|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Somalia: Somalis Must Have the Last Word On Who Leads Them
Nairobi, December 11, 2006 – At long last the United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved the deployment of a peace keeping force to protect the exposed and fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia.
Without the threat of Ethiopia, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) would have by now overrun the Government in Baidoa. The rejection by the UIC of the UN decision is understandable because it has frustrated its grand design of bringing all the Somali-speaking people in the Horn under one Islamic State by force, if necessary.
This idea has been expressed by some of the more radical members of the UIC leadership. Pursuit of such a plan would lead to a major conflict which would engulf the whole region and beyond. Now that the UN has taken the decision, what next?
Our experience in the two years since the formation of the TFG does not give us much hope that the necessary resources would be made available urgently to enable the African Union to deploy a peace-keeping force in Somalia.
The efforts of Igad and the AU have in the past been frustrated at every step. During the peace talks (2003-2004), sufficient resources were not made available to Igad and Kenya had to foot the major part of the bill.
After the formation of the Somali government, the international community expected it to relocate without any protection whatsoever. Igad decided to send in a force to accompany the government and was even prepared to bear the cost but even this offer did not get support.
The Security Council did not give the approval or waive the arms embargo imposed on Somalia to enable Igad to send in troops.
Instead, the United States of America gave support to Mogadishu-based warlords to fight the UIC with the intention of capturing UIC leaders who were on the US list of terrorists. The result is the situation we are in today - a mess - and the AU and Igad are supposed to clear it up.
This is not the first time America has complicated regional peace initiatives: It happened again in 1993 when the US abruptly withdrew its troops from Somalia after failing to apprehend General Aideed, and the results still reverberate to this day.
What then for the future? The situation on the ground should be accepted. The UIC controls a large area of southern Somalia - an area largely inhabited by the Hawiyee clan - apart from Kismayo which they share with the Darod. The majority of the UIC leadership comes from the Hawiyee clan.
The TFG on the other hand, though fragile has the support of the region and the international community. But how much support do these two entities enjoy among the population of Somalia as a whole?
This is a theoretical question because political support, just like legitimacy, can only be determined through elections. The problem of Somalia can only be solved by the people and not by leaders alone.
Let the people decide through free and fair elections which leaders and what government they want. After all, this is what the regions of Somaliland and Puntland have done, and they have enjoyed relative stability.
Secondly, the Khartoum talks between the TFG and the UIC should resume. It is important to sustain the talks, focusing on security, a constitution and elections during the interim period.
The coalition government should concentrate most, if not all its energies, on the preparations for elections. Without a government rooted and anchored in the wishes of the people through democratic elections, Somalia will remain in turmoil and without a functioning central authority.
Experience in Africa has demonstrated again and again that the use of force, far from bringing peace, creates instability. When one group is forced out of power, it re-groups, re-organizes and fights its way back to power.
The Ugandan government has been fighting the insurgency in the north for the last 20 years. In the end, the parties had to come to the negotiating table - force did not resolve the problem.
The success of the Somali talks will to a large extent depend on the role played by Igad and the international community. Unfortunately, Igad is divided and so is the international community, and such divisions and alignment to the parties could actually undermine the peace talks.
Without a common vision and understanding among the regional and international stakeholders, any agreement reached could easily be undermined. The talks would be greatly assisted if both parties feel secure back home. The TFG is the most vulnerable.
Without the presence of Ethiopian forces, it is likely that the government would have been overrun. It may therefore be prudent to maintain this force until a replacement force from the AU is in place.
If Eritrea is also present on the other side, let them remain for now. A call for withdrawal of these forces without a replacement will trigger conflicts which will have serious security repercussions throughout the region.
Some of the key leaders of the UIC are on the terrorists list of the US. There has been attempt to arrest and send them to the US for trial. It is therefore, likely that this may have been one of the main reasons why these leaders are opposed to the establishment of the TFG which, according to them, will cooperate with US in tracking them down.
As unpalatable as it may seem, a way forward would be to remove them from the list. The talks could be further enhanced and the people of Somalia given hope, if a pledging conference for the reconstruction of Somalia could be convened as soon as possible.
Somalia has entered a critical and dangerous phase. We would all pay a heavy price - that is, the countries of the region and the international community - if the situation is allowed to drift. It would be difficult to convince the frontline states otherwise, with what has happened in the past, and what is happening now.
The defection of Ethiopian soldiers to Eritrea is a cause of great concern given the fact that these soldiers are mainly from the Oromo ethnic group. Eritrea is on the side of the UIC and it is reported that they have troops on the ground in Somalia. Will the defectors be sent over to set up bases for the Oromo Liberation Front inside Somalia? That is what must be going on in the mind of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is not going to just stand by and watch Somalia being used as a launching pad to destabilize it. Any move by Ethiopia will quickly draw in other countries within and beyond the region.
The wounds and pains of the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi and Paradise Hotel in Mombassa in 2001 are still fresh. Those involved in these inhuman atrocities were reported to have connections, unfortunately, with Somalia. If there is no stability or if an extremist group takes over the country, will Somalia become a haven for terrorists targeting the countries of the region opposed to their policies and ideologies?
Haste and sustained commitment are of great necessity. Resources should be availed to the AU in order to deploy troops as quickly as possible. In the meantime, while troops are being assembled, a small monitoring group should be sent in to make sure all troops remain where they are awaiting the AU force and it is only then that all foreign forces should be withdrawn.
As for the future, the AU and Igad should give serious consideration to the establishment of a permanent monitoring team. The team would keep an eye on any developments of a political or security nature which could lead to instability and give advice on action to be taken.
Any agreement reached between the UIC and the TFG is only partial - there are still outstanding problems within and outside Somalia which could still pose a threat to the stability of Somalia and the region. Let us hope that this time round the people of Somalia will be assured of a peaceful and stable future.
Amb. Kiplagat is Kenya's former envoy for Somalia
Source: The Nation