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AU should keep Eritrea, Ethiopia out of Somalia



The escalating crisis in Mogadishu is no longer the problem of Somalia alone. It is a regional crisis, an African challenge, with obvious international ramifications. And the situation could get worse if a solution is not negotiated.

It is our position that Somalia must not be left to its own devices and ruin, with fundamentalist Islamists against the fragile government, clan against clan or warlords against warlords. But that again does not mean leaving that country to degenerate into a theatre of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea’s interests.

These two belligerent countries that were once one until a separation through war in 1990s, have no business exporting their rivalries to Somalia to fuel regional instability.

Ethiopia, as observers say, has deployed troops to Somalia to pursue its access interests to the India Ocean. It is operating under the guise of protecting the fragile government of Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi and President Abdullahi Yusuf against Islamist insurgents.

The Islamist militias have also won the support of Eritrea, against the Ethiopia-backed government. Thus, in Somalia today, we are dealing with a new front for a potentially devastating regional war.

The African Union, whose mandate includes continental peace, must prevail upon Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to place regional interests ahead of their territorial disputes.

Fifteen years of chaos, turbulence, anarchy and inter-clan wars seem not to have taught East Africans the imperatives of regional peace. And if the last decade and a half has been a lost period for the Horn of Africa, the coming years do not promise stability either.

The overthrow of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991 might have created ground for chaos, but the involvement of outsiders claiming influence in the Indian Ocean country have made it impossible to establish a viable government in Mogadishu. Now, the anarchy is taking a strong religious dimension through the emergence of organised Islamists who have taken control of Mogadishu and a huge part of southern Somalia.

The evocation of religion, rather than clan, could well be the beginning of a solution to the problem. But it could also be the launch of a slide into further anarchy. This group will not accept a peacekeeping force and it is rejecting foreign influence. This is also the group that killed many US peacekeepers in Somalia in the early 1990s, before forcing their withdrawal.

Islam, the dominant faith in Somalia, could unite that country into violence against foreign interests. But this can be prevented if the African Union intervenes now to mediate, and this is how:

First, the planned mobilisation of peacekeepers will not help; two Islamists have given their conditions for negotiations, which should be respected.

Islamists are willing to negotiate with the Gedi-Yusuf government, but first Ethiopia has to withdraw its troops and stop speaking for a weak government that is viewed as a stooge for outsiders. It is also expected that once Ethiopia withdraws its troops Eritrea will have no reason to support the Islamists.

Signs of this possibility emerged yesterday, with Somalia’s Members of Parliament and their Islamist rivals meeting for the first time in Khartoum under the co-ordination of the Arab League.

The solution to the crisis then is not a peacekeeping force to protect the fragile government against Islamists but encouraging dialogue between the Gedi-Yusuf establishment and Islamists. The first assignment is keeping Ethiopia and Eritrea out of Somalia. We need blissful co-existence — peace in Somalia is peace to the region and the world.

 Editorial - Standard

  AU is courting chaos in Somalia - Standard

The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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