U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
will not visit Somalia on her Africa tour, but the situation there will be
addressed. Mrs. Clinton is expected to
meet with Somalia's president Thursday in Nairobi.
ongoing conflict between the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and
Islamist militias has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the
Volman, director of the African Security Research Project and a member of the
board of directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars, spoke to
VOA about where Somalia falls on Mrs. Clinton's list of priorities.
say it's very much in the top three to five issues. She does have a lot of very important
Africa-related issues on her agenda – oil, democracy, conflict, etc. – as well
as her announced agenda of food security and promoting trade and investment and
political reform," he says.
How tough a problem to solve?
"They're all really tough issues to
solve. And I have to say I don't think
that the Obama administration has a very good understanding of a lot of the
complexities of these issues or of what needs to be done to solve them. But it's certainly one of the more
complicated," he says.
blames that in part on the fact that the TFG actually controls very little of
who's an expert in security and military policy, says the Obama administration
lacks a broad approach to Somalia, as have past US administrations.
Obama himself and…most of his advisers, continue to believe that militaryinstruments…are, if not the best and preferable instruments for pursuing US
policy, that they're really the only instruments that they have at hand…and
need to rely on them," he says.
also disagrees with the current strategy of waging a global war on terrorism.
think it makes absolutely no sense to define terrorism as a military issue and
to try to use military instruments to deal with it," he says. But he says that policy affects how the US
responds to Somalia, just as it does to Afghanistan.
"The primary principle that needs to be
employed here is first do no harm. That
in the rush to do something, they're making serious errors of judgment in the
belief that they have to respond immediately,' he says.
says a longer term view and policy are needed for Somalia and warns against
politicians basing decisions on election cycles and opinion polls.
is a bipartisan problem in American foreign policy…. By rushing in to provide security assistance
to the Transitional Federal Government…we delegitimize that government. We
stigmatize it as an agent of American policy.
We make it much more difficult for it to reach out and achieve any kind
of broad-based political solutions," he says.
says the US needs to develop alternative approaches and instruments to these
Obama himself has spoken quite eloquently about the need to address these
problems – to take a global approach – to use his phrase "transnational means,"
says such an approach means working through the African Union, the United
Nations and other multi-lateral institutions.
What the US can do
United States government itself has to develop its own capacity to engage much
more multi-laterally. Part of that is to
develop the (US) Agency for International Development (USAID). Another part of that is to really push for
serious reform at the United Nations and to do whatever it can to make the
African Union a much more effective organization," he says.
of President Obama's problem is that the only instrument he has at his disposal
is the Pentagon. He doesn't have an
effective State Department because it's been denuded of its resources and its
personnel. The (US) Agency for
International Development is in even worse shape," he says.
vacancies went unfilled during the past several years in what some critics have
said was an attempt by the Bush administration to weaken the department in
favor of the Pentagon.
Long-term solution to Somalia could take a
going to take decades to solve these problems just as it took decades to create
them. You have to take a long term view
of how you're going to solve them. And
there's no guarantee that you're going to solve them," he says.
The Somalia conflict has displaced
hundreds of thousands of people, while millions are in need of emergency food
aid and other assistance.