New York, 17 December 2007
The United Nations, along with other international partner institutions and countries, has made and is still making extraordinary efforts to assist Somalia under extremely harsh conditions. Many, including journalists and aid workers, have sacrificed their lives in the course of their work with little or no recognition. The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, is doing excellent work with limited resources and manpower. Protecting shipments of food against high-sea piracy is most welcome and should be pursued. Now the time has come to draw up a roadmap for the way ahead.
1. The Somali conflict is not an African Union, or an Arab League, or an Organization of Islamic Conference issue. It is neither a liberation struggle, nor an ethnic or religious war. It is not only a struggle for power among the clans as many believe. The frequently shifting allegiances between and within clans demonstrate that other factors are also responsible for the continued instability of the country. Within Somalia, warlords, activists, and their private militias have perpetuated the chaos and violence for their own benefit. Overall, a small group drawn from various backgrounds and driven by lust for money and power is fighting to fill the political vacuum. Some do not want peace at all.
2. The continued Somalia conflict, which began in 1991, is a threat to peace and security. The situation is dangerous and becoming more so each day. As time passes, its complexity increases and innocent civilians continue to die. Three million Somalis have been forced to flee their country as refugees while allegedly a million are now internally displaced. For Somalia's youth, who make up about two thirds of the population, the only work available involves participating in the conflict which has blighted their lives.
3. This situation has continued over the last 17 years despite 14 peace agreements. Today there is little reason to believe that there is any chance of success if the international community continues a business as usual based approach. There are serious consequences for Somalia, the region and probably the world if the conflict is not addressed and a definitive, lasting solution agreed on.
4. The seriousness of the situation coupled with the multiple human and security impacts of the crisis has led me to put forward three possible approaches to international involvement in Somalia. Council members should consider all of them on their merits.
5. The first course of action is simply continuing the current status quo, or "business as usual". The second approach would be an organized withdrawal of the international community from Somalia, in effect accepting its inability to protect the population or to bring about a lasting peace. A third possible solution would be immediate and effective action on the political and security fronts. This is not a magic recipe for peace but could help Somalia to move in the right direction.
First Option: The Status Quo
6. Compared to Sierra Leone, Liberia and other African civil wars, efforts to resolve the conflict in Somalia have so far failed to bear fruit. The internationally recognised Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has not managed to take total control of Mogadishu, let alone the whole country and has yet to stop the violence.
7. The continuing fighting has provided a cover for human rights abuses against civilians and representatives of the media. The infrastructure has disintegrated, malnutrition is widespread, and roadblocks and extortion hinder trade, business and the delivery of assistance.
8. Policies tried and implemented over the past 17 years have clearly failed to restore stability. Even worse, they may have fuelled the conflict due to some side effects of international assistance. Aid may give the impression of addressing the root causes of the crisis but it does not. An increase in humanitarian assistance and improved access for agencies would be helpful but will not put a stop to the violence. The suffering maybe mitigated but will not be ended as long as instability prevails. Despite several efforts and vast resources, national reconciliation continues to be elusive. Somalis and their neighbours are frustrated by this continued war, which is generating deep resentment and cynicism.
9. The current military situation cannot last forever. Moreover it should not be used as an excuse for continuing business as usual. The international community's "wait and see" attitude would only postpone the day of reckoning and would not provide meaningful progress towards lasting peace. The likelihood is that the country would be further divided and the violence might spill over into regions that are currently peaceful.
Second Option: The Withdrawal
10. For those who believe that Somalia is one of the world's insoluble problems, withdrawal is the only course of action. A withdrawal would provide an alternative to the costly, continued engagement in Somalia which has so far failed to bring about stability. It may not be a difficult operation. There are only a limited number of international UN staff in Somalia and none in Mogadishu.
11. However, the country would be crippled still further by the withdrawal as more groups or clans would appear and the resulting fighting could create a humanitarian catastrophe. Although the TFG is committed to the Charter, presently it has difficulties governing the country and defending itself effectively.
12. The withdrawal could create an even more serious power vacuum. Instead of moving towards unity, small fiefdoms carrying out abuses and illicit activities would emerge and factions with a passion for violence and looting would rule the day. While it is common to hear foreign interference blamed for Somalia's problems, most outsiders intervene because the Somalis have yet to unite to govern themselves peacefully and reassure their neighbours.
13. Furthermore, the humanitarian assistance provided by or through the UN and other groups has helped lessen the suffering of the population. And the lack of any UN presence at all would present an ethical problem. The decision to intervene in some conflict situations while ignoring others of similar gravity would have far reaching effects especially in relation to some public opinion, and not necessarily only in Africa.
Third option: Taking Effective Action
14. This would entail new political and security initiatives. The TFG would have to be more active and make room for neutral personalities and competent members of the opposition. I appeal to the Parliament to support this orientation. The objective is to form a government that can support itself and administer the country effectively and peacefully. The Cabinet, which should be as representative as possible, should be capable of defending itself and maintaining good relations with all its neighbours.
Conditions for successful action
15. The Somalia crisis is an international problem. The UN must launch diplomatic action to mobilize a consensus to stabilize the country. Two simultaneous actions are proposed on the political and security fronts.
a. Political front. On the political front the TFG should help with making concrete steps to unite and strengthen its ranks and also towards the opposition – the establishment of a government of national unity is one of the best ways to do so. More meetings between selected members of the TFG and those of the opposition should take place to prepare the ground for further and higher level meetings. No large conference or freelance mediators would be welcome. For this "critical path to stabilisation", the opposition should be part of the political process and assume its entire responsibilities.
These discussions should preferably be held in a location close to Somalia or in one where most observers following the situation in the country are based. Once the agreement on the talks is reached, the discussions should be concluded within a fixed timeframe. Political leaders, but also and especially members of the business community and prominent Somalis of the Diaspora, should be invited to contribute. I am preparing the agenda, identifying a possible list of participants, and the timing for this process. I am convinced that when left alone, Somali are ready to join their ranks and efforts to get their country back on its feet in the next few months.
b. Security front. Concurrently with the political action, AMISOM needs to remain operational and its effectiveness strengthened. A new initiative should reinforce it with the deployment of an extra capacity to stabilize the country. As time is pressing, this new Peace presence has become a must. For this, Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two Moslem holiest sites and a close by neighbour with many Somali refugees should be invited to play a leading role. Due to its successful contribution to peace in previous conflicts, Saudi Arabia can help. Support from one or two NATO member States should be made available if necessary. On a practical level, the United Nations and the TFG should come to a swift agreement in close consultation with other concerned countries. With the Secretary-General's support, I plan to pursue this road to peace without delay.
16. The Security Council may wish to support these two simultaneous actions. With its blessing a Group of Somalia's Partners should reinforce the security capacity and deploy its Peace presence. That would bring forward national reconciliation and encourage the return of the international community to Mogadishu and beyond, and reassure neighbours about their security concerns. It would also help limit the conflict, both internally and externally, promote economic assistance and military cooperation. This arrangement, sanctioned by a major international conference, should mark the complete return of Somalia to the International Community.
17. The situation in Somalia is deteriorating daily and it is time for the international community to commit itself to a clear course of action. If the current trends of internal violence and external neglect continue, the consequence would be catastrophic for peace in the region, for the United Nations' image and reputation, and, above all, for the long suffering Somali civilians.
18. With the new Government in Mogadishu, the determination of leading Somali, including from within the externally based opposition, there is a real opportunity to advance toward stability.
19. A combination of many factors: support, pressure and effective action, would help patriotic Somali to free themselves from the scourge of wars, the ghosts of the past and to unite for a strong, independent and peaceful country.