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Why Negotiation Should be a Basis for Deploying African Peace-keeping Forces in Somalia

By Liban Ahmed

Prime Minister Ali M. Gedi "Dealing with Sheikh Aweys for us is meaning dealing with Bin Laden and his Al Qaida company.”

The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia has long argued that deployment of peace keeping will facilitate the process of reconciliation and rebuilding state institutions. Barely three   months ago TFG leaders regarded countering the threat of warlords as the raison d’être to deploy peacekeeping troops in Somalia. Now that Mogadishu and many parts of the Southern Somalia are under the United Islamic Courts’ rule, is the TFG ready to readjust its established policy to emerging realities? It has to for some understandable reasons chief among them being conflicting policies of the TFG’s top leaders.  What will have an impact –positive or negative--our relations with neighbouring countries is any strategy utilised by   our leaders to break the deadlock over peace-keeping. It will determine the legacy of the TFG after its mandate comes to an end.

“We are Muslims, and we are targeted for that identity,” Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, the chairman of UIC Consultative Council told a New York Times reporter. It is difficult to deny the truth in the Sheikh’s words. Few weeks ago, Ali Mohamed Gedi, the Somali prime minister, in an interview with BBC Focus on Africa programme, laid out his objections to talks with leaders of the United Islamic Courts of Somalia. “Yes we will meet with those moderates who are Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama’a Islamic courts,   the  civil societies  and the people of Mogadishu but we will not sit with those who broke the cease fire agreement, those  who caused the genocide, the civil war, who killed  people, who destructed properties in Mogadishu today and the last couple of weeks.”


The Somali President, Abdullahi Yusuf, is on the record for criticising USA for funding discredited warlords who expediently set up anti terrorist alliance in country where terrorists don’t operate, and plunged Mogadishu into pointless war.  The war to which premier Gedi refers in the Focus of Africa interview was between the Islamic courts and now vanquished warlords. If a Human Rights Court decides to press genocide charges, it is   the warlords who will be primary target, not the United Islamic Courts.  Damian Zane, BBC Focus on Africa asked the premier the following question:


But if you don’t negotiate with these people, and I assume you are including Sheikh Aweys  in that list of people, they are the people in control, you have to talk to people in control, don’t’ you?”


To which premier Gedi responded:


I am sorry that the mass media is confusing the people. They are not in control of the capital city. They don’t control even 20% of it. Dealing with Sheikh Aweys for us is meaning dealing with Bin Laden and his Al Qaida company.”


With those remarks, Gedi sealed the fate of his government. The TFG was ready to work with the warlords provided they would have shown some level of cooperation despite their inability to solve Mogadishu’s long-standing security problems before Islamic courts defeated US backed warlords and made capital city peaceful again. The joint decision of president and parliamentary speaker to overturn premier Gedi’s refusal to attend the Khartoum talks unconditionally is noteworthy. It shows that pragmatic response to the new reality on the ground (Islamic Courts) does not imply weakness. It is decision that will haunt the premier for he does not want to viewed as a spent force although he is one—for now.


That the top leaders of Islamic courts brand some neighbouring countries as enemies is not surprising.  The TFG has failed to consider the fact that the road to peace in Somalia is not paved with gold. Political challenges of any sort ought to be tackled wisely, with out feeling insecure about political career. Thinking about a genuine power sharing arrangement with the United Islamic Courts of Somalia is not a bad option. Acknowledging the need for this strategy begins with the realisation that negotiation with the Islamic Courts about deployment of African Peace keeping forces is a cardinal tenet of the reconciliation process to which the TFG subscribes. It is the TFG that has unwittingly given the Islamic Courts the leverage, not the other way round.


Liban Ahmad

[email protected]

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