By: Dr. Hussein Ahmed Warsame
These are extremely critical times for Somalia and for the Horn of Africa. The UN Security Council Resolution that lifts the weapons embargo on Somalia is a double edged sword. On one hand, it could do exactly what the sponsors of the resolution stated as their main objective, which is to hasten an agreement between the two opposing Somali groups, the ICU and the TFG. On the other hand, it could serve as a spark for a full blown war. These are some of the variables that may decide the outcome.
1. Are the sponsors, especially the USA, really honest about their stated objectives? If they are, then they would use this resolution as a stick against the more powerful of the two groups, which is the ICU, but they will also provide a carrot to the ICU. The carrot, in this case, could be the launch of a more realistic diplomatic campaign and have face to face meetings with ICU's highest ranking leaders, such as Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. There is a general feeling that the ICU was buying time with meaningless agreements with the TFG in order to expand its control on the Somali territory and to marginalize the TFG. The sponsors and many Somalis who are worried about the rapid expansion of the ICU power are hoping that the resolution will cause the ICU to think twice before expanding again and to come to the negotiation table without any preconditions. If the ICU leaders are given a way out of this conundrum in a way that does not humiliate them and that does not compromise their Islamic based principles, it is possible that they could alleviate the fears of the resolution's sponsors and the TFG. Given the precariousness of the TFG situation, it will not be difficult for the sponsors to convince the TFG to forge meaningful power sharing formula with the ICU.
2. If this resolution causes the ICU leaders to feel cornered and to launch a pre-emptive strike on Baidoa, it will have the negative consequences. If this happens, the ICU will probably run over the TFG, albeit with high death rate. But that would only represent a temporary victory for the ICU. No international government, including those in the Muslim world, would recognize a government by the ICU that comes in this manner. This is a trap that the ICU should avoid to fall into. The sponsors will go back to the UN Security Council for a final resolution to wage direct war on the ICU and on other Islamists. Of course, the result will only be a catastrophe for the Somali people and any other party involved in the conflict.
3. Assuming that the ICU does not launch a pre-emptive strike on Baidoa, the resolution may still have the negative consequences if the TFG leaders consider this resolution as an opportunity to gather the momentum that they were lacking hitherto for a meaningful territorial control. They may play delaying tactics and try to wrestle Kismayo from the control of the ICU. If that happens, this could push the ICU to officially seek for help from International Islamists as Sheikh Indaade threatened if such circumstances arose. Again, this will be a disaster for everybody involved.
4. Although it is remote, there is the possibility that the leaders of the ICU and the TFG will see through the insincerities of the resolution’s sponsors and save Somalia from further disasters. The resolution is a trap for both the ICU and the TFG. The sponsors, while paying lip service to peace between the ICU and the TFG, are counting on the two never agreeing to share power. The sponsors’ call for a negotiation between the two groups is a blatant bluff. The question is “are the leaders of the ICU and the TFG smart enough, nationalistic enough, and independent enough to call the sponsors’ bluff and actually discuss a power sharing formula in the delayed Khartoum meeting?” If that happens, the sponsors would have no choice but to grudgingly go along with any power sharing decision by the Somalis.
It is that simple. It may seem that war in Somalia is unavoidable. But people have to realize that if there is sincerity, the prospect for a negotiated resolution to Somalia’s conflict was never closer than it is today. The opposing groups have never been more identifiable than they are now. The disagreements have never been more principle based that they are now. The leaders have never been more identifiable than they are now. The conditions are just as conducive to a resolution of the conflict as they are to a catastrophe. It is all in the hands of the ICU and the TFG leaders. Will they redeem themselves and save Somalia from further disasters? Or will they lead it to yet another war and destroy what is left of Somalia and of Somalis?
5. The Diaspora Somalis could also play a pivotal role in diffusing any further escalation of the conflict. More often than not, the Diaspora Somalis take sides in their homeland’s disputes. More often than not, it is the clan of the Diaspora Somali that decides which side he/she would take. This conflict is like no other one in our history. It is one that could have more catastrophic results than ever before. It is one that demands the utmost care and sensitivity. It is one whose result may depend on the role of Diaspora Somalis than even before. It is time for a concerted and sincere mediation by the Diaspora Somalis between the two groups. It is time that a group of Diaspora Somalis finance themselves and positively contribute to bringing the two groups to the negotiation table and to forge a power sharing scheme between them. It is now or never.
Dr. Hussein Ahmed Warsame
University of Calgary, Canada