the show: 12-28-06

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Hi. This is Rocky from the Grand Canyon. You're watching "The Show, With Zefrank".

Today is Thursday, otherwise known as let's-take-a-detached-look-at-another-part-of-the-world-that-the-young-kids-might-refer-to-as-"screwed" day.

I'll give you a hint: It's where Senator Joe Biden says that the least known but most dangerous developments in the world are taking place.

No, not New Jersey.

No, it's Somalia!

That's right, Somalia. But first, a little background.

For the past two-thousand five hundred years or so, the Somali people and some others have lived in an area known as the Horn of Africa.

Somalis speak Somalian. By and large, over a thousand years ago converted to Islam. To the west, Ethiopia became a Christian stronghold, and because back then, people fought over silly things like differences in religion, they fought a lot.

Then the Europeans came.

British, Italian, and French people divided up the territory by drawing little lines on maps. This worked out just about as well as laying a long piece of tape diagonally across the roof of an apartment building, and asking the tenants below to respect those borders.

That's my half of the toilet! Go crap in the sink.

At the end of the second World War, the Europeans got their felt-tipped markers out again. A large chunk of land inhabited by the Somalis, called Ogaden, was given to Ethiopia.

Oga-din? O-gah-din? I'm not really sure, but either way, it pissed the Somalis off.

Most of the rest of Somalia was handed over to the ex-fascist Italians. In 1960, Somalia gained independence and quickly tried some fun variations on governing, like dictatorships. A good-old-fashioned oppressive regime combined with a unifying hatred of Ethiopia kept the country together for a number of years.

But then all hell broke loose. In the early 90s, resistance movements sprung up, backed by Ethiopia, and led to an all out civil war. One of the reasons that news about Somalia can be difficult to understand is that since 1990, there has been no unifying government. During the civil war, a number of regions within Somalia split off and claimed independence. In place of a unifying government, secular warlords took control over different regions of Somalia.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems the term " warlord" should tip you off that things aren't going so well. Maybe as a start, the international community could start referring to them "fuzzy bunnies." Try ruling with fear as a fuzzy bunny..

So while the fuzzy bunnies were fighting amongst themselves, there was a ground swell of support for the adoption of Sharia, a traditional form of Islamic law. Sharia is a legal framework which dictates many aspects of day-to-day life and is implemented through Islamic courts. The incredibly strict nature of Sharia (it's the one where you chop off someone's hand if they steal something) most likely provided a source of order and stability in many parts of war-torn Somalia.

Bolstering their support, the Islamists, the militia arm of the courts, began providing services for the residents of the capital, for example collecting trash for the first time in ten years and reopening the port to ships.

So while that's going on, three things happen:

First, a group of Somalis get together in Kenya and draw up a charter called the Transitional Federal Parliament, which is suppose to pave the way for a unified government in Somalia. Although the charter has virtually no popular support, the UN recognizes it because it's the first time they've been handed a piece of paper. And quite frankly, they don't really know what to do.

Second, the fuzzy bunnies start getting freaked out that they're going to lose their power and form an alliance against the Islamic courts.

And third, the US government starts getting freaked out by the rise of fundamentalist Islam. This is exacerbated after bin Laden named Somalia the third major battle ground after Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, the CIA backs the fuzzy bunnies which throws its weight on the Transitional Federal Parliament. But neither of those groups has muscle so the US also backs Ethiopia.

Little problem though: remember that the Somalis have hated the Ethiopians for about 1000 years. The Ethiopians send troops into Somalia saying that piece of land that they got back in the 40s is being threatened. So when the Islamists start stepping up their attack on the fuzzy bunnies and the parliament, Ethiopia declares all out war. That happened last week, and since then, Ethiopia has bombed the crap out of Somalia. Overwhelmed by force, the Islamists have all but disappeared, blending back into the population.

And so, the current stage is set. A large and popular fundamentalist Islamic movement has been quelled temporarily by an external powerful occupying force that nobody likes. Meanwhile, a fragile temporary government has been set up that looks like it has very little chance of succeeding. Most likely for years to come, Somalia will become a major ideological and political battle ground. The ordinary people of Somalia will of course be the victims as they wait for someone new to take out the trash.

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