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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs