Monday, June 05, 2006


Looks like Afghanistan: lawlessness, warlords, then a Taliban-type society:

Islamic militias declared victory today over Somalia's traditional warlords in the battle for control of Mogadishu, quelling months of fierce fighting in the lawless capital but raising new questions about whether this regime, which American officials have accused of sheltering terrorists, will steer the country down an extremist path.

"We want to restore peace and stability to Mogadishu," Sheik Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, said in a radio broadcast, according to The Associated Press. "We are ready to meet and talk to anybody and any group for the interest of the people."

Some of the warlords who have ruled over Mogadishu for the last 15 years were on the run today. One was holed up in a hospital north of the city. Others were on the outskirts of the capital, their forces having been pushed from the strategic center.

They had been defeated by militia fighters allied with the Islamic courts that have grown in influence throughout Somalia in recent years, filling a void left by the lack of a central government. The Islamists are a loose coalition of leaders who have put forward Islam, the universal religion in Somalia, as the way out of anarchy.

Somalia has been lawless for a long time. Whether a Taliban-type society is an improvement on that (or the warlords the Americans are said to have supported) is hard to judge. The people of the capital, Mogadishu, just want peace, mostly, and the interviews I read sounded a lot like the interviews I read with Kabul residents when the Taliban took power: Let's wait and see. Peace is what we want. It won't be that bad. And then there were the ones who believed that the Islamic shariah law would solve all their problems for ever.

But the long run tidings are not good for the Somali women. There is something about fundamentalism that doesn't like a woman. To paraphraze Frost.