May 5, 2006

Looking for Regional Support in Somalia

Posted in Somalia at 4:33 pm by greatparanoiac

east_africa.jpgIn my last post I mentioned that the new Somali president has accused the U.S. of undermining his administration by supporting an “Anti-Terror Alliance” made of warlords to help root out al-Qaeda networks in the country. Since this piece of news coincided with Somalia making the cut on the Foreign Policy Index of Failed States I want to go into this a little more.

Ethan Zuckerman hits it on the head on his post Wednesday in My Heart’s in Accra when he said that failed states have a “ripple effect” on their neighbors….like concentric circles in a pond. This is magnified by the fact that 11 of the 20 failed states are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Failed states have the potential to export violence beyond their borders – think Sudan and Chad, or eastern DRC and Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. A quick glance at the map provided by FP gives a sense for how state failure has a “neighborhood” effect – we’re hard pressed to find an island of stability in Central Africa, and Ghana, Mali and Senegal begin to look like bulwarks against West African instability.”

While Zuckerman made reference to West Africa–the same can be said of East Africa, that’s why stabilizing Somalia is key—if we don’t want there to be a rippled effect throughout Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somaliland and of course, Sudan. This doesn’t mean a unilateral intervention by the U.S. as it fights a global war on terror but a concerted effort from the West, the African Union and the Arab League (yes, they’re not effective, but that’s post for another time.)

Today’s Somali News reported that the Prime Minister Ali Mohamed criticized UN aid agencies and other NGO’s for the setback of their relief operations in the country. He also called for the UN to lift the arms embargo so the government can carry out post-conflict reconstruction and properly arm themselves against feuding warlords in Mogadishu.

Mukthar Ainashe offers a better solution in his blog Food Crisis in Somalia with “Kenya Seeking Backing in Somali Peace.” He makes a strong argument for deploying a peacekeeping force under the sanctions as Somalia works on demobilizing, disarming and re-integration of its factions:

“One could reasonably argue that the UN Security Council resolution (733) regarding the Arms Embargo justifies the deployment of the peace-keeping forces into Somalia! Indeed, the resolution states that it “Calls upon all States and international organizations to contribute to the efforts of humanitarian assistance to the population in Somalia”.

I know Somalia seems so left of field with all our attention going to Sudan at the moment. The last point-of-reference most people have for Somalia is “Black Hawk Down.” I’m leaving you with some background information as to what’s happened in the country since and why it’s important to start thinking about stabilizing Somalia now….

UN forces left Somalia in 1995, but the central government was not restored. Recently Somalia has become a source of growing global interest because of the war on terrorism. While the civil war is now over, the country has localized conflicts between rival militia groups backed by regional powers.

In January 2004 a breakthrough was achieved when 40 warlords and politicians agreed on a transitional charter to establish a new parliament. A 275-seat transitional assembly was sworn in that August and the members were selected under Somalia’s clan system. It is not clear if this governing body will move from Kenya back to Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.

In October 2004 military strongman Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad was elected by the parliament as the country’s new president.  The following month Yusuf appointed Ali Mohamed Ghedi as prime minister. The new administration will be charged writing a new constitution and staging elections after five years. It is the first administration to be recognized since warlords overthrew military dictator Mohammed Siad Barre and carved up control of the territory.

Where the government should be based is a tough issue for the administration. Prominent clan lords want Mogadishu to host the government, but the president has no power base in Mogadishu.  For now he plans to locate the government in Baidoa and Jowhar until Mogadishu is stabilized.

Washington has long viewed the predominantly Muslim country as a haven for militants because it lacked a central authority. The United States allegedly paid the coalition of Mogadishu warlords (the “Alliance”) to track down al Qaeda militants. This perception of U.S. involvement is dangerous. What it has done is create new fears in Somalia and an ideological struggle as the new Somali government sees this U.S. involvement as a continuing war on Islam.

Instead of funding the “Alliance” to fight terrorism and further divide Somalia by undermining the government’s efforts, the U.S. should work with the new government and regional alliances to prevent militant cells from forming.

Let’s see if Africa can cut its failed states on the Foreign Policy Index in half by 2015….add that one to the Millenium Development Goals….

Also for more information–I haven’t read it but Robert Rotberg (ed.) co-authored Battling Terrorism in the Horn of Africa. It was released last year by Brookings Institution Press

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