Leading article: Somalia projects a message of violence

Share
Related Topics

It is easy to dismiss suicide bombings such a those in Uganda on Sunday night as "mindless violence." It is even more facile to categorise them as the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the US President, Barack Obama, did yesterday as "deplorable and cowardly."

"Deplorable" such attacks certainly are, aimed as they are at causing the maximum death and injury to civilians – in this case football fans watching the World Cup final at two separate locations in the Ugandan capital on Sunday evening. Calling them "cowardly" and "mindless" misses the point, however. Terrorism on this scale has a specific purpose. It is to demonstrate the power and reach of insurgent groups. And in this case, what is so worrying is that the massacres have been carried out well outside the boundaries of the country primarily concerned, Somalia, to punish other states held to have meddled in their affairs.

Final culpability for the two bombings has yet to be fully established. But all the early indications are that they were ordered by an Islamist Somali group, very probably al-Shabab, which has for some weeks now been warning not only that it was prepared to take its war against the government across the border to those countries such as Uganda that have sent peacekeepers into Somalia, but also to target those whom it accuses of secular, pro-western behaviour in watching the World Cup.

No one should confuse its aggressive statements, or its actions, with any religious belief. These are political gestures with a political aim in mind, which is both to show the group's greater strength against competitive Islamist organisations within Somalia and to deter outsiders from getting involved in Somalia's internal conflicts. Violence in the form of suicide attacks on civilian gatherings has become not just an effective publicity gambit but also a cheap means of raising your profile in the region. Blood, ambulances, the screams of victims, onlookers and relatives and the arrival of cameras are the weapons of today's warfare, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as much as Africa.

That does not make such outrages acceptable or defensible. The experience of Iraq, and other countries, is that the public at large have little sympathy with the terrorists or any admiration for groups which in the name of Islam would kill fellow Muslims for the sake of public display. Terrorism on this scale does not generate public support. But it should cause those on the outside, and particularly in the West, to be careful in defining exactly what they are doing in intervening in regional situations. The reality of east Africa is that Somalia has now, as we know from its piracy, become a hotbed of violence in the continent, in which central government has virtually ceased to be operable and local gangs and tribes have taken over most of the countryside.

Outside intervention has only made matters worse, if indeed it has not been a major cause of the problems in the first place. Efforts to send in peacekeepers to shore up the government under the United Nations aegis and to overthrow Islamic insurgents in 2006 made matters worse. The introduction of Ethiopian troops, withdrawn in 2009, came as a bitterly resented occupation by a hostile neighbour. The attempt to make this an African issue, with forces from the Organisation of African Unity, including Uganda, has fared no better.

"Let them fight it out amongst themselves" is hardly an ennobling cry. Nor is it a necessary one. But treating Somalia as simply part of the war against terror and al-Qa'ida is proving self-defeating. The world, through the UN and the regional states, needs to start from the specifics within Somalia and build peace and reconciliation from the ground up rather than imposing solutions from the outside.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform