Al Jazeerah & BBC & UPI & Washington Post – 2012-02-25 16:12:52
Saving Somalia: A Wasted Effort?
How serious are the world leaders at the London conference are in tackling problems facing the war-torn African state?
“The central issue is, can Somalia have a functioning state that controls all the different problems. We know that Somalia’s problem is a regional and international problem. We cannot solve this as a piecemeal. Expanding troops is only a means to a solution, not the solution, which is a functioning Somali state.”
— Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, the head of Somalia’s independent Peace and Development Party
LONDON (February 24, 2012) — An international conference on Somalia has taken place in London on Thursday, with representatives from 40 countries attending. David Cameron, the British prime minister, said the crisis in Somalia could endanger global security.
Somalia is a war-torn country in the Horn of Africa with a population of about 10 million. It was a former British protectorate and an Italian colony. It has not had an effective central government since 1991. Somalis have been affected by 20 years of violence.
Al-Shabab says it has joined al-Qaeda. It now controls much of southern Somalia. The name roughly means ‘Youth Movement’ and it was formed in 2006, first proclaiming ties with al-Qaeda in 2007.
Military forces from neighbouring countries are currently engaged in fighting the group. The group’s goal is to impose sharia law in Somalia. The US has declared al-Shabab a “terrorist organization.”
Fighting the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, poverty and piracy were at the forefront of the subjects discussed there. Also high on the agenda was the future of the African Union peacekeeping forces after their mandate expires in August.
Sharif Ahmed, the president of Somalia, kicked off the London conference by welcoming the support of the international community. “Ladies and gentleman, who represent all countries in the world and international and regional organisations. All of you who have exerted every sincere effort so that you could put an end to the suffering of the Somali people,” he said.
“We would like to like to say to all of them that we indeed appreciate this wonderful effort that you have exerted… this care, this humanitarian feeling which has been so manifest in your people, in governmental organisations, and non-governmental, as far as the Somali question is concerned.”
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, told the conference that her government will invest millions of dollars towards improving the situation in Somalia.
Meanwhile, the London conference has drawn mixed feelings on the streets of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. So, what is the future of the African peace keeping forces, and why should the world take the Somali conflict seriously?
To discuss this with presenter Adrian Finighan on Inside Story are:
* Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, the Head of Peace and Development Party, an independent Somali political party;
* David Anderson, a professor of African Politics at the University of Oxford and a fellow at St Cross College; and
* George Saitoti, the Kenyan internal security minister.
“The history of Somalia in the last 20 years has been a series of injections of outside resources to try and move people toward a negotiated solution. Essentially that money has been eaten by the people who’ve been given it. Now it has become a kind of donor-dependency locked into the process of negotiation in Somalia. I worry the next stage of this London process to get people in Somalia to discuss the architecture of potential changes that the West will have to put money on the table.”
— David Anderson, an African Politics professor at Oxford University
“We cannot exclude any kind of an attempt at this point to explore a solution in which Somalia can be stabilized so that institutions of the state can function. This conference may not provide the solution but it could bring about a situation where state institutions can work, there would be rule of law and there would be opportunities for Somalis to regain their sovereignty.”
— George Saitoti, the Kenyan Internal Security Minister
There have been around 20 international conferences on Somalia since the collapse of central authority in 1991. The major reconciliation conferences of the last two decades attempted to achieve peacemaking and peacekeeping.
* In 1991, the first attempt at reconciliation aimed at re-establishing a Somali government was followed by a bloody civil war in Mogadishu and the south.
* Between 1993 and 97, Ethiopia hosted four conferences that led to agreements and the creation of a National Salvation Council. But fighting continued.
* In 2000, the Arta conference held in Djibouti, was different as it sought the input of traditional leaders. It created the Transitional National Government.
* Between 2002 and 2004, conferences were held in Kenya, which led to the establishment of a Transitional Federal Government in early 2005.
* In 2007, the National Reconciliation Conference saw the participation of more than 3,000 people from all of Somalia’s regions and clans, but opposition leaders held a separate meeting to join forces to fight the Transitional Federal Government.
UK Foreign Sec. William Hague:
Why UK Somalia Conference Matters
BBC World News
LONDON (February 19, 2012) — UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says that the London conference on Somalia comes at a “moment of opportunity.” Things have improved in Somalia, and Britain is bringing the international community together to help get the political processes in place, he said. He told the BBC the conference mattered because Somalia had been “world’s most failed state for the last 20 years”.
It had been a “humanitarian catastrophe” for a year and a potential base for terrorism and piracy, he said.
Ahead of the conference, key Somali leaders agreed a plan to provide a new, smaller parliament and an upper house of elders and end the two decades long political crisis. The deal came at a meeting in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, but did not include some key actors.
Al-Shabab militants, who control large areas of central and south Somalia, and the self-declared independent state of Somaliland did not take part.
Mr Hague told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show the Somalia conference was an example “of how in foreign policy… we’re not just reacting to events now, we are actually trying to solve problems before they get worse, to save lives, to save ourselves having to intervene at a later stage”.
He said helping Somalia mattered because as many as 100,000 people had starved to death in the past year. He added: “It is potentially a base for terrorist activities as well as pirate activities which would be on an increased scale if we didn’t do something about it. Now there’s a moment of opportunity because things have improved a little in Somalia and Britain is in a position to bring the world together, to do the right things to get the right political process.”
The agreement reached in Somalia at the weekend is seen as providing the first indication of what Somalis would like to see from the conference. For three days Somali leaders had met in Garowe, the capital of Puntland. Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was joined by leaders of the pro-government militia, al-Sunna Wal Jamaaca, and senior officials from another semi-autonomous region, Galmudug.
The consultative conference hammered out a blueprint for a future government, to replace the current transitional government, whose mandate expires in August. Somalia would become a federal state, with Mogadishu as the federal capital.
The plan envisages:
* 225 MPs (halving the existing number)
* An upper chamber of 54 Somali elders
*Women would make up 30% of parliament
* Civil society and “respected women” will nominate and select the women members
* Parliamentarians will be drawn from Somalia’s traditional regions and reflect the nation’s clans
The Garowe agreement was witnessed by representatives of the international community, including the African Union and United Nations special representative, Augustine Mahiga.
Matt Baugh, the British ambassador to Somalia, welcomed the agreement as “a step forward in the political process”, but warned that all parties to the plan would have to “deliver on what they have said they are going to do”.
After so many agreements in recent years, there remains much scepticism among Somali observers about whether this plan can succeed and many details need to be worked out, starting at the Somali conference in London.
Airstrikes Pound Somalia after Summit
United Press International
MOGADISHU, Somalia (February 24, 2012) — Witnesses said Friday they’re not sure who fired an airstrike in the Islamist south of Somalia that left several foreign fighters dead.
London wrapped up a conference Thursday for Somalia with pledges of support for the government in Mogadishu. There hasn’t been a functioning central government in Somalia since the 1990s, though the interim administration has made gains against al-Qaida’s affiliate al-Shabaab, which seeks and Islamic state in the country.
Witnesses told the BBC an airstrike in Somalia killed four, including three foreigners, in an area controlled by al-Shabaab. The BBC reported the strike came from five helicopters. Its correspondents in Mogadishu, about 35 miles north of the attack, said the blast was bigger than anything likely carried out by African forces fighting in the region.
The US military has a base in nearby Djibouti. US forces have conducted military strikes in Somalia.
World leaders expressed optimism that Somalia was turning the corner after years of civil war. Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, however, said his government was “scared of tomorrow.”
US Drone Strike Targeting an ‘International’ Fighter Kills 4 Militants in Southern Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia (February 23, 2012) — A US military drone strike that targeted an international militant in southern Somalia killed four al-Shabab fighters, officials said Friday. A US official in Washington confirmed the attack was carried out by a US drone.
A second US official said an “international” member of al-Shabab was the target of the strike, though he said a white Kenyan reported killed in the attack was not the target. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to share details of the classified program.
Somalia’s al-Shabab formally merged with al-Qaida this month, a move analysts said was borne of desperation. Al-Shabab has been forced out of Mogadishu and faces military attacks on three sides. Al-Qaida’s power has ebbed as the group has seen key leaders killed in targeted attacks.
Still, al-Shabab boasts hundreds of foreign fighters — many of whom have fighting experience in Iraq and Afghanistan — among its ranks. The group also counts several dozen Americans, many of Somali origin, among its estimated 8,000 fighters.
Officials in Somalia confirmed Friday’s attack in the Lower Shabelle region, where al-Shabab still controls wide swaths of territory. A Somali military official said a white Kenyan commander named Akram was among the four killed. The official said he could not be named for security reasons. A second Somali intelligence official confirmed the attack, but also could not be named.
The US military has carried out multiple attacks inside Somalia against high-ranking militant targets in recent years.
Last month, a raid by Navy SEALs rescued an American and a Danish hostage from a gang of criminals. The US military actions in Somalia are representative of the Obama administration’s pledge to build a smaller, more agile military force that can carry out surgical counterterrorist strikes to cripple an enemy.
Kenya’s military has also launched multiple airborne attacks in southern Somalia since Kenyan troops moved into the region in October.
Kimberly Dozier in Washington, and Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.