London Conference: February 2012

Somalia is a failed stated mismanaged by its own people and others. The country is entering its 21-year of instability. The beleaguered population had lived under enduring anarchy and violence for 7300 days (20 years). So many reconciliation conferences missed the opportunities to address the root cause of the conflict in the Horn of Africa. The conflict in Somalia has passed through different stages. There was a time when the clans fought bitterly for hegemony under powerful warlords. During which time Somalia had witnessed the greatest social turmoil in its history: secession of the ex-British Somaliland, loss of sovereignty, widespread clan hostility, appalling atrocities and forced displacement. Then in 2006 the warlord epoch ended abruptly. The Union of Islamic Courts rose to power and replaced the notorious warmongers. For the first time since 1991, Somalia tasted 6 months of unprecedented peace and tranquillity. To date, the country is still in turmoil.

Nowadays, there is no obvious clan hostility in Somalia. The clan tension has naturally died down after twenty years. Nonetheless, there is an ongoing conflict between the Transitional Authority and religious zealots. Presently the TFG is fighting against a relentless, formidable opposition that does not give in. Five months ago, the insurgents retreated from their stronghold in Mogadishu, calling it a tactical manoeuvre. Mogadishu residents rejoiced at the news. Pockets of Al Shabab snipers still remain in some parts of Mogadishu imposing the greatest risk to the TFG.  Increasing deadly clashes occur almost every day in Mogadishu. The insurgents are not simply giving up. They come and go tactically frustrating the TFG’s ambition to recapture the capital city completely.

Since October 16, 2011, Kenyan troops have been attacking the insurgents’ depots and training camps in South Somalia only killing scores of al shabab fighters. No major town has been secured by the Kenyan troops yet. Kenyan air force raids might have killed more civilians than Al Shabab fighters. Jilib district near Kismayo received direct aerial bombardment in which 7 young children and their parents had been killed. Similar casualties were reported in Kudhaa, Hosungow villages. . Al Shabab might have been weakened, but they still talk tough and appear to have fighting capabilities.

Five African nations have deployed troops to Somalia. Comparatively speaking, these troops have superior arsenal, but they are making progress at snail’s pace. The operation is long, costly and unwinnable. Military option without a parallel political solution may not be the right policy to end the crisis in Somalia. A quick look at the history of foreign troop’s involvement in Somalia shows that military interventions had always ended in fiasco.

The London Conference in February 2012 is not reconciliation but it is for the international community to explore means of strengthening the existing TFG institutions and to coordinate their efforts. Only heads of states and other agencies are invited to the meeting. For this reason, no UK Diaspora is invited to the conference.

I propose that London conference should minimize the military option and maximize the political solution and social aspects of the conflict. It should find means of bringing the TFG and its opposition at the negotiation table whatever it takes. It should urge participating countries and agencies to consider non-military option as a matter of urgency. Insurgency is the major obstacle to lasting in Somalia. Let’s end it.

In the past, Alshabab turned down the government’s offer to reconcile. TFG has been criticised for failing to push the case forward. The rebels have not been given any significant political or material offers. It all seemed a lip service and useless rants. There may be certain neutral bodies somewhere in the world that the rebels could trust.  For instance, some highly revered Islamic clerics in the Arab world have expressed willingness to mediate between the TFG and Alshabab. Renowned preachers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Kuwait have expressed interest in mediating the TFG and Al shabab. Nevertheless, the TFG looks unprepared to take advantage of this free service. TFG

It is challenging to convince the rebel leaders to attend a peace dialogue, but it is not entirely an impossible task. Clearly, the TFG is not committed to do so. Al Shabab must accept 3 crucial pre-requisites to peace in Somalia. Al Shabab must:

· Relinquish hostility, in another words, stop the war with the TFG;
· Hand in to the authority the foreign criminals fighting along with them;
· Come to the negotiation table

If they accept these three conditions, the world will de-register them and offer them an international pardon provided that they would never engage in any form of hostilities.

Piracy in Somalia flourishes under the watchful eyes of the world’s mightiest navy and battleships patrolling Somali’s coast lines. It has been reported that piracy in Somalia is a lucrative business that enjoys national and international protection of some kind. Pirates may have closer ties with the local residents for safe passages or sanctuary. Poverty stricken residents can see the financial advantages of collaborating with the pirates. Dislodging pirates from their land-bases is perhaps a better strategy than attacking them in the sea. Moreover, creating some local developmental projects to alleviate poverty in the pirate-concentrated regions could bring long term benefits to these abandoned coastal towns.

Another international conference that fails to address these crucial aspects will be futile and waste of time.  For the conference to achieve its objectives it must consider the following:

·       Minimise beating war drums and maximize finding other political options;

·       Find means to get the TFG and its opponents to have peace dialogue;

·       Ensure that the TFG is ready to accommodate  the most important demands of the opposition;

·       To assist the TFG to come up with its long term plans to tackle continuing insurgency in Somalia

·       To force the TFG to accept the involvement of international Islamic clerics in the mediation process;

·       Seek voluntary collaboration of local residents to crush piracy. Create opportunities for the local population who live in the pirate-invested regions

·       Hunt down those who support and facilitate piracy: locally and internationally and bring to justice;

·       Offer an international pardon to the rebel leaders.

by Elmi Dhaayow
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Categories: Truth to Power | Leave a comment

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