From ‘Somalia’s Compromised National Reconciliation Conference” (PINR):

On the ground, violent attacks on Ethiopian forces and T.F.G. militias, including mortar fire, targeted assassinations of officials, roadside bombings, shoot-outs and grenade assaults, have been a daily occurrence. In response, the Ethiopian and T.F.G. forces have engaged in indiscriminate return fire, imposition of a curfew, intensive weapons searches, arrests of suspected insurgents and their supporters, and raids on media houses, civil society organizations, mosques, businesses and schools — all in an attempt to secure Mogadishu ahead of the N.R.C. On the political front, the T.F.G.’s opponents have continued their process of coalescing into a bloc and have refused to participate in the National Reconciliation Conference (N.R.C.) through their clans.

The run-up to the N.R.C. and its truncated opening confirm PINR’s consistent assessment since the Ethiopian intervention that Somalia has entered a devolutionary cycle marked by regional, local and clan fragmentation, with the addition of political and ideological divisions, and a revolutionary Islamist insurgency…

The most incisive analysis of the country’s political situation during the past month appeared in an interview published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) with the head of its delegation for Somalia, Pascal Hundt, who reported that the country is so insecure that “no really effective [humanitarian] action is possible, whether with regard to protection or detention.”

….Put in the bluntest terms — and they are justified — the N.R.C. is a nuanced yet simple power play by the T.F.G. executive to maintain its position by keeping international financial, military and diplomatic support; keeping the Ethiopian occupation in place barring the deployment of an adequate African Union (A.U.) or preferably U.N. peacekeeping force; and controlling the electoral process that is supposed to result in a permanent government and is mandated to take place in 2009. It is in the T.F.G.’s interest to ride out the remainder of the transition period and to prolong itself into any permanent arrangement. Part of staying in the saddle is to frame the reconciliation process to accord with its interests, which it has done for the time being, and to drag it out, attempting to use clan negotiations to build support and, if necessary, to divide and rule…

The oppositions to the T.F.G. represent a diverse array of groups and positions that are incipiently strained and have coalesced around resistance to the Ethiopian occupation and the transitional institutions, which they consider to be Addis Ababa’s illegitimate pawns…

Beyond their points of agreement, the political oppositions diverge on their aims and strategies, with the I.C.C. remaining committed to an Islamist formula, the nationalists to an ethnic-Somali state and the S.D.N. to a reconciliation process in which the T.F.G. has no control over the selection process and does not host the conference, and which would lead to a “legitimate unity government that would prepare the way for democratic elections in 2009.”

Although the nationalists would prefer a unified opposition movement, the I.C.C. is insistent on maintaining its organizational independence, rendering the oppositions a coalition rather than an incipient party. Nevertheless, on July 12, the oppositions made their decisive break with the N.R.C. by announcing that they would hold their own “constituent congress” on September 1 with the aim of “liberating Somalia from the yoke of the Ethiopian occupation.”

…On July 14, McClatchy Newspapers published parts of a recent U.S. intelligence briefing on Somalia, to which it had gained access. The report stated that the T.F.G. is perceived by Somalis as “little more than a pawn of Ethiopia, yet its continued survival, certainly in Mogadishu, remains dependent on the support of the Ethiopian military.” Under those conditions, the report goes on, extremists are able to “regain their footing and heighten inter-state tensions.”

On July 13, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, Roland Marchal of the Center for International Studies and Research in Paris, commented that Somalia’s conflicts are not rooted in clans, but in political and military divisions… He continued that there would be no cease-fire in the absence of “politically inclusive talks,” offering that “alternatively you can pretend to have won, like it was done in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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