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US Institute of Peace Recommendations Not Followed on Somalia

Among those following developments in Somalia is Dr. David Smock, vice-president of the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at the US Institute of Peace, in Washington, DC.

Last year, he authored a report on responding to the Somalia crisis and made a number of recommendations. Smock spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the intervention of Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

“(It’s) certainly not what I hoped would happen, but what I feared would happen. I think the invasion by the Ethiopians was maybe understandable from the Ethiopians point of view, but it hasn’t created the kind of stability that they had hoped for and presumably the US administration had hoped for. The situation in Mogadishu today seems pretty chaotic. And there’s opposition to the Ethiopian forces and some dissatisfaction with the US in so far as the US is seen as collaborating with Ethiopia, at least in the action on Monday with the gunship in the southern part of Somalia.”

In August of 2006, Smock authored a briefing paper for the US Institute of Peace. It recommended that the “international community strongly discourage other states, like Ethiopia, from sending troops into Somalia, even if invited to do so by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.”

Smock says, “That was the principle recommendation. And it wasn’t just something that I cooked up on my own. I was stating a consensus view of the 15 Somali intellectuals that we had gathered for a day-long meeting to make recommendations for international action.”

He also recommended the United States “engage the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia, which later became the Union of Islamic Courts. The Courts had controlled much of the country before the Ethiopian intervention.

“In the report we also raised some cautionary notes about the degree to which the radical leadership might take over the Islamic Courts movement. The leadership situation was in flux last summer and it even remained in flux until its demise more recently. But we were of the view that there wasn’t going to be any long-term stability in Somalia unless there was engagement with the courts, an attempt by the international community to reinforce the moderate elements of the courts movement. And even today, even though the military force has been largely spent, I still think it’s critical that the transitional government reach out to the moderate elements in the courts, as well as clan leadership to form a broad based government.”

Smock says it will be very difficult to form a peacekeeping force for Somalia. He says at least 8,000 to 10,000 troops would be needed.