At last, the transition government in Somalia seems to have woken up
While I am strongly opposed to murdering extremists that control much of the country and make no secret of their allegiance to the late Osama bin Laden’s Terror Inc., I never saw the feeble transitional government as a viable alternative.
The members of the executive and the rump legislature operate only in a small section of the capital, Mogadishu; and that only when not doing business or otherwise reposing in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Djibouti or other nearby capitals where creature comforts are much more preferable.
Other than failing to extend its reach to the rest of the country, the transitional administration also suffered from the very real fact that many Somali, and not just the extremists, saw it as nothing but an imposition of foreign governments.
However, something seems to be happening. The killing last week of “most wanted” terrorist leader and regional al Qaeda kingpin Fazul Abdullah was a spectacular success for the army of the Transitional Government and the African Union “peacekeeping” troops.
If the killing in Pakistan a few weeks ago by US special forces of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a seminal success in the war against global terrorism, the killing of Fazul by Somali troops was just as significant within our region.
Fazul was one of the masterminds of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that brought terrorism right to our front door.
He was involved in the 2002 bombing of the Paradise Hotel on the Kenya Coast and the simultaneous, but mercifully abortive, missile attack on an Israeli passenger airliner flying out of Mombasa.
I lost some good friends in some of those attacks, and I hope Fazul Abdullah rots in hell alongside his mentor, Osama.
This, however, is not just personal. The creeping entrenchment of terrorism in our backyard presents real danger.
Somalia, where al Shabaab and allied groups control most of the territory, has become the incubator for a virulent form of Islamic extremism that is capturing impressionable youth across East Africa.
We can hope that the killing of Fazul represents not just the death of an individual, but the birth of hope that the Somali administration is finally making its presence felt.
For a while now, Transitional Government forces — with crucial support from the African Union troops — have been making incremental gains, dislodging al Shabaab from Mogadishu.
The objective, however, must be not only to capture a few streets and markets from the militants, but to control the whole country.
That will take a massive military effort that cannot be accomplished without significantly enhanced support from the African Union, and particularly Kenya and Ethiopia, who have direct strategic interests in the goings-on in Somalia.
But international support and heavier military campaigns will mean nothing unless the Transitional Government begins to win the hearts and minds of the Somali people.
The battle for Somalia is not just about military strength, but about the group that can command the support and respect of the people, and none will manage that if seen as composed of foreign lackeys.
(Daily Nation-Macharia Gaitho email@example.com)