new provisional government of Somalia has embarked on a campaign to revamp the
international image of the war-ravaged country, even as it faces continuing challenges
from warlord factions at home.
government officials travelling to neighboring countries paint a picture of a
country struggling to get back on its feet after a decade of bloodshed and chaos.
At home, they
face the stiff challenge of winning over the factions controlling various parts
of the country and two self-styled "governments" in the north, which want to secede
from Somalia. "We want to spread the word that Somalia is back to normal," said
Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galer, who is on an official visit to Kenya.
are no organized groups challenging the new government. Those young fellows still
causing trouble, are those who have no other source of income besides their guns,"
he told journalists on arriving in the Kenyan capital. Elsewhere, a different
delegation, which has been visiting Ethiopia, is moving on to Yemen, Somalia's
major trading partner, where they are to join Somali Pres.
Abiqassim Salad Hassan. It is hoped in the Yemeni talks that the new government
will secure the support of major faction leaders Hussein Aideed and Osman Ali
Ato, who are yet to recognize the new government.
Foreign Minister Harreh Aduba, who has been visiting the Ethiopian capital of
Addis Ababa, had pledged to address the strained relations between the two countries,
and pledged that his government would do all it can to oust elements bent on destabilizing
Ethiopia from its territory.
"We covered areas of concern to both countries and virtually agreed on all points,"
he was quoted here as saying. Since the 1970s, Somalia's neighbors have felt threatened
by the country's ambitions to carve out a "greater Somalia" from parts of northern
Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia.
1970s Ogden War, in which Somali troops invaded southeastern Ethiopia, strengthened
Kenyan-Ethiopian relations, even though the two countries had been in different
ideological camps. Its lack of a stable central government posed an even bigger
security threat in the Horn of Africa.
The state of Somalia collapsed in 1991 after the overthrow of Pres. Siad Barre,
splintering the country into warlord controlled fiefdoms. The south has been a
scene of chaos and insecurity since, as rival factions fight for control over
key economic sectors.
establishment of the new government at an inter-clan meeting in Djibouti came
as a relief to Somalia's neighbors, affected by its instability. Kenya, which
has been dealing with an influx of illegal small arms into its territory via Somalia,
has already recognized the new government.
Last week, the Kenyan capital was a hive of activity as Somali delegates met with
United Nations experts, donors and aid agencies to discuss the demobilization
of thousands of militiamen and their re-integration into Somali society.
workshop, "Demobilization and Re-Integration Programs in Somalia," presented successful
case studies of demobilization from other African countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe,
South Africa and Angola. "It is the first time we, as the international community,
have sat down to listen to the concrete experiences of the people themselves,
to my knowledge," said Jeremy Brickhill, the organizer of the workshop on behalf
of the United Nations and the Somali Aid Coordination Body (SABC).
groups of militia operate in Somalia, with at least five distinct groups identified,
including those who work for the business community, Islamic courts, faction leaders,
sub-clans and free-lance militias, who often engage in criminal activities like
robbery, kidnapping and setting up illegal roadblocks.
are the men we need to reach. If they can be brought back into their communities,
in productive ways, Somalia will be a safer, more prosperous place," Brickhill
as Rudolf Kent, U.N. resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia suggests,
will not be an easy one.
"We now have an important opportunity to support peace and reconciliation in Somalia,
but a difficult task lies ahead. Now is the time for Somalia's international friends
to support Somalis' struggle for peace in a real and tangible way," he said here.
It is also hoped
the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought (IGAD), which has been concerned
with peace negotiations in the region, will declare its support for the new Somali
government in a meeting later this week in Khartoum, Sudan.