Friday, April 13, 2007

Salim Lone: "Kenya must take lead role in securing peace in Somalia"

The following opinion piece appeared this morning in Nairobi's Daily Nation. I agree wholeheartedly with the writer's call for more active European involvement in efforts to prevent the Somalia situation from unraveling further. Be sure to read the entire article by clicking on "Read more!" below.

The Iraq war continues to spiral out of control, the year leading up to its fourth anniversary this week, being the deadliest so far. Unless a political solution is sought, the destructive toll in lives is destined to reach an astounding one million in the next year, since it was already 650,000 a year ago according to a Johns Hopkins University study.

The world has also never been so unstable or threatened. With Somalia invaded, the world and our region are even more so, with four countries now occupied, all of them Muslim.

Once a war deepens, positions become entrenched and finding a peaceful exit becomes harder by the day. Peace and human rights advocates in Kenya must, therefore, take the lead in emphasising the need for a democratic, inclusive government devoid of the rampaging warlords rather than support the current aggression. . . .

WE MUST LEAD THIS CAMPAIGN because we are next door and directly involved, and the whole region could be engulfed by this crisis, as Mr Bethuel Kiplagat emphasised on Monday in these pages, although he advocated use of force as the way to end the resistance.

The same global paralysis and despair that could not prevent the ongoing Iraqi holocaust must not now be allowed to let Somalia unravel. The key for preventing this lies in Europe's hands, given its position as the most influential US ally with whom it shares many strategic goals. EU experts had warned last fall about the looming invasion, but as usual the EU decided not to challenge a major US strategic decision.

However, the EU's going public last week with its worries that, as a major funder of the concerned parties, it might be culpable in the war crimes that might have been committed in the massive assault on Mogadishu's civilian neighbourhoods shows the continuing extent of EU fears over Somalia. Behind the scenes, Europe needs to aggressively pursue with the US the case for finding a political solution, since inaction now will surely see the Horn of Africa become an even bigger powder-keg.

Other non-involved parties such as Russia, China, India and the Arab states must also take up the peace cause. The AU is in a harder position, having been boxed into backing the TFG.

There are very good reasons for the world to emphasise the folly of the current enterprise. One is the high-level turnout at the Somali Diaspora Conference last weekend. Two prime ministers from the 2000-2004 Transitional National Government, which preceded the TFG, and numerous ministers and MPs from that period, as well as Baidoa MPs, who resigned in the last year attended.

The decision of all these leaders to unite with the Diaspora and the Islamic Courts Union, along with the internal resistance, poses an insurmountable challenge to the occupiers. Somalis will not abide an occupation, and if it continues, the US and Kenya will be forced to become even more directly involved.

The other factor pushing for a negotiated settlement is the very pragmatic decision of the ICU to forego regaining control of the country, as indicated to me by Prof Ibrahim Addou.

Even though the Courts were primarily a moderate Muslim union, the offspring of businessmen, they nevertheless were vilified in the build up to war as extremists.

THEY WERE NOT ALL ANGELS, BUT they performed some remarkable miracles in bringing peace to most of Somalia and in driving out the warlords. They did not commit a single terrorist act. They made some miscalculations, but they were slated for destruction whatever they did, since the US and Ethiopia needed a client regime in Somalia, which the Courts were never going to be.

So the world stood by as a truly lawless invasion was mounted, involving not only Guantamo-type kidnappings, but violating also the UN Charter and three specific Security Council resolutions, including one on North Korea, all barring arms as well as neighbouring country troops from being sent to the country.

It is distressing in the extreme that the UN is silent on these breaches, and, in New York, I saw the spineless contortions of UN officials and spokesmen this week as they struggled to avoid commenting on war crimes that have been committed.

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