With recent news that al-Shabaab have lost the town of Beledweyne, which borders with Ethiopia, leaving their remaining strongholds increasingly vulnerable, many (including myself) are hopeful that 2012 may herald the military defeat of the group once and for all. It also raises the incredible possibility that after over 20 years of anarchy, the country (well the South at least) can be unified under the control of a central government. But what measures are being taken to ensure that a power vacuum is not created, and the south does not plunge into the clan based fighting which consumed the country before the 2006 formation of al-Shabaab? After all, despite their many, many, MANY crimes against the Somali people living under their brutal rule, in regions like Bay their administration has provided the first semblance of law and order to places where warlords previously ruled with violence and lawlessness reigned. So what to look forward to in this shiny new year? Not much in Somalia. As wonderful as the potential news of al-Shabaab’s downfall may seem, there appears to be greater dangers emerging in the future. The greatest potential conflict zone appears to be the newly-declared state of Azania, (or Jubaland depending on who is advocating for it), in the south.
If the Kenyan invasion is successful in removing al-Shabaab from the bordering territory of Azania/Jubaland and installing a satellite administration (Azania) under Mohamed ‘Ghandi’ Abdi Mohamed, as Wikileaks revealed was the Kenyan’s motives for their invasion, Ethiopia will likely not stand idly by. Since the loss of Eritrea in 1991, Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia has largely been concerned with ensuring access to its ports. Jubaland includes Somalia’s third largest port city; Kismayo. Consequently, Ethiopia is backing its own favoured factions to ensure access. The end result in an al-Shabaab free region would therefore entail placing two clan-based factions against each another, both backed by Somalia’s two most powerful neighbours. This does not look good.