01:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, July 27, 2010
By JASON DITZ
Some of the chaos and bloodshed of everyday life on the streets of Mogadishu was visited on the Ugandan capital [on July 12]. As the bodies of innocents ripped apart while they watched the World Cup final are buried and the burnt remains are sifted there is a keener sense of the cost of ignoring the world’s most failed state.
This was the British newspaper Independent’s lesson from this month’s deadly Uganda bombings, which killed some 74 people. It was also decidedly the wrong one, and based on faulty assumptions.
Far from “ignoring” Somalia, the world has been trying to install a series of illegitimate governments there for years, and Uganda has been at the forefront of this effort recently, contributing the most troops to the African Union’s military adventure into Somalia.
The current government got its start at an outdoor stadium in neighboring Kenya, dubbing itself the “Transitional National Government” (TNG) of Somalia and behaving to all appearances as a government in exile, albeit a government only in its members’ minds. The history of Somalia for the past several years is a history of several nations trying to shoehorn the TNG into the position of legitimate nation-state, which no one serious believes it can do.
And this attack did not happen in a vacuum but rather came after repeated threats from the Somali militant faction al-Shabaab to “retaliate” against Uganda for its many attacks on neighborhoods under al-Shabaab’s control.
Though one cannot but condemn al-Shabaab for taking out its retaliation on innocent civilians, it is also impossible not to notice that the Ugandan troops in Somalia have been doing virtually the same thing, responding to ambushes against them by shelling residential neighborhoods on a regular basis since the troops got there.
In fact, since we’re so keen on the soccer aspect of the killings, let us not forget an incident in mid-January, when AU troops responded to an attack on the presidential palace by al-Shabaab by launching artillery shells at a playground in al-Shabaab-held territory a day later, killing seven children who were playing soccer at the time.
It was shortly after this that al-Shabaab started talking about banning soccer. While the official line on this is that it proves the group’s extremism, the reality is that it isn’t very safe to play soccer in Somalia, not because of al-Shabaab but because Ugandan and Burundian troops have declared the right to attack any region under “insurgent” control. Considering that the self-proclaimed government owns little more than a few city blocks in Mogadishu, that puts virtually the entire civilian population of Somalia directly in the line of fire.
The notion that al-Shabaab launched its attack out of some religious dislike of soccer on television is nonsense. In reality, this is as classic an example of blowback for interventionism as there ever has been.
In fact, it seems as if Somalia could stand a little more ignoring from the outside world, as one can’t help but note that there weren’t any attacks originating from the nation before the “government” got kicked out of its hotel rooms in Kenya and convinced the African Union et al. to try to prop it up. Groups like al-Shabaab did not exist in Somalia before then, and to the extent that it enjoys any support domestically, it is because it is one of the few groups able to oppose international troops with force of arms.
Jason Ditz is news editor at Antiwar.com, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to the cause of non-interventionism.