Saturday, November 05, 2011
There are, undoubtedly, battles and controversies to come, but the result will be the defeat of the Al-Shabaab, and it will be quicker than many think.
The real issue is how to maintain the peace. The African Union is known to growl, but it’s largely a toothless tiger. Europe is focused on Greece and financial issues, and relishing the outcome in Libya.
China does not like to use its military to fight battles abroad. America is getting out of Iraq and mired in Afghanistan.
The Arab League is increasingly seen as a spineless club of declining dictators and teetering monarchs.
Yet, the coming months will be the first real opportunity for peace in the last two decades in a place that’s brought only sorrow to East Africa and the world.
In America, Somali immigrants are everywhere. Twenty thousand live in Minnesota. Like their Sudanese cousins, who were also forced out of their homes by uncommon cruelty, Somalis have found some interesting occupations.
For example, it is impossible to not find Somalis driving cabs. They wait in long lines at airports and can switch from their native tongue to English in seconds.
Many public facilities now have places for them to wash their hands and feet before they pray. If you talk to them, their story is the same as many other refugees in America.
They were forced out by extremism, endured unimaginable hardships before making it to a refugee camp and then were lucky enough to qualify to come to the US, sometimes through the help of relatives already in America.
The flow from Somalia has been so great and so long that many have had children that never knew — or may never know — their parents’ homeland.
But the Somali diaspora is in greatest number in places like Kenya, where there are close to one million, and Ethiopia, where there may be as many as five million, according to numerous estimates.
There may actually be more Somalis living outside the country than the estimated nine million who remain there.
So the Kenyan mission is more than a military operation. It is an effort to restore humanity.
The soldiers are fighting a foe that will use civilians to defend itself, claim atrocities where none exist and ambush innocents. They cannot be gone soon enough.
But the question remains about what to do when they are defeated. It is never good for one country to rule another for an extended period of time. If you need a recent example, look at America’s exploits in Iraq.
So it is time for the UN to step in with the help of a variety of powers. They should go beyond the traditional Western countries — France, Britain and the US.
The force ought to include both India and China — two countries that have serious economic interests in East Africa. And it would be good to see these forces led by a Muslim country from Africa or the Middle East.
The world must stand up. The resurrection of the Somali society and economy will take a long time, and the burden should not lie on East Africa. Building peace requires many hands.