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Analyst Says Dialogue Needed to Solve Somali Crisis

A spokesman for the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia is quoted as saying that the ICU is open to holding new peace talks with the rival interim Somali government in Baidoa. At the same time, the Associate Press says ICU spokesman Abdirahim Mudey also backed away from threats to soon attack Ethiopian forces in the country.

For an analysis of the situation in Somalia, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with Dr. David Shinn, of George Washington University. Professor Shinn was asked whether the reported offer from the Islamic Courts Union to discuss peace should be taken seriously.

“I think one has to pursue them. I think to fail to pursue them is not responsible. And there’s only one way of finding out whether they’re credible or not and that is to investigate them,” says Shinn.

Asked how this could be done, Shinn says, “Most countries have opened discussions with representatives of the Islamic Courts. And I know the United States has had at least some minimal contact with the courts. I think it’s essential to expand that contact, particularly with people like Sheik Sharif, who is the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council of Islamic Courts. Unless you have that kind of dialogue, you’re really never going to know how serious they are.”

Shinn says that it’s possible to have that kind of dialogue with the Islamic Courts attacking Baidoa, the seat of the interim government. “The courts have signaled and the transitional government has signaled that they would like to avoid a conflict if at all possible. And I think that’s accurate. I don’t think either one is particularly desirous to have a war. And if that is the case, then it’s essential to pursue these openings.”

EU’s Development Commissioner Louis Michel is expected in Baidoa Wednesday to meet with the transitional government. Shinn says it would be wise for him to also meet with the Islamic Courts.