There is a fight going on in Somalia, not the one we hear about in the news with guns and soldier and Islamic rebels battling in the streets and countryside. No, there is an equally important and far harder to spot conflict happening right now in the war-torn East African country - the battle for Somalia's soul.
If the battle for Somalia's body is going reasonably well, even without Ugandan air support after the terrible crash last week, the battle for its political and social soul is on a knife edge. With the transitonal authority ending on August 20th (or there abouts!) everything must go perfectly or else the country may even descend back into the anarchy of the dark times. As Peter Martell of AFP writes 'analysts are gloomy that a United Nations-backed selection process will usher in nothing more than a reshuffle of leaders already fingered for graft, risking an even further fragmentation of power into the hands of local warlords.' The legitimacy of the central government is all that can hold the dispirate groups and individuals who govern the various, and often confused, areas of the country together. As Martell points out if the UN reshuffle simply brings the old faces back to power with no increase in legitimacy or democratic accountability to combat the flagrant corruption it may break the tenuous links between the groups.
With autonomous and semi-autonomous regions spread from the more effective governments of Somaliland and Puntland in the North to naesant areas like Jubbaland (Azania) in the South. With these politcal units often in conflict with each other it is only the authority of the central government that keeps Somalia a state at all. Without a successful democratic and accountable government in place the country could splinter in pieces and warlords could rise again.
Neighbouring nations of Kenya and Ethiopia have both backed several of these regional administrations and military groups in attempts to create workable buffer zones between their borders and the territory controlled by al Shabab. With Kenya promoting Jubbaland and Ethiopia supporting the forces and government of Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a (ASWJ) it is already clear that competing interests are abound in Somalia without even taking in to consideration the corruption and nepotism of the central elites.
It is important to keep both of these fights in perspective as Somalia attempts to move forward from its troubled past. With the addition of troops from Sierra Leone and the final push on the strategically vital town of Kismayo happening soon, the battle for Somalia's body is going to plan. The battle for her soul on the other hand, hangs in the balence, as transiton turns to neo-transition. If nothing changes and the same corrupt politicians keep control, legitimacy will fail and the country will splinter and implode once more.