News / Africa

No Easy Solution for Peace in Somalia

In Somalia, militant Islamist threats last month to launch a final war against the United Nations-backed government in Mogadishu have been followed by renewed fighting that has killed hundreds more in the besieged city. Questions are being raised as to whether the transitional government and its international backers have a plan and are moving toward a solution that could help end the conflict.

Last week, following a brief visit to Mogadishu, the U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe expressed confidence that Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, through the support of the international community, will find a way to establish security and begin the task of uniting Somalis against al-Shabab, a militant al-Qaida-linked group that has vowed to seize the whole of the country.

"We just had a very good talk with the AU [African Union] and IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development] representatives on the coordination of strategy, on making sure that the funds and things that we have been talking about going to the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] to support their programs are getting there. The government is still reaching out," said Pascoe. "In the face of all of the negative reports - how everything is failing, how things are terrible, how the government is too weak - in fact, I think the people need to look more carefully at the underlying trends and see where they are going."

Many observers in and outside Somalia say the trend they see is far more bleak - a continuing bloody stalemate in the capital with neither the government nor al-Shabab, being able to prevail over the other.

International Crisis Group analyst E. J. Hogendoorn says that is because the international community is largely responding to the al-Shabab threat militarily rather than politically. The United Nations and the United States, which supports the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia known as AMISOM, have been encouraging African states to join Uganda and Burundi in sending troops to Somalia to protect the government from insurgent attacks.

"I think, to some degree, military force to weaken al-Shabab is not a bad thing. But military force needs to be used to further a political strategy," said Hogendoorn. "Just increasing the size of AMISOM without a consensual strategy among the international community as to how to stabilize Somalia is not going to achieve anything."

Hogendoorn and other analysts have expressed dismay at the dismal progress being made to reform the transitional government, which, since its birth in 2004 in neighboring Kenya, has been unable to shake off its image as a body of greedy officials far more interested in amassing personal power and wealth than providing basic services to the Somali people.

When Ethiopia, with U.S. support, ousted the Islamic Courts Union and installed the government in Mogadishu in late 2006, allegations of rampant government corruption and its ties to Ethiopia helped al-Shabab gain vital support from Somali business communities and win thousands of new recruits.

As the insurgency escalated, the United Nations sponsored a power-sharing deal signed in Djibouti in mid-2008 that brought in hundreds of Islamist opposition members into the government. It was hoped that the new TFG would be able to reconcile with anti-government forces and begin the task of governing.

But two years later, the TFG under former Islamist leader Sharif Sheik Ahmed has not reconciled with any of its opponents and still lacks popular base and support. Recent attempts to bring the staunchly anti-al-Shabab Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama'a Sufi militia into the government have largely failed with Ahlu-Sunna splitting into pro and anti-government factions.

Hogendoorn says increasing in-fighting and power struggles have been crippling the government's ability to reach a consensus and make decisions. He says calls for reform have also been ignored.

"One of the dynamics that you certainly saw was that the TFG recognize for quite some time that it was essentially the only game in town for the international community. I can tell you from talking to diplomats about this issue, there is no stomach for re-visiting the Djibouti process," said Hogendoorn. "So, the TFG were able to use that as leverage to resist pressure from the international community to do things it wanted it [the government] to do."

U.S.-based Somalia observer Michael Weinstein says the inability of the international community to establish the transitional government as a viable alternative to al-Shabab is a critical point.

"The reason why we have this slow-bleed, this stalemate is that the West, particularly, Washington, is left with no cards in its hand," said Weinstein. "The situation has gone too far. It has become too fragmented. There is no viable force to replace the TFG."

Weinstein says what happens next in Somalia is anyone's guess.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs