Students voice opinion on Somalia

War and conflict have ravaged the country since a political coup in 1991.

Kathryn Nelson

Chaos ravaged Somalia after the overthrow of Dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Now the East African country is in the midst of another major change, prompting questions from the University community.

Adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School Abdi Sheikhosman described the power struggle between the Council of Islamic Courts and the internationally backed Transitional Federal Government, both of which want control of the country.

After the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, a court system was created to deter widespread violence in the country.

Sheikhosman said the courts brought general order to the area, but became very powerful, instigating international fears of complete Islamic takeover.

The administration of the transitional government invited the Ethiopian government to assist in fighting the courts, an alliance which has traditionally been strained.

Ethiopian troops entered Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, late December 2006.

In addition, the United States has been conducting air strikes targeting al-Qaida members in the country, some suspected of bombing a U.S. embassy in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Sheikhosman said the United States views the Islamic courts as a breeding ground for terrorism.

Family social science senior Amal Mohamud came to the United States as a young child, leaving the dangers of the war-torn Somalia.

She said she disputes the claim there are al-Qaida terrorists in Somalia and fears the U.S. air strikes may kill innocent bystanders.

Business sophomore Hani Mohamed, who came to the United States from Somalia at the age of 6, said her people do not want terrorism in their country. But, she said, the Islamic court was helping rebuild Somalia by removing dictators and helping establish a stable government.

“Why now,” Mohamed said, “when the country was trying to rebuild?”

Sophomore pre-med student Nafisa Moalim questioned the timing of the U.S. involvement, which has not been active since 1993 when 18 U.S. soldiers were killed in a raid in Mogadishu.

“(The U.S.) could have helped out when the drought came (in 2006),” she said. “If you opened your eyes, you would see what’s in front of you.”

Mohamud said she was concerned about the safety of all parties fighting in the conflict, yet she contested U.S. involvement.

“(Somalia) has nothing to do with the U.S.,” she said.

As of now, it is believed the United States has not captured or killed any of the targeted terrorist suspects, but has killed Somalis with close relations to al-Qaida.

There are conflicting reports on how many, if any, innocent civilians were killed due to the remoteness of the country, Sheikhosman said.

Humanitarian organizations are also concerned about refugees who are crossing into the Kenya border with little food or water. The U.N. refugee agency announced they will attempt to aid thousands of displaced people by setting up an international presence in Northern Somalia.

“There’s no way of justifying it,” Moalim said. “Would killing one person justify killing innocent people?”