26/08/08 (B462) New York Times / En Somalie, tout est affaire de clans ! In Somalia, it’s all about the clans (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Analysts say West’s push for central power fails in decentralized society

Nothing seems to be able to lift Somalia’s curse of anarchy.

After 17 years, 14 transitional governments and $8 billion in foreign aid, the country is as violent, lawless – and many say hopeless – as ever.

Part of the problem, a rising number of Western academics and Somali professionals argue, is that the bulk of outside efforts have concentrated on standing up a strong central government, which may be anathema in a country where authority tends to be diffuse and clan-based.

The United Nations and donor countries are plowing millions of dollars into the Transitional Federal Government, an entity essentially created by the United Nations, with the idea of bringing order to Somalia from the top down.

But the transitional government is effectively on life support. Its presence in Mogadishu, the capital, is limited to a few blocks that are constantly shelled. It is unpopular and, by extension, weak. Its leaders are consumed by yet another round of infighting.

Ken Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina who specializes in Somalia, likened the transitional government to « an hourglass, » with no professional class or civil service at its core. Instead, there are « a whole bunch of ministers at the top, a whole bunch of soldiers at the bottom and nothing in between. »

But there may be another answer: going local.

Somali intellectuals and Western academics are pushing an alternative form of government that might be better suited to Somalia’s fluid, fragmented and decentralized society. The idea, is to rebuild Somalia from the bottom up.

It is called the building-block approach. The first blocks would be small governments at the lowest levels, in villages and towns. These would be stacked to form district and regional governments. The last step would be uniting the regional governments in a loose national federation that controlled, say, currency issues and the pirate-infested shoreline but did not sideline local leaders.

« It’s the only way viable, » said Ali Doy, a Somali analyst who works closely with the United Nations. « Local government is where the actual governance is. It’s more realistic, it’s more sustainable, and it’s more secure. »

But the building-block approach has its challenges. The UN tried to encourage representative district councils in the early 1990s, but the warlords in Mogadishu felt threatened and torpedoed the effort.

There are « always going to be spoilers from the centre, » said Hassan Sheik Mohamud, the dean of a small college in Mogadishu. « Ideally, bottom-up is very good for Somalia. But the problem is the warlords. To make any government work, they have to be included, in some way. »

There are also bureaucratic realities. Western diplomats, foreign donors and the UN prefer to deal with one government, not 26.

« I don’t think the transitional government is so effective, » said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top UN envoy for Somalia. « But it’s what we have. »

In weekend violence, Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout and her Australian colleague, Nigel Brennan, were abducted while travelling to Elasha, some 20 kilometres south of Mogadishu, on Saturday. They remained missing yesterday.

Somali officials confirmed the pair were kidnapped along with their Somali driver and two guards, The Associated Press reports.

Lindhout, from Sylvan Lake, Alta., is a television and print reporter normally based in Baghdad.

01/04/03 (B191) GUELLEH aurait-il été abusé par les américains ou nous a-t-il menti. En tout cas des forces venant de Djibouti semblent bien avoir été envoyées sur les terrains d’opération. (New York Times)

March 31 – Fresh-faced and itching for the fight, soldiers of the 24th Marine
Expeditionary Unit made a beach landing here early this morning as part of
the 100,000 additional troops being sent by the Pentagon.

Though American officials
maintain there has been no change in deployment plans in the face of stiff
Iraqi resistance and guerrilla attacks on supply lines, these marines were
scheduled to go home after a six-month tour abroad when the word came down
five days ago.

The men said that while
their mothers, wives and girlfriends wept at the news, they were elated.

« We were on the way
home when we got word to turn around, » said Capt. Dan McSweeney, who
calls the Upper West Side of Manhattan home. « We’re happy about it. This
is what we’re trained to do. We thought we were being left out. »

2,300-member amphibious unit specializes in house-to-house combat, as well
as peacekeeping and aid missions. The unit recently did a peacekeeping stint
in Kosovo and joint maneuvers in Djibouti.

Its equipment includes
Harrier jets, Cobra attack helicopters and three ships. The unit is trained
to operate for at least two weeks without resupply.

Most of the marines who
arrived this morning via landing craft or by helicopter were children when
the first Persian Gulf war was fought in 1991 and say they remember the images
from television. They promised to finish the job this time.

The marines said they
needed no other motivation than Sept. 11 to fight this battle. Osama Bin Laden
and Saddam Hussein, they said, were nothing more than loose strings in a world
of disorder.

« People back home
should stop protesting and start supporting this effort, » said Sgt. Jason
Franco, 26. « Did everybody forget the twin towers already? I think there’s
Al Qaeda in there, so here we go. »

There is a New York contingent
here. The commanding officer, Col. Richard Mills, is from Huntington, Long
Island. Captain McSweeney is from Manhattan and Sergeant Franco is from Astoria,
Queens. The unit is carrying the banner of the Port Authority Police Department,
which lost 38 officers in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

These young marines have
every intention of coming home. They have already made plans. A perch fry
on the sands of Lake Michigan. A motorcycle ride through the desert of Arizona.
A big beer party in Oklahoma. A slice of Koronet Pizza in New York. Marry
a pretty girl.

« Me and every guy
out here’s coming home, » said Pvt. Wally Washlow, 21, of Edison, Ill.
« But before all that, we’re going to prove that what we’re doing is worth
doing, »

The unit has not received
specific orders, but according to reports from the BBC, about 5,000 reinforcements
are being sent to the south central town of Nasiriya, where fighting has been
particularly intense.

It matters little what
the orders are, said Cpl. Terry Beadles, 22, of Phoenix. His unit will fulfill
them, he has no doubt, though he did admit to a little nervousness, never
having experienced combat. A picture of his girlfriend is taped to the dashboard
of his assault vehicle. He scribbled out a message to be sent to her. It reads:


I love & miss you.
I’ll be home soon. Be safe and don’t worry.