That the UN Security Council is seriously willing to consider the deployment of international peacekeepers is an indication…
No doubt many an intellectual Somali and foreign will reiterate well-rehearsed commentary that Ethiopia’s invasion and continued occupation of regional foe Somalia is intended to help restore national order and establish democratic rule. Nearly 17 months after the initial invasion, not only has “national order” not been achieved in Somalia, but the Horn of Africa country has been propelled into a new cycle of political violence that has led to an unprecedented suffering of massive humanitarian proportions.
Last week, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on a resolution allowing the possible deployment of UN peacekeepers after certain political and security conditions on the ground are met. Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters: “It [resolution] sends a signal to the Somali people that we’ve heard their cries. It sends a signal that this Council is serious.”
In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon first raised the possibility of a 27,000-strong UN peacekeeping force to replace the understaffed and under-funded African Union contingent in Mogadishu, which stands 6,000 soldiers short of full deployment. But the proposal had certain conditions attached, including improvement in the country’s political atmosphere and the security situation on the ground. After all, UN member states do not wish to be drawn into armed conflict with Somali rebels, which was the case in the 1990s during the U.S.-led UN intervention that ended in disreputable failure.
The policy of interventionism in Somalia, irrespective of the reasons, has proven to be a strategy that lacks foresight because a key factor is always removed from the equation: the people’s support. In the 1990s, the Americans’ hunt for Somali warlord Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed was deeply unpopular in Mogadishu, where his loyal fighters fought against the UN peacekeepers. Intervention in the name of humanitarianism transformed into “regime change” to reduce Gen. Aideed’s power and influence, igniting old fears of foreign domination and propelling Somali militias to wage war against foreign troops.
Today, a similar but more dramatic episode is unfolding in Somalia. Young fighters are rushing to take up arms against Ethiopian troops, who are backed by the U.S. government in a “war on terror” project aimed at obliterating Somalia’ s Islamist movement. The ongoing Islamist-led insurgency against the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its Ethiopian military backers has killed thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian situation where 2.5 million Somalis are in need of assistance, according to UN estimates.
That the UN Security Council is seriously willing to consider the deployment of international peacekeepers is an indication that the project to install the TFG in Mogadishu has come to be recognized as a failure among international circles. Outside Mogadishu, the northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland continue to promote policies independent of the TFG; in the southern port of Kismayo, clan militias remain defiant in the face of the TFG’s inability to extend its rule; and in many towns across central and southern Somalia, Islamist rebels continue to seize control and receive jubilant welcomes from local populations.
Money, manpower and other resources have been spent to bolster the TFG, but the disappointing performance of the government’s leaders should neither be rewarded nor tolerated. If the international community and especially the UN is truly genuine about finding a lasting resolution to Somalia’s 18-year civil war, then the world must genuinely discuss the withdrawal of Ethiopian armed forces from Somali soil and allow the Somali people to engage in under-the-tree reconciliation that has historically been a cornerstone of culture and politics in the Somali Peninsula.
Such a Somali-owned reconciliation process would open the doors to all groups with legitimate constituencies and allow the Somalis to settle their political differences once-and-for-all, whilst giving the process much-needed legitimacy and popular support.
The flipside is that the U.S.-backed Ethiopian project, via the TFG mask, will not bring any success because of its over-reliance on military force. History has shown that the Somali people do not bow down to foreign guns.