There’s growing concern about whether security can be restored to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Talks between the Ethiopian military and clan leaders broke down Sunday and sporadic attacks by insurgents continue. These include the apparent shooting down Friday of a plane chartered by the AU.
Among those following developments in Somalia is Ken Menkhaus, associate professor of political science at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He gave VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua an assessment.
“I think this is a situation that’s rapidly spiraling out of control. This was predictable in many ways because the (Transitional Federal) government did not aggressively pursue an all-inclusive political dialogue to try to broaden representation. Hardliners among the Islamists, as well as some other rejectionists (sic), were also determined not to see a broadening of the government. Introducing both Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers in that context was bound to only make things worse,” he says.
Is it too late to salvage peace and security? Menkhaus says, “I am not optimistic at this point. I think we have to fight the good fight. We have to make every effort to try and convince all sides that dialogue is necessary; a ceasefire is necessary, that the people of Mogadishu and Somalia want peace. But the fact is on both sides there are power reasons not to move forward on dialogue.
“From the point of view of the insurgents in Mogadishu now, whether they’re clan-based insurgents or Islamists, they don’t see any benefit in negotiating their way into a government that they consider to be illegitimate. From the perspective of the TFG leadership, they fear bringing elements into the government that frankly are perfectly capable of being more powerful than them and could take it over.”
Do the attacks in Mogadishu indicate the insurgents are taking a page from what’s happening in Baghdad? Menkhaus says, “Somalis are perfectly capable of waging asymmetrical urban guerilla warfare without taking a page from anyone. They did it very effectively in 1993 against UNISOM.”