Saturday, January 13, 2007

Conflict expert warns of intervention's broader impact

Nii Akuetteh is Executive Director of Africa Action and founder of the Democracy and Conflict Research Institute, based in Accra, Ghana. At a press panel January 9 organized by the Somali Diaspora Network at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., Dr. Akuetteh warned of the destabilizing effect the US-backed Ethiopian intervention in Somalia could have throughout the region. Citing the growing human tragedy in Darfur, he said "we have bigger fish to fry" in Africa than taking sides in another country's internal quarrels.

Akuetteh expressed similar concerns in a December 28 radio discussion hosted by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! Radio, where Prof. Said Sheikh Samatar of Rutgers University was also a panelist. Here are excerpts from Dr. Akuetteh's earlier remarks:

. . . [As] you know, a few weeks ago, the US pushed for a resolution in the Security Council that called for a peacekeeping troops in Somalia. And it was stipulated that none of the major regional powers that share borders with Somalia, should have troops in there. And we are talking especially about Kenya and Ethiopia.

Now, if Ethiopia had stepped in against those wishes, one has to imagine what the other powers in the region will be thinking. I do think that it is a major mistake for the United States to be encouraging Ethiopia to step in, in such a heavy-handed way. It is not a sustainable solution because as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, they have a mission, when they're done with their mission they’ll withdraw.

Let’s say they’ll withdraw in several weeks, what happens then to the transitional government? So this is not a sustainable solution either by the Ethiopians or by the Untied States. And I might say that this is just the latest in our view of a long series of blunders by American policy in the region, going all the way back to the support of Siad Barre during the Ogaden wars in the 1970's.

You can read the full transcript of the earlier discussion, including the dissenting views of Professor Samatar, at the Democracy Now! website (click here).

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