parse, running down (with lulls in between) as far as the early 16th century.

    On an “existential” level, and again far removed from historical considerations (even though in reality intimately intertwined with history), many Somalis will tell you that Ethiopians are the enemy and deserve to be hated because they are Christians.

  2. any sense of what the local reaction was in Kano? I notice both sources you link to are Western media. Did you read any local coverage of it?

    • I really couldn’t say what the local reaction was. Some people here support the Taliban in Afghanistan, but I am not sure that al Shabab is as well known. I haven’t been following local papers as well as I should – this is another reminder that I need to start buying the main paper every day.

  3. Ugandan troops are the backbone of the AU mission in Somalia. It is unlikely that Museveni will order his troops home immediately, despite the calls from Ugandans. In any case militarism – which oftentimes takes the form of foreign adventures, legally or not – is a key tactic in Museveni’s repertoire as far as Ugandan domestic politics are concerned. The impending general elections next year will definitely complicate the decision to pull out or not. Pressure from Washington will also be a factor for sure.

    And to echo Ms Dickinson’s concerns, it might be time we gave realpolitik a chance and let whoever has real power run Somalia. The transitional government controls but a tiny sliver of Mogadishu. This may sound naive but perhaps the remnants of the ICU and their scion the al-Shabab ought to be allowed to form an interim administration. They can be bought off with foreign aid and military assistance – and this can be laundered through friendlier Islamic countries if necessary – in exchange for peace and, at least in the short term, some minimum levels of human rights protection (remember the Saudi’s horrendous human rights record has never mattered that much…). Fighting them will only radicalize them even further and destabilize the entire region.

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