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The West Now Takes Keen Interest in Peace for Somalia

by Bethuel Kiplagat
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Transitional Federal Government has been making great efforts towards establishing lasting peace in Somalia, despite serious challenges in recent months, especially in and around Mogadishu.

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The terrible situation in Mogadishu has overshadowed the relatively peaceful areas notably Somaliland, Puntland and the south. Remnant hardliners of the Islamic Courts Union have largely been responsible for the recent upsurge of violence in Mogadishu.

After their disintegration in December 2006, they vowed to launch an insurgency against Ethiopian and any foreign troops stationed in the country.

The upsurge of violence in Mogadishu has triggered a major exodus of thousands of civilians to flee towards the Kenyan border.

More than one hundred people have been killed in the violence including Ethiopian soldiers and peace keeping troops from Uganda. This has prompted Ethiopia to send reinforcement. Simultaneously, there has been contact between Ethiopian military officers and the dominant hawiye clan to find a solution to the problem of escalating insecurity.

It seems that this initiative and the use of force are bearing fruit with the recently agreed truce. As a result of this effort, calm is slowly returning to Mogadishu.

Despite these major setbacks in the stabilisation of Somalia, there is some dim light at the end of the tunnel. There are internal and external efforts which, if sustained, would bear fruit and stabilise the country.

The TFG is committed to the holding of a National Reconciliation Conference starting this month till mid-June bringing together all the key stakeholders. These include traditional elders, women, religious leaders and those in Diaspora. It is hoped that the outstanding issues will be ironed out at the conference.

The fact that the league of Arab States at its recent meeting in Riyadh discussed the situation in Somalia is a very positive sign. Somalia is a member of both the Arab league and IGAD.

The presence of the IGAD chairman, President Mwai Kibaki, at the meeting was significant in forging stronger cooperation between IGAD and the Arab League in their efforts to bring peace. The conference made an appeal to its member States to hasten its steps to assist the Government of Somalia in its efforts of reconciling the people.

It is also encouraging that the International Contact Group held a meeting in Cairo to discuss the situation in Somalia. The meeting called upon the international community to accelerate support to ANISOM mission.

They did recognise the necessity of the Ethiopian forces to remain in Somalia awaiting the full strengthening of the AU force.

The inter-faith meeting held recently in Dar-es-Salaam which was attended by religious leaders from the Horn of Africa, with the exception of Djibouti, jointly came out with a strong support for the efforts being made to bring peace to Somalia. These leaders committed themselves to becoming agents of peace, first and foremost in Somalia and other troubled areas of the region.

As can be seen from the above, there is an impetus for international community and the region to focus on Somalia. It is absolutely crucial that these efforts are focused, sustained and coordinated over the long haul. No efforts should be spared in terms of time and resources. The consequences of allowing the country to revert to chaos will be far, far costly than the efforts that could be put in place now for peace. There should never be any temptation to disengage Somalia.

Ambassador Bethuel A. Kiplagat is a former Kenya's Special Envoy to Somalia and Executive Director, Africa Peace Forum

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