Friday, January 15, 2010

Somalia 'ripe for resolution'

By Dr Afyare Abdi Elmi
In the past, probably fearing a repeat of Black Hawk Down, the international community has given little attention to addressing the root of Somalia's problems - statelessness. It has ignored the necessity of rebuilding the Somali state, particularly its coercive capacity.

As Charles Snyder, the former US assistant secretary of state for Africa, openly said, US efforts in the country have largely focused on denying al-Qaeda the opportunity to establish military bases there and in containing Somalia's problems to Somalia's borders.

In retrospect, neither objective has been achieved.

The al-Shabab group has become a fully-fledged movement and is now not afraid to openly challenge both Somalis and the international community.

Moreover, long gone are the days when any given conflict affects only the people in that country. The refugee flow, free weapons and human suffering affect places that are far from Somalia.

However, attitudes are now changing. The profile of this issue has been raised and there is a sense of renewed urgency and international attention. According to the press, Somalia is activated and the UN Security Council may debate its options soon.

If the situation is to be reversed, Somalia's state has to be reconstructed.

The long term solution to the Somalia challenge is to rebuild a strong central state.

The international community must, therefore, come up with a comprehensive strategy - and one that has a security, political and economic plan.

Moreover, the international community must keep in mind that all of its efforts have to enhance the will and the capacity of Somalis - it should not replace them.

Regarding the security component, the international community's intervention has to focus on a suitable mandate for international peacekeeping forces that can assist the Somali government in the short term and in developing Somalia's security forces in the long term.

One of the most challenging tasks would be to convince troop contributing countries to participate in a Somalia mission.

The Black Hawk Down event haunts many countries when considering committing to such a mission. But, things have changed in a significant way.

Although there are political stakeholders that are competing for power and resources, most Somalis are tired of the ongoing war. Moreover, the stakes are high now - as extremism and piracy pose threats to world peace - and the Somali conflict has transformed to such a significant degree that it is now "ripe for resolution" to use William Zartman's vocabulary.

As such, events in the past should not keep the international community from doing the right thing.

Moreover, developed or semi-developed countries need to have self interest when sending their troops to Somalia.

Such leverages, while not present now, can be created.

Indonesia or Turkey might be interested in leading such a mission if Washington pressures them. As in the case of East Timor, if Somalia's resources are on the table, powerful and energy-hungry countries, such as China, might be tempted to invest in a peacebuilding project.
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