A Perilous Impasse in Somalia
Since a better alternative can hardly be improvised at this stage, it is vital that every effort should be made to turn a calamitous civil war into a win for all of us by transforming the nominal TFG into a functioning transitional government. Four factors mark the rift that divides the two political camps, apart from the unspoken tribalistic sentiments that fuel inherent mistrust. These are:
of government to the capital, Mogadishu, or elsewhere due to the lack
This essay briefly describes the challenges and proposes ways of resolving them.
It is legitimate to insist that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) should be relocated to the capital Mogadishu and not elsewhere, as stipulated in the Transitional Federal Charter. But, security and peace in Mogadishu and vicinity is a necessary prerequisite for such relocation to occur. Over the last few months a beginning has been made in securing the city. Civics, and more crucially, faction leaders, members of the government and parliamentarians have been engaged in removing militias from the city. This is a painstaking work and the aforementioned agents deserve our commendation for their continuing effort to rid the city of private militias. But this endeavor has a long way to go and those who have the cards in their hand must scale up their effort to eliminate all the roadblocks, free-lance gangs and organized militias within the next two months before Mogadishu could legitimately claim to be the nations capital. All these should be done in good faith and in the belief that without it national reconstruction would remain an illusion.
If peace-making in Mogadishu is successful, the President, parliament and government would have no legitimate choice but to embark on rebuilding Somalias public authority and institutions right in the capital. President Abdullahi Yusufs words and deeds, from the start, have unnecessarily made reconciliation more complicated. He has made no attempt to use his office to bring people together to facilitate the governments relocation in Mogadishu. He has pinned his hopes and those of the nation only on the intervention of foreign troops, particularly from Ethiopia. In addition, he also made many provocative statements that have alienated most of the public and deepened mistrust among groups. Likewise, most opponents of the President both in the parliament and government have opportunistically transformed national issues into self-serving and clanistic gimmicks. The irresponsible pursuit of the Presidents strategy or those of his opponents will precipitate a nasty civil war and open up deep new wounds.
In the absence of a national security force(s) that could adequately guarantee security in Mogadishu, it will be foolhardy to contemplate relocating the incipient organs of government in such an environment. Realistically, it will take at least a year, given current conditions, to create a nucleus of sufficiently trained, equipped, and mentally de-tribalized police force. Character and competence are foundational qualities for an effective security force and consequently, non-partisan professionals must guide the establishment of this vital national force. In this regard, it is worth recalling of the reported British Governments offer to assist Somalia in training its new national police force.
Foreign Troops Deployment
There is a general consensus, baring some dissidents in Mogadishu, that the deployment of foreign troops is essential in order to help secure Mogadishu, jumpstart the peace-making process, and enable the TFG/TFA to consolidate its authority. However, different viewpoints on where such troops have to come from have been expressed. President Abdullahi made no mystery of his preference for Ethiopian troops although he has lately accepted troops from any other countries In contrast, the vast majority of the Somali public is strongly opposed to Ethiopian troops deployment in Somalia under any pretext. The public is mindful of the long Somali-Ethiopian conflict and suspects that the Presidents hidden and insidious agenda for insisting on Ethiopian intervention. The publics unequivocal stance has so far failed to have any perceptible impact on the Presidents wish. Despite these disagreements, it is essential to have neutral foreign troops in the country until such a time that a professional and representative Somali force can command public order. Somali leaders on both sides of the political divide should agree on this and hence jointly request the African Union to expedite the dispatch of the already promised 1,700 Ugandan and Sudanese troops to Somalia, and offers from other countries should also be welcomed. In the final analysis, we should realize that it is for us to put our house in order. We need not forget that the mission and statue of the foreign troops should be limited and carefully circumscribed. The temporary nature of the peacekeeping mission is designed to complement our own efforts and Somalis and their leaders must face the challenge.
Deployment of Puntland militias
It appears that President Abdullahi Yusuf intends to deploy armed militias form Puntland to confront his opponents in Mogadishu. It is reported that a convoy of well-equipped militias are enroute to Jowhar. This has further heightened tensions and could rekindle a more sinister phase of civil war. Most people in the Mogadishu and other Somalis consider the deployment of Puntland militias in and around the capital to be tantamount to a clan-based invasion. The faction leaders and others in Mogadishu intend to fiercely respond to what they deem to be an illegitimate attack. Both Abdullahi Yusuf and the faction leaders in Mogadishu need to recollect that the late Somali dictator thought that he could subjugate the nation by tribalizing state institutions and particularly the armed forces. The factionalist opposition imagined that it could topple the tyrannical order and remake the nation by employing the same tactics. Unfortunately that strategy has turned a crisis into a calamity. The people in the northeast must not be fooled into a destructive and futile adventure.
It is criminal for anyone, let alone those entrusted with national salvation, to smuggle in and amass weapons destined for sectarian use. I call upon all those directly or indirectly involved in this dirty work to forthwith and unconditionally put an end to such a senseless mania of gun-running, and instead solve their differences through peaceful and negotiated means. I call upon the international community to take necessary action against those who smuggle weapons into Somalia, and to warn all parties to the conflict not to resort to violent confrontations as way of solving internal political problems. The Somali people deserve to be free from violence and the world has a humanitarian obligation not to let merchants of violence destroy millions of lives and the future of entire people without being held accountable.
The Somali public must embrace a peace agenda as the current speaker of parliament recently articulated. The TFG institutions are vehicles for reconciliation and as such must seek peaceful solutions to our political problems. The Mogadishu faction leaders and Abdullahi Yusuf must recognize that if reconciliation is to be sustained it will require a win-win outcome. By its nature a compromise is a peaceful agreement and the use of violence is an anathema in such an accord. The faction leaders can not hold Mogadishu, and by implication the country, hostage as they have done over the last decade, and Abdullahi Yusuf can not violently impose himself on the country as he has done in the northeast. He can not claim to be president for all of Somalia and at same time organize clan based militias as a national force. Such behavior is exactly what destroyed Somalias government and is unlikely to set an inclusive foundation for a lasting peace and national reconstruction.
Accordingly, the faction leaders in the capital must withdraw their militias from the city and put them under the control of a neutral third party (the Africa force, excluding Ethiopia). Second, the international community must urgently support the African force to be deployed without delay. Further, the international community should provide food for work to the encamped militias and to give this first phase of reconciliation a chance to succeed. Third, Abdullahi Yusuf and the TFG should relocate in Mogadishu once the African force secures the capital without bringing clan based militias from outside. Finally, the rule of law and the art of compromise must govern further development. Any attempt to use force for particularistic political ends will ruin whatever promise this last conference has engendered. I urge all Somalis who care about our destiny, and particularly those in Banadir and the northeast to say no to political violence and clan politics.