In Washington, a US Senate panel held a
hearing Wednesday on developing a coordinated and sustainable strategy toward
Somalia. The Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs took testimony
on "the new offensive launched by militant extremists."
Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says despite a
transitional federal government in place, Somalia is in crisis.
43 percent of the Somali population relies on humanitarian assistance to
survive and nearly 500,000 Somalis have fled the country and now live in
overcrowded refugee camps throughout the region," he says.
militias, warlords and terrorist organizations control most of the country, not
the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
adds, "The blight of piracy off the coast of Somalia is without question a
symptom of the instability and insecurity within Somalia. Without stability in
Somalia there can be no long-term resolution of the piracy problem."
US blames much of insecurity in Somalia on the al-Shabaab militia, which it
accuses ofbeing a terrorist organization. Al-Shabaab is trying to overthrow
resolution of these problems calls for a comprehensive solution that provides
stability,promotes reconciliation, economic opportunity and hope for the
Somali people," says Carson.
Obama administration has called on the State Department, the National Security
Council,the Defense Department, USAID, intelligence agencies and other
agencies to develop a Somalia strategy -- one, Carson says, "that is both
comprehensive and sustainable." He says the US is also working with
international partners, including the United Nations, African Union and
A strategy based on internal reconciliation
comprehensive strategy is to promote a stabile and peaceful Somalia, to support
regional peacekeeping efforts, to create a functioning and effective central
government…to create a country that is at peace with its neighbors," he says.
says the United States has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to
support humanitarian and security needs in Somalia. He also accuses Eritrea of supporting armed
groups, who are opposed to the Transitional Federal Government.
testifying was Professor Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College, who expects the
Somali crisis to be a continuing foreign policy concern for the new Obama
Past US policy flawed
says, "In this increasingly complex environment, external state building, peace
building and counter-terrorism initiatives have at times been based on flawed
analysis and have produced unintended consequences, which have left Somalia and
its regional neighbors even more insecure."
says sometimes policy initiatives have been at odds.
US also faces the challenge of de-conflicting its multiple objectives in
Somalia. Over the past decade, American counter-terrorism, state building and
humanitarian initiatives have generally been unintegrated and have at times
worked at cross purposes," he says.
challenges were created by the 2007 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and
occupation and the destructive insurgency and counter insurgency…helped to fuel
an unprecedented level of radicalism in Somali society," he says.
says Somalis have blamed the United States for many of the problems in their
country because it backed Ethiopia.
has been very high in the country and trust of American motives and policies
low. This has been ameliorated somewhat by the January 2009 Ethiopian
withdrawal, the establishment of a more broad-based transitional government and
Somali expectations of a shift in US policy under the Obama administration," he
Menkhaus says, "There is still a high level of mistrust of American policies
and residual anger at the US."
adds that US policy toward Somalia must take a regional approach and consider
tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the insurgency in Ethiopia's Somali
region and territorial claims.
Oxfam senior policy
advisor Shannon Scriber told the Senate panel that "Somalia remains the site of
the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The combination of conflict and drought
have led to more than three million Somalis dependent on aid within the country
and the displacement of up to 1.8 million."
South and Central Somalia are
the most unstable regions and the most difficult to reach.
water, dying animals
the obvious humanitarian impact…the country faces drought conditions unseen
since the 1991 famine…. Drought conditions continue to ravage livelihoods,
particularly among pastoralist populations as livestock are dying and wasting
at an alarming rate," she says.