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The Deployment Dilemma
Abdifatah Ismail, Cape Town, RSA
As the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia consolidates its power across the country, there is a growing realization that prolonged Ethiopian stay in Somalia may lead to a possible renewal of war and subsequent dire humanitarian catastrophe in this conflict ridden nation of ten million.
Following the fall of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, rumors are rife that the powerful Ethiopian army may pull out from the country any moment from now. The question on every one’s mind is then where their replacement, if any, will come from as the TFG’s security forces are not capable of filling the vacuum.
Recently, the Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, who is also currently serving as the AU chairman told the Pan African Parliament in Midrand that an additional 8000 peacekeeping troops will be sent to Somalia only to downplay his comment after a media follow up.
Earlier, several African countries that include South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi and Nigeria have been asked to contribute to a proposed peacekeeping mission, IGADSOM, in Somalia.
But the prospect of deploying strong African Union peace keeping force in Somalia diminished after the most countries from which contributions were expected failed to pledge. Only Uganda sent about 1500 men.
Analysts believe that the reason for the lack of contributions is mainly to do with the fact that most countries from which the forces were sought did not have the capacity to deploy owing to their commitments else where in the continent.
For instance, South Africa had substantial number of its troops serving in peace keeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and the troubled Sudan.
Nigeria was also in a similar situation as its forces are overstretched across various peace keeping missions in the continent.
And Malawi had declined following tough objections from the opposition parties and the general public.
This simply squared on the AU’s ambition of having stable Somalia manned by African Union forces.
Many people believe that the African Union was knocking the wrong doors because of the fact that they were seeking help from less appropriate sources.
However, the opportunity for organizing peacekeeping contributions once again presents itself as the Ethiopian troops are bound for withdrawal.
This time, instead of overburdening South Africa and Nigeria, the AU should put pressure on the Muslim countries in Africa.
Certainly, North African countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia would be in a much better position – culturally, socially and financially – of deploying their troops in Somalia than most of Southern and West African nations.
Moreover, in the present situation of Somalia, the religious cards are very important and will highly likely play to the Islamists hands if peacekeeping troops happen to come from predominantly Christian nations.
Concerns have already been raised about the possibility of Islamists targeting peace keepers as they have all along opposed to the deployment of foreign forces in Somalia and being culturally different will make them even more vulnerable to Islamist attacks.
The AU’s engagement in Somalia must therefore be realistic and particularly care should be exercised about who should best be deployed there.