From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Sep 10 2011 - 16:23:01 EDT
As an Enemy Retreats, Clans Carve Up Somalia
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
The New York Times
September 10, 2011
DHOBLEY, Somalia - Adan Dahir Hassan sits in a bald office, wires dangling
from the ceiling, handing out death sentences. Recently installed by an
Islamist warlord, Mr. Hassan recalled how he had ordered a soldier who had
killed a civilian, possibly by accident, to be delivered to the victim's
family, which promptly shot him in the head.
"It's Islamic law," said Mr. Hassan, the professed district commissioner of
this bullet-riddled town. "That's what makes the community feel happy."
For the first time in years, the Shabab Islamist group that has long
tormented Somalis is receding from several areas at once, including this
one, handing the Transitional Federal Government an enormous opportunity to
finally step outside the capital and begin uniting this fractious country
after two decades of war.
Instead, a messy, violent, clannish scramble is emerging over who will take
This is exactly what the United States and other donors had hoped to avoid
by investing millions of dollars in the transitional government, viewing it
as the best antidote to Somalia's chronic instability and a bulwark against
But the government is too weak, corrupt, divided and disorganized to mount a
claim beyond Mogadishu, the capital, leaving clan warlords, Islamist
militias and proxy forces armed by foreign governments to battle it out for
the regions the Shabab are losing.
Already, clashes have erupted between the anti-Shabab forces fighting for
the spoils, and roadblocks operated by clan militias have resurfaced on the
streets of Mogadishu, even though the government says it is in control. Many
analysts say both the Shabab and the government are splintering and predict
that the warfare will only increase, complicating the response to Somalia's
"What you now have is a free-for-all contest in which clans are unilaterally
carving up the country into unviable clan enclaves and cantons," said Rashid
Abdi, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, which studies
conflicts. "The way things are going, the risk of future interregional wars
and instability is real," Mr. Abdi added, "even after Al Shabab is
More than 20 separate new ministates, including one for a drought-stricken
area incongruously named Greenland, have sprouted up across Somalia, some
little more than Web sites or so-called briefcase governments, others
heavily armed, all eager for international recognition and the money that
may come with it.
Officials with the 9,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force, the
backbone of security in Mogadishu, say they are deeply concerned by this
fragmentation, reminiscent of Somalia's warlord days after the government
collapsed in 1991.
"What was holding everybody together is now gone," lamented an African Union
official, who asked not to be identified because he was departing from the
official line that all is well in Mogadishu. "All these people who came
together to fight the Shabab are now starting to fight each other. We
weren't prepared for this. It's happening too fast."
American officials are struggling to keep up with Somalia's rapidly evolving
- or some say devolving - politics, saying they have lost faith in the
transitional government's leaders and are now open to the idea of financing
some local security forces, part of what they call a "dual track" approach
to supporting the national and local governments at the same time.
"It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have a local leader with
some charisma and grass-roots support," said one American official, who was
not authorized to speak publicly.
Perhaps no area better illustrates the creeping warlordism than Dhobley, a
forlorn little town near the Kenyan border contested by two new militias,
one led by a dapper, French-educated intellectual, the other by an Islamist
sheik who used to be in league with the Shabab.
People are starving here, victims of Somalia's famine, 70-pound adults and
tiny babies with skin cracked like old paint. But there are few aid
organizations around. They have been scared off by the hundreds of
undisciplined militiamen, who constantly fire off their guns and have killed
each other in recent weeks.
The gunmen in solid green fatigues belong to Ahmed Madobe, the Islamist
sheik-turned-warlord who just a few years ago was hunted down by American
forces, wounded by shrapnel during an air raid and then spirited away to an
"I wasn't just in the Shabab; I helped found it," Sheik Madobe boasted the
other day, as he sat in a tent on Dhobley's outskirts, flanked by dozens of
baby-faced fighters. He said he had quit the Shabab because "they're
killers," though several analysts said it was a more prosaic breakup over
Also prowling around Dhobley, between crumbling buildings and stinking piles
of animal carcasses from the drought, are hundreds of gunmen in camouflage
fighting for another man, known as the Professor.
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