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Asked the US leadership as a precondition for stabilizing and rebuilding Somalia | Uluso

One more time, the International Community (IC) led by the United States is confronted with the urgent necessity to develop a “comprehensive strategy” for Somalia after the counter-terrorism-centered strategy, primarily delegated to Ethiopia (IGAD), has utterly failed. This necessity existed when Obama Administration came into office. Indeed, Prof Ken Menkhaus wrote in February 2009, “While some within the new administration will be tempted to continue to place short term counter-terrorism goals ahead of a more comprehensive strategy approach as was done during the Bush Administration, the shortcomings of this approach are abundantly clear. ….[The United States] must make clear that it will provide sustained support to the general principles of reconciliation, consensus building, power sharing, and moderation but not support to specific individuals or factions.”

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration overwhelmed by internal and external crisis has settled on Bush Administration’s strategy for Somalia, an ineffective strategy for defeating terrorism. As a result, Ethiopia has remained in control of the Second Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), hastily formed in Djibouti just days before the inauguration of Obama Administration. Since then, the political, security and humanitarian situation of Somalia has immeasurably worsened.

In a powerful statement on June 7, 2010,1 Senator Russ Feingold characterized the situation in Somalia as “appalling” and cited that “since 2007, at least 21,000 people have been killed and more than 1.5 million have been displaced.” He stated, “helping Somalis to come together around shared political vision and to translate that vision into a political system that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives is the surest way to address the our [US] National Security concerns over the long term”. For, he asked the Administration to come up with a strategy that defines how to achieve stability and rule of law in Somalia since conditions of failure and despair breed terrorism and anarchy.

In the usual defiance, PM Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia told the media that the IC must prop up the TFG and rehearsed the standard line that the chaos in Somalia is not only for Somalia but also danger to world security. This is part of slogans the Ethiopian regime uses to frighten or mislead the West (US) and justify its domestic oppression as well as the destabilization of Somalia.

Probably fed up with the Ethiopian malicious strategy against Somalia and concerned about the real dangers from the current human catastrophes, President Kibaki of Kenya standing beside US Vice President Joe Biden in Nairobi said, “ We have asked the US Government to provide the leadership to forge a concerted international efforts to stabilize Somalia.” The request for the US Leadership, which represents a key precondition for stabilizing and rebuilding Somalia, has taken by surprise the Ethiopian Leaders, humiliated earlier by the fact that their country was excluded from VS President’s visit.

Immediately Ethiopia called for the 36th Extra-Ordinary Meeting of the IGAD Council of Foreign Ministers held in Addis Ababa on June 15, 2010. In his opening speech, Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin made clear the followings:

First, Minister Mesfin reminded all, “We should never forget the fact that the fighting in Somalia is not only, and even mainly, among Somalis”, which implies that the conflict in Somalia is like the one between Israel and Gaza (Palestine) controlled by Hamas. This view explains the security concept of Ethiopia towards Somalia.
Second, he insisted that the IC must acknowledge “such a progress” made by TFG and blamed the IC for failing to provide “unconditional” support to the TFG.
Third, he said that the situation within the Somali Parliament is much better than before – a validation of the ousting of former Speaker, Sheikh Adan Madobe and his Deputies and installation of Sharif Hassan and two new Deputies. The Website of the Foreign Ministry of Ethiopia, which speaks for the TFG, has noted the clan affiliations of the two Deputies while it omitted Speaker’s clan affiliation. It assured that “the next steps are to strengthen the confidence of the Cabinet and to draw up and pass a number of laws and instruments of transition.” Ethiopia considers the New Parliamentary Leadership “an important step for the proper functioning of government and will give TFG supporters greater confidence.” Those statements predicate on two prognosis. First, the President is considered incapable to lead the TFG. Second, the New Speaker is the one who can deliver the laws and legal instruments, like New Federal Constitution, that Ethiopia would like to see immediately passed without credible process that guarantees the interests, stability and reconciliation among Somalis. Stay tuned!!!
Fourth, Minister Mesfin categorically objected what he termed “a trend of proliferation of initiatives concerning Somalia and demanded that the Djibouti Process [not existing process in reality] not be compromised and progress towards consolidating peace and security is not undermined because of unnecessary confusion and friends of Somalia inadvertently working at cross purpose.” This reveals the anger and objection of Ethiopia against President Kibaki’s initiative.
The communiqué2 issued at the conclusion of IGAD’s meeting has appeased Ethiopia. According to the communiqué, the Council of Ministries affirmed “the central role of IGAD on matters pertaining to Somalia and calls for the avoidance of the proliferation of initiatives”. It demanded fundamental changes in the security sector. Finally the Council remains seized of the matter (Somalia), which means that Somalia is under IGAD control. An Extra-Ordinary Summit of IGAD Heads of State and Governments to be held soon will have the objective of “ reengineering the whole political and security process of Somalia.” Stay tuned!!!

In addition to President Kibaki and Senator Russ Feingold’s initiatives, Bronwyn E. Bruton of the Council on Foreign Relations has argued for a “constructive disengagement” strategy that de-legitimizes or de-certifies the TFG. Andre Le Sage of National Defense University, who generally concurred with the validity of Bronwyn Bruton’s conclusion, has advanced “a repeat of failed strategy”. He argued to keep the nominal Transitional Institutions for international interests while forcing the TFG leaders to make outreach to key Somali sub clans and elites. In Congressional Hearing under the chairmanship of Congressman Donald Payne on June 17, 2010, Prof Ken Menkhaus has unequivocally stated that “TFG support is bad option and not best among bad options” and argued for a radical policy change.

All these initiatives are responding to the failure of the present strategy and the dire situation that surely will empower terrorism and fuel anti-Americanism. US should partner with the leaders of the Somali people.

It is absolutely a waste of time to entertain the hope that the top two TFG leaders can or would engage with opposition groups and disenchanted majority. The reason is that their transition from nationalists and Islamist visionary leaders to TFG leaders was opportunistic, betrayal and without transformative political exercise. It is time for the TFG to abandon its false claim of foreign legitimacy and vacate the political space for national dialogue. Opposition and factions are not legitimate groups but they have gained influence.

In the absence of organized and independent national voice, it is incumbent upon Somali intellectuals, capable traditional, businesses and political leaders to act against the Ethiopia’s “divide and rule” strategy and in favor to President Kibaki and Senator Russ Feingold Initiatives. The interest of Somalia lies in the earnest and genuine dialogue among Somalis in the context of the international relations and realities.

Mr. Mohamud M Uluso


1. http://feingold.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=325500&

2. http://www.igad.int/attachments/213_36th%20EXtra-ordinary%20Council%20COMMUNIQUE.pdf

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