Somalia: Now Comes the Tough Part
Nairobi/Brussels, 26 January 2007: The international community must vigorously support a national reconciliation process in Somalia if the country is to avoid protracted conflict and the incubation of extremism.
Somalia: The Tough Part Is Ahead,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the situation since Ethiopian and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces drove the Council of Somali Islamic Courts (CSIC) from power in December 2006. The victory provides an historic opportunity for stabilisation and reconstruction, but it carries equal risks. The government is weak, unpopular and faction ridden, and the power vacuum in southern Somalia is rapidly being filled by the same faction leaders and warlords the Courts overthrew less than a year ago.
“Politically, Somalia is roughly where it was when the TFG was formed in October 2004”, says John Prendergast, Crisis Group’s Senior Advisor. “Lasting peace can only be achieved if the TFG negotiates transparently with Islamist elements and disaffected clan leaders to form a genuine government of national unity”.
The Courts’ collapse signals a return of clan-based politics to southern Somalia. The potential for serious violence is just below the surface and could be heightened by an early Ethiopian withdrawal. Mogadishu residents resent the Courts’ defeat, feel threatened by the TFG and are dismayed by the presence of Ethiopian troops in the capital. Elements of the Courts, including the Shabaab militants and their al-Qaeda associates, have survived largely intact and threaten guerrilla war. Mogadishu is awash with weapons, and there have already been hit-and-run attacks on TFG and Ethiopian troops.
To prevent the jihadis from staging a comeback, the TFG must restore stability and win public support across southern Somalia. It should reconstitute the cabinet as a genuine government of national unity, including credible leaders from the communities that backed the Courts. It must advance the process of national reconciliation, complete the transition to a permanent government and work its way out of a job by 2009, when elections are to be held. It should also give up the notion of forcible disarmament and instead negotiate a voluntary process.
Ethiopia and the U.S. bear a significant responsibility to consolidate peace. They must push the TFG, not only by words but also with active diplomacy, to transform itself into a more inclusive national body. The end-of-January African Union Summit and the International Contact Group on Somalia should send the same signal. The international community cannot dictate to the TFG, but it must affirm that political, military and financial support depends on the degree to which Somali leaders show a firm commitment to consultation, reconciliation and power sharing.
“Failure to grasp this opportunity would mean an all-too familiar story line for Somalia of factional fighting and fractured government”, says David Mozersky, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director. “Then the conditions that led to the rise of the Courts would surely repeat themselves sooner or later”.
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
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*Read the full Crisis Group briefing on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.