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Analyst Says War Crimes Allegations Hard to Prove in Somalia


Various news reports say allegations of war crimes are being raised in Somalia against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), it’s Ethiopian allies and Ugandan peacekeeping forces. The allegations concern recent fighting in Mogadishu and that the EU is looking into the matter.

For reaction, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with George Washington University professor, David Shinn, who’s a former US ambassador to Ethiopia, about the allegations.

“I think that in this part of the world war tends to be particularly brutal. And I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to prove that there were war crimes taking place as such. I think this tends to be more the way things are done. And when you get into the whole issue of even defining what a war crime is and trying to put that together with documenting the evidence it just seems to me to be a little bit of an exercise in futility,” he says.

This weekend, the top US diplomat on Africa, Jendayi Frazer paid a visit to Somalia and met with members of the TFG. Asked about her peace and reconciliation efforts, Shinn says, “Of course, one doesn’t know precisely what was said in private. I’ve read what was said publicly and I think the idea of going to Baidoa was a good one. I think that the more contact there can be inside Somalia by US officials is essentially a good thing. On the other hand, I still continue to be concerned by, what I believe to be, excessive focus on terrorism as a root of all the problems or at least as a root of most of them.

“I think the greater part of the problem is the inability so far of the Transitional Federal Government to engage in true power sharing with Somali elements that are not part of the TFG. And that includes some of the sub-clan factions in Mogadishu itself where most of the problem exists. It also includes the moderates that were involved in the Islamic courts. These elements are either under represented or not represented at all in the Transitional Federal Government. And until you have a government that represents the broad base of Somali political interest groups I doubt that you’re going to have peace.”

Ambassador Shinn disagrees with those who say the TFG must negotiate with the hardliners in the Islamic Courts Union, who advocated a holy war against Ethiopia.