May 1, 2007


Getting Ethiopia out of Somalia (Afyare Abdi Elmi, May 1, 2007, Boston Globe)

Since 9/11, Washington argued that Somalia's collapsed state constituted a threat to its vital interests in the region.

The Bush administration closed Al-Barakaat -- the largest telecommunication company and bank, though the investigations of the 9/11 Commission could not establish any link to terrorism. It also added about 20 Somali individuals and organizations to its terrorist list. The United States and Ethiopia collaborated to destroy the UIC, a homegrown popular Islamist movement that ruled southern Somalia the later part of 2006.

The United States should revisit its strategy in Somalia. Somalis are determined to resist the Ethiopian occupation and attempts to rescue the warlord-government and impose it on the people have backfired. Despite the international community's calls for inclusive government, the leadership in Baidoa decided to exclude even more individuals and groups -- evidence that there is neither the will nor the political competence on the part of these warlords.

Since the United States was a partner with Ethiopia, it is the only country that can order Ethiopia to leave Somalia. Ethiopian troops are not filling a security vacuum; they are a source of destabilization. Ethiopian occupation must end as soon as possible.

The peoples of Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced meaningful peace when Charles Taylor, Liberia's warlord president, and Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone's warlord , were removed from the peace process. Somalia is no different. Rewarding warlords will not bring peace to the Somali people. These individuals committed heinous crimes and they are not interested in peace or democracy -- all of the warlords that UIC expelled are back. The United States should help in establishing a commission of international inquiry that investigates the Somalia war crimes.

As State Department officials stated many times, the Bush administration understands the need for a genuine peace process in Somalia. But it has to act. Instead of endorsing the so-called congress in Mogadishu -- a convention for the Ethiopian proxies -- Washington should encourage and support Saudi Arabia's proposed peace conference.

The Saudi government has helped mediate similar conflicts in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Moreover, most Somalis consider it a neutral country and it has a close relationship with Washington. It can also influence the Islamist groups as they are indispensable for ending the conflict.

While it was certainly legitimate to worry about a collapsed state, it made no sense to topple a succeeding one and replace it with a new collapse. It was reactive when we should be proactive and had a golden opportunity to be so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 1, 2007 12:00 AM
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