Nick Grono, currently Vice President for Advocacy and Operations of the International Crisis Group, an independent international non-profit, non-governmental organisation, which works to prevent and resolve conflict throughout the world, has written an excellent piece on the crisis in Somalia for the Tuesday the 8th of January edition of The Australian.
Somalia is the world’s undisputed failed state, having been without a functioning government for the past 15 years. In that time, the country has been torn apart by warring clans and their militias; hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the conflict and the country has become a byword for anarchy.
But following Ethiopia‘s offensive into Somalia and its stunningly quick overthrow of the fundamentalist Council of Somali Islamic Courts in the south, there is a real opportunity to restore a semblance of order and peace to the country for the first time in many years, if only the warring parties are willing or can be encouraged to take it.
Grono goes on to give readers a potted history of the various conflicts that has torn Somalia apart over the last fifteen or so years. At the time of writing – and we must bear in mind that this piece had probably gone to press before George Bush decided to send war-planes after al-Qaida members it said were hiding in southern Somalia and before he managed to kill some innocents along the way – Grono was hopeful that the international community could help in uniting the country.
Lasting peace and security can now be achieved only if the transitional Government is reconstituted as a genuine government of national unity. The international community, with the US and Ethiopia playing key roles, must push the transitional Government to transform itself and Somalia‘s institutions into inclusive and functional entities. The Ethiopian troops should be replaced as soon as possible with a broader, multilateral, peacekeeping presence to defuse public resentment towards the Ethiopian occupation.
Radical Islam in Somalia has been struck a heavy blow and the country now has a historic opportunity to end the devastation that has plagued it for the past 15 years. The coming months will determine whether Somalia emerges as a functioning state or follows the Iraqi and Afghan route back into anarchy, condemning its citizens to many more years of conflict. The international community must remain engaged and fulfill its responsibility to end the suffering of the Somali people.
I may be wrong, but I cannot help thinking that Bush’s heavy-handed attempt to carry on the “war on terror” into Somalia will have damaged the international community’s credibility and its ability to do the job Grono thinks it might have done.