Posted by: sean | January 3, 2007


A lot has happened while I was away. I woke up the other morning to hear that Saddam Hussein had been executed; and on the same day while on my way back to Spain, I heard that the airport had been bombed by ETA, the militant Basque separatist group; then I saw that Bangkok had been rocked by bomb blasts on new year’s eve. Besides that, Addis Ababa sent troops to Somalia to rout the Islamic Courts.

First things first: I’m generally against the death penalty, but I might be convinced to accept it for those guilty of genocide or other crimes against humanity. However, if Iraq was trying to show the world that it has a modern functioning government, this execution was a poor showing for al-Malaki’s goverment: it was decidedly neither solemn nor professional and was carried out on the first day of Eid.

As for the ETA bombing, I saw the results first hand, because I left Madrid from the terminal that was bombed the next day. The bomb did some pretty serious damage and has probably left two people dead. It looks like this is going to cripple if not kill the peace talks between ETA and the Spanish Government. They haven’t seemed to explain why they broke a cease-fire. Although I hadn’t been following the talks closely at all, I remember that there was an Irish priest that had been called in to mediate, and I had the impression that progress was being made.

In Thailand, my first fear was that it was Muslims from the south, but it seems that the bombings are being blamed on supporters of ousted PM Shinawatra.

In Somalia, I’ve been afraid of an Ethiopian campaign for a while, since such explicit attacks might lead to an Eritrean invasion on behalf of its Islamist allies, rekindling the war between those two countries and making Somalia a battleground for a regional war. However, the Eritreans seem to have stayed out of it, and the Islamic Courts were routed surprisingly fast. However, as soon as the Courts moved out of Mogadishu, looting was rampant and order was on short supply in Somalia’s capital. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a guerrilla resurgence of Islamist forces in Somalia, which brings me to the point that a negotiated settlement that brought the Islamic Courts into the government would be the best solution. The last thing Somalia needs is for Eritrea and Ethiopia to have a little war on Somali territory. In some good news, Kenya has called for a ceasefire and a brokered peace in Somalia, which may or may not be fueled by their fear of more Somali refugees.



  1. If you have the stomach, here is the link to the horrifying execution of Sadaam Hussein:

    Yes, every aspect of the execution was absurd. From what I understand, the Iraqi War Crimes Tribunal was desparate to execute him as soon as possible. Under Iraqi law, from what I understand, elders (70+) cannot be imprisoned, no less executed by the state. In the case of the 69 year old Hussein, and given the slow progress, he was about to reach 70 in April. This meant that the tribunal wanted him dead as soon as possible.

    Now, Hussein’s lawyers attempted to exhaust this process by throwing in as many filibusters as possible. They exhausted the process. Hussein himself did not even witness in person his execution proclamation in court. It saddens me that the treatment of the Kurds is still under legal judgement.

    In Thailand, we’ll see how the sequence of events will uncover themselves.

    As for Ethiopian-Somalian situation, it struck me as quite different that another Sub-Saharan country, Kenya, came in to attempt third party diplomacy. In your studies, have you ever encountered anything of this sort? As far as I know, this is a very new development.


  2. This sort of regional diplomacy is not uncommon at all. Nigeria has been very much involved in efforts to come to a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and Darfuri rebel groups. For better or for worse, Libya has also been involved in talks on the conflict between Chad and Sudan.

    Yemen has also offered to sponsor peace talks between the Islamic courts and the government in Somalia.

    Other recent examples include Southern Sudan mediating between Kampala and the Lord’s Resistance Army and a region-wide agreement by Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, DR Congo and Sudan on disarming rebel groups and resolving conflict in the region in general.

  3. OK, that’s interesting. Regional diplomacy in Sub Saharan Africa is something we hardly hear about. Perhaps it’s not appropriate to view that region in terms of “nation-to-nation” basis.

    I really don’t know. Perhaps these countries lack the kind of soft power punch that normally regulates relations in other regions of the world.


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