Feb 19, 2007

Somalia Update

As Harold Macmillan’s said “Events, dear boy, events” can often mess up the most well thought predictions, which is exactly what happened to my elaborate forecast of the situation in Somalia 2007. The Ethiopian and TFG troops (which mainly Puntland forces) captured Mogadishu as UIC fled the city heading south, this was something I didn’t see coming (I doubt anyone else had). Luckily, Ethan has been keeping an eye on the situation and had to great posts here and here.

I thought the UIC had many shortcomings and weren’t a solution for Somalia. They incorporated some warlords like Indha Adde and people with dubious backgrounds like Gen. Galaal and former TNG president Abdulqasim. I’ve also criticized their capture of Kismayo, a city which various warlords have been fighting over for years. They’ve also changed their rhetoric over time from one of reconciliation to threat and intimidation. On the other hand, I praised them for bringing peace and security to Mogadishu after more 15 years of warlords and lawlessness. Within days, the city was peaceful, Qat was banned and the city streets cleaned.

The TFG was created after many months of negotiations in Kenya. It includes representatives from all tribes and regions of Somalia, including Somaliland. The president Abdullah Yusuf was a leading figure in the civil war as he fought against Aideed (the elder) for control over Galkayo city. But the prime minister was unknown before he was elected, a close friend of Meles Zenawi (from the days when Zenawi was exiled in Somalia). It also includes warlords, most with positions in the government like the defense minister Barre Hiraale, a warlord who controlled Kismayo for years and Aideed, a warlord (son of a warlord) as the interior minister; to demonstrate his credentials he declared, soon after he arrived in Mogadishu, that his government is thinking of merging Somalia and Ethiopia into one country, the PM was quick to apologize for the remarks.

As soon as UIC deserted the capital city looting started, and obviously people were scared of the return of the return of the warlords (as part of the TFG) and with them chaos and lawlessness. So the most immediate task for the TFG was to restore security and assure people that everyone will be protected. For the first few days it was calm and peaceful. The next task was to disarm the militias in the city, which the gateway for any future peace in the Somalia. The government realized this and PM Gedi met with tribal leaders and announced that Mogadishu must be disarmed within three days or else. Well, disarmament didn’t go well. The three days passed and it was extended another two days, when deadline approached violence broke out and many civilians were killed. The government backed off.

Disarming a city like Mogadishu is a complex and dangerous undertaking but doable (after all, UIC did it). Firstly, heavy weapons are owned by clans so you’ve to assure each clan that other clans will be disarmed as well. As for small arms, there has to be some measure of security in the streets for people to be willing to give up their weapons but crime has only increased in Mogadishu since UIC left. To complicate matters further, the “Somali Forces” patrolling the city are mainly from Puntland and not from Mogadishu. The result was a complete failure, so far, in disarming and securing the capital city.

Meanwhile Puntland announced that it has formally joined the government which meant that most of Somalia, theoretically at least, is under the control of the TFG.

The security situation in Mogadishu is only getting worse because people are still armed. Unfortunately, TFG officials aren’t exactly the most competent of people, most of them have little experience in running a country. So people in Mogadishu are angry because there isn’t security let alone any tangible development.

It would have been ideal if the city was disarmed before the arrival of peacekeeping troops but it seems that it is no longer possible now. The semi-daily attacks on TFG and Ethiopian troops is becoming part of everyday life and I think any foreign troops in Somalia will have a hard-time staying in a city as armed as Mogadishu.

Other key areas such as reconciliation and reconstruction haven’t been given enough attention either. My assessment is that though there’s hope and Somali has, finally, a government that’s controlling most of Somali, the situation is very dangerous and could well lead to the collapse of the government and Mogadishu handed back to the warlords.

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