Moderator: Yes. So, it’s a fact that often overlooked, isn’t it? That there were actually some good things happening in the ‘90s in Somalia, we tend to think of it as this kind of ungoverned anarchic sort of society but as you say, you look below the national level and interesting things were going on during that period.

Bronwyn: Yeah, exactly. So then of course, obviously it begs a real question which is what happened if the US intelligence was writing as late as 2006 actually that Somalia was inoculated against groups like Al-Qaeda because it’s just a clan culture, they’re averse to foreigners, it’s a flat terrain, they don’t like external radical religious ideologies. What happened between then and now where we have the Shabaab, this militant Islamist youth movement that is essentially terrorizing the country? And the short answer, which I’ve dealt in to and much more detail in my writing but the short answer is counter-terror policy happened to it. Basically after 9/11, the US became very concerned about Somalia being an ungoverned space, and they were worried that Al-Qaeda might find a safe cave in there. And so, there were multiple attempts to construct a government for Somalia. The current one, which I mentioned, the Transitional Federal Government or TFG. But basically when the TFG was created, the initial counter reaction that was produced inside Somalia was the formation of the Shabaab, which is a radical, marginal French group that pretty much existed to assassinate, sympathizers of the TFG and international aid workers. The TFG is a struggling institution. It never really managed to implant itself fully in Somalia, and it’s very possible that if it had just been left alone to sort of die a natural death the Shabaab too would’ve petered away. But in early 2006, US counter-terror operatives decided to back a coalition of warlords in Somalia specifically for the purpose of finding these radicals and delivering them outside to the United States. This group called the Alliance For the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism was still unpopular with Somalis that it basically produced a revolt inside Mogadishu and that revolt provided the opportunity for, some they called the union of Islamic courts to seize power of Mogadishu and to spread its power throughout Somalia. Again, with the union of Islamic courts wasn’t necessarily the worst thing that could’ve happened to the country but with some prompting from Ethiopia the United States decided that the union of Islamic courts was linked to Al-Qaeda. And as it became more and more aggressive toward the TFG which was never popular to begin with a decision was made that Ethiopia would invade the country. The invasion itself might not have been too terrible but Ethiopia decided to occupy Mogadishu, and when occupied Mogadishu in order to ensure that the TFG would be able to stand the capital city it provoked a complex insurgency. And the Shabaab, which had been regarded by most people as a French group that was unpopular that was promoting a non-Somali set of values that was restrictive, that was preventing Somalis from living the way they wanted to live, all of the sudden became a popular resistance movement. And from being a French group it suddenly became a mainstream political group movement and that’s pretty much how we’ve gotten to where we are today. So basically, I think the argument that we can put forward is that the Somali has a set of problems that are entrenched and difficult but that the current crisis has really related to a second set of problems and those set of problems are not rooted in Somalia but they’re really rooted in international policy towards the country.

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