Somalis must mobilise; the international community must act--Editorial by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah

21 Jul 2009

Somalis must mobilise; the international community must act--Editorial by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah

Source: The Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya--Posted Thursday, June 25 2009 at 18:54

EXPERTS OFTEN TELL US THERE is "nothing new going on in Somalia" and that the old clan warfare is continuing. This is far from true. The attack launched by extremists on the legitimate Somali government on May 8 was an attempted coup — no more, no less.

And the continuing fighting represents efforts by these armed attackers and foreign mercenaries to overthrow the government by force so that they can spread their agenda of violence throughout Somalia and beyond.

Somalis must mobilise, and the international community must act urgently, as the Islamists do not want this government to continue. I also believe there is no peaceful or lasting alternative to this government.

President Sheikh Sharif, who led the Islamic Courts Union in 2006, made the courageous decision to engage in dialogue, while some of his former associates rejected the invitation to peace through dialogue.

HE WAS ELECTED BY A PARLIAMENT which was expanded to include those opposition members who had been involved in the UN-brokered peace process in Djibouti. He has attended meetings of the UN Security Council, the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Organisation of the Islamic Countries conference, and visited Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.

Those who are trying to seize control of the capital, Mogadishu, have no national or international mandate. The forces, which are well-funded, include individuals who are on the UN Security Council sanctions list, a few hundred foreign fighters, as well as unemployed youth who are paid to fight.

One group had previously tried to justify its violence by citing the presence of Ethiopian troops. The Ethiopians left six months ago, but the fighting continues. These groups do not aim to make life better for ordinary Somalis.The country has suffered vast displacement of the population, enduring famine and massive abuse of human rights — all of them issues that must be addressed as a matter of priority.

These attacks pose a significant threat, not just to Somalia, but to the region as a whole. Kenya and the other members of Igad understand the situation in Somalia better than anyone else.

In the same way that ECOWAS in West Africa and SADC in southern Africa are well-informed and concerned about the regional conflicts, Igad has led the way on Somalia. Its members need the necessary resources to carry out their stabilisation work, which includes providing important, if at times blunt, advice to all Somalis.

The Somali Government has made it clear that it remains open to discussion with all those who want a peaceful, stable country. We all support this peaceful approach. The recent agreement with the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaa group demonstrates the government's commitment to continued dialogue with all parties. But it is not helped by those who call, time and again, for more conferences and an "all-inclusive dialogue".

Dialogue and inclusion are necessary in conflict management, and the Djibouti Agreement was, and still is, open to all Somalis eager to stabilise their country.We should, however, avoid legitimising those who continue armed conflict and abuse of human rights while giving lip-service to dialogue. Discussions between Somalis, in Somalia, on how to stabilise their country is the only way forward.

THERE ARE MANY REASONS FOR THE continued civil war but the economic and financial agenda cannot be hidden any more. Conflict and insecurity have become the main source of revenue and power. Several parties have taken advantage of the lack of a strong central authority to secure vast revenues.

There are the criminal elements who kidnap foreigners, extort money at roadblocks and carry out piracy. Then there are individuals who run parallel economies used by the extremists and make a good profit. They should know that with peace, their gains will be much bigger.

In this kind of tragic situation, those who claim neutrality can also be complicit. The Somali Government needs support — moral and financial — and Somalis, both at home and in the Diaspora, as well as the international community, have an obligation to provide both.

Mr Ould-Abdallah is the UN Special Representative for Somalia.