A new report warns Somalia has descended into terrible levels of armed
conflict, humanitarian crisis, assassinations and political meltdown. The
strategy paper is published by the ENOUGH Project and written by Davidson
College professor and Horn of Africa expert Ken Menkhaus.
Davidson, North Carolina, Menkhaus told VOA English to Africa Service reporter
Joe De Capua that it would be a dangerous error of judgment to brush off
Somalia's problems as just more of the same.
say that because that's the tendency for most observers when they hear bad news
out of Somalia. They presume that it's just part of a long pattern, 17 years,
of warfare and state collapse, of failed peace processes and they move on to
the next topic. When in fact, what we've seen in Somalia over the past two
years is the rise of fundamentally new, seismic changes with much greater
threats. The single most important of which is that this conflict, which used
to be largely a local affair with some regional dimensions is now very much
both a regional and even global conflict," he says.
says as a result there is much greater danger for Somalia, the region and even
the United States. He says that the humanitarian crisis in the country results
from a "lethal cocktail of factors."
got the perfect storm right now in terms of the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
We've got massive displacement… Much of Mogadishu is a ghost town. We have
upwards of 700,000 Somalis displaced into the countryside. They can't be
reached easily because humanitarian space is largely closed due to a
combination of policies on the part of both the government and the insurgents
and criminal elements. There's a lack of control that's made it extremely
dangerous for aid agencies. Then there's a drought and there's spiked food
prices and fuel prices worldwide. And there's also widespread counterfeiting of
the Somali Shilling creating hyperinflation," he says.
says that even Somali families that do have some money are having trouble
finding enough food for one meal a day.
has become a frequently used weapon on all sdes of the conflict, disrupting the
very score of Somali society.
is one of the most troubling long term aspects…is the extent to which
assassination has become a tool of choice among all of the armed groups… And
the group that is getting caught in the middle are civil society leaders, aid
workers and professional Somalis and business people. And that group is the
most important constituency for peace in the country. They are fleeing the
country or they are essentially going underground in the capital. They are
shocked. They are in a state of despair… And the worst part for them is they
don't even know what direction the shooting is going to come from when they're
targeted." He says.
a result, the loss of this segment of Somali society, he says, undermines the
recently signed Djibouti Agreement, which was worked out by moderates on both
sides. Menkhaus says, "It can't succeed unless there is a constituency inside
the country that's going to back it. And that constituency is there, but
they've been silenced," he says.
strategy paper also says there is a lack of unity in the TFG, Transitional
Federal Government. In fact, it says it was near collapse recently.
Somali conflict has also created, what Menkhaus calls, "the counter terrorism
blowback." He says, "Our counter terrorism policies from the United States have
clearly not succeeded. If you look at the situation in Somalia, it is a far
more dangerous, more radicalized situation today than it was two years ago. A
couple of the policies that we have pursued have inadvertently made things
worse. Our backing of the Ethiopian occupation has provided a perfect breeding
ground for insurgency and radicalization. The continued partnership with armed
groups…that some would call warlord militia is deeply unpopular and has created
a great deal of anti-Americanism in the country."
ENOUGH Project strategy paper recommends that the international community put
enormous pressure on all parties in Somalia to allow humanitarian operations to
resume to the millions in need of assistance. It says longer term goals include
supporting the Djibouti peace agreement among moderates and look for better
ways of state building in Somalia after 17 years of failure.