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Are we wrongly defining the problem in Somalia?

A. Hussein
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

For decades of wars, Somalia has been attracting major discussions of international politics as well as academic research papers, especially on the subject of terrorism, piracy, interventions, humanitarians, and civil wars.  Billions of dollars and significant efforts have been utilized, by the International communities, on restoring peace and stability in Somalia, and deploying peace-keeping troops of AMISON through initiating UN-backed mediation process among political rivals.

Though the Somali political issue was overlooked since the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in 1993, for the last few years the International community has been involved in Somalia, rebuilding the Somali national government, and shifting the country from conflicts to stability and development. 

The neighboring counties have also played a key role in the process particularly after realizing an imminent threat from the Al-Qaida affiliated groups, and that the conflict in Somalia was spearing out and reaching other countries in the region.  Piracy was another important factor that enforced the international community to take any necessary measurements of ensuring international trade ships cross through Somalia’s coastline without getting hijacked by Somali pirates.

However, despite all these efforts, the anticipated outcome has remained unsatisfactory. The main part of Somalia is still occupied by Al-shabab, and the political atmosphere is still fragile, despite the establishment of the current national Federal Government was completed in August, 2012.   So, the question is:  are we wrongly defining the problem in Somalia?

The simple answer is “yes”, but before going into details, it is worth mentioning that the issue in Somalia is very complex, and there is no a single bulletproof model which can cure the chronic political and social problems that have been persisting over twenty years. 

As Somalia is regarded a “failed state”, the term which is used to describe when government becomes unable to control its territory and inability to provide public services, it has been vulnerable to foreign invasions under the justification of fighting terrorist groups that have perpetuated Somalia's failed-state condition and using it as a safe haven.

Even though it could be argued that the US-backed Ethiopian invasion was necessary, its outcome was clearly catastrophic. It has exacerbated the already fragile situation and many innocent people died in Mogadishu and its surroundings when the Ethiopian troops entered the country. 

The majority of Somalis from all around the world felt that their country was taken over by foreign old enemies.   Consequently, Al-shabab and other fundamental groups used the invasion as a tool to recruit more young Somalis, not only from Somalia, but also from the West, to fight against foreign troops.

This has undoubtedly maximized the scale of the problem rather containing it within Somalia, and therefore Al-shabab has succeeded to expand their attacks to reach the neighboring counties, killing over 200 innocent people in West Gate Mall in 2013, and Garissa Univeristy in 2015, both in Kenya.  The invasion was miscalculated, and it has jeopardized the whole process of restoring peace in war torn country. 

Another important factor which delayed having a reasonable solution in Somalia is the creation of AMISON troops without including troops from the Arab or Islamic world.   Although AMISON is legitimate troops, created by United Nations Security Council on 19th January 2007, many Somalis still consider them as foreigners with hidden agendas, operating under the flag of the UN to achieve their national objectives on the expense of Somali people, since AMISON is led mainly by Ethiopian and Kenyan who are old enemies of Somalia.

However, it would be unfair putting the blame on the foreign troops and the International community for mishandling the situation in Somalia.   The people of Somalia themselves, particularly politicians, should take the main responsibility for not putting their country’s national interest above their own personal political gains.   The failure of Somalis to solve their own issue is what encouraged others to intrude into the Somali national affairs. 

it is clear that the International community has been unintentionally making mistakes in Somalia, and this is what has kept the conflict to continue over 24 years.  Finding a solution is simple if the problem is defined correctly.   Somalia needs a sustainable and self functional government and national forces that can control its territory and provide public services to its own people.  This is the only way to defeat Al-shabab and restore stability in the country.

Somalis should learn from their past mistakes and agree on a political system that is fair, and they must overcome the fear of a single clan taking over resources of the country.  The tribalism is what still devastating the political system and Somalis would never stand on their feet unless they managed to conquer tribalism and unite under their own national flag.

A. Hussein
[email protected]

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