Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"A Week Or Two"

It's the eighth day in a row of heavy fighting in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. On the one side we've got the interim government, backed by Ethiopian military power (oddly enough, they're the good guys in this one). On the other, Islamic rebels loyal to the ousted Taliban-style regime who spent a few months ruling the country last year (the bad guys). Hundreds of people have been killed in this latest outbreak of fighting, and the UN reckons around 300,000 civilians have been forced to leave Mogadishu recently.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister said yesterday it would only take "a week or two" to clear Mogadishu of the remaining rebels. We've heard this sort of thing ever since the Ethiopians kicked the Islamic regime out of Mogadishu back in December, but still the fighting continues. Hopefully he's right though, and the Somali-Ethiopian force will be powerful enough to not only install the interim government, but keep it firmly in place. The chances of a stable administration taking hold in Mogadishu for the first time in 16 years rest on the strength of the Ethiopian Army.

The timing of "a week or two" is even more important for all those refugees. The phrase 'humanitarian crisis' is so overused it seems fatuous to roll it out again, but there's no getting away from the fact there is going to be one unless the fighting stops soonish. After striking a deal with the both sides, the UN's managing to get some help to the homeless and hungry. But that won't be nearly enough. The refugees need a quick and decisive Ethiopian victory just as much as the politicians of the interim government.

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