Friday, July 9, 2010

Increased IGAD Troops will not Stabilize Somalia

In a hastily convened meeting in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa last week, Somalia’s president called for the immediate deployment of extra troops from IGAD member states to confront the threat of al-Shabab that has been battling Somalia’s fragile government. Attending the meeting were leaders from IGAD member-states. They included Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki. After lengthy hours of deliberation, IGAD member-states agreed to the deployment of 2,000 extra troops to be drawn from states neighboring Somalia so as to boost the 4,500 overstretched and exhausted AMISOM troops from Uganda and Burundi who remain besieged on all sides by opposition armed groups who are battling Sheikh Sharif’s otiose government in Mogadishu.

Formerly the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), IGAD, which stands for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development was founded in 1984 and incoprporates the Horn of Africa nations of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. IGAD works in concert with international organizations, has a secretariat headquartered in Addis Ababa, and routinely convenes consultative meetings to discuss issues affecting member-states. Almost every IGAD member-state is confounded by insecurity. Ethiopia, a country synonymous with starvation also remains unstable because of the several armed liberation movements that are fighting for separation. Ethiopia's hotly contested 2005 presidential and parliamentary election became a subject of international condemnation after the ruling party indiscriminately jailed or killed many members of the opposition. Ethiopia has gone to war with neighboring Eritrea twice over a stretch of dusty land where an estimated one million people perished. Djibouti, a tiny former French colony bordering Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia has been emroiled in a bitter war with FURD-a rebel faction dominated by the Afar tribe who feel marginalized by the ruling Issa clan of president Ismail Gelle.

Somalia has been described as a "failed-state" for it has been without a central government since 1991 when the last military government fell to a ragtag milia commanded by the notorious General Mohamed Farah Aidid. Uganda has been in the midst of armed struggle with Joseph Kony-a rebel commander who is thought to be hiding in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republuc of Congo (DRC). On the other hand, Uganda has its own restive Karamoja region populated by the wretched Karamojong tribe. Sudan has been a victim of military coups for decades; the north of the country is occupied by Arabs and the south by black Africans. The SPLA, a rebel movement that operated in the south of the country has now laid down arms after the guarantee of some form of autonomy. Currently, it enjoys relative peace Salva Kiir as Vice President of Sudan as well as president of autonomous southern Sudan. A referendum is expected to be held soon to determine the fate of the southerners. On the western corner of Sudan is the restive Darfur region whose inhabitants have been subjected to years of torture by the dreaded Arab Janjaweed militia. Kenya can explode anytime because of the hatred that exist between the president's Kikuyu clan and the Prime Minister's Luo. A disputed presidential election in 2008 left over a thousand dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Upon IGAD releasing a hastily-crafted communiqué about its decision to send more troops to Somalia, demonstrators in several towns inside Somalia took to the streets to protest at what they termed as “IGAD’s bad intentions”. In separate strongly-worded messages aimed at dissuading IGAD member states from interfering in Somali internal affairs, the spiritual leaders of Al-Shabab and Hizb-al-Islam-the two major factions leading the onslaught against the fragile Somali government-decried IGAD’s ill-intentions toward Somalia. A former interim president of Somalia, Abdiqasin Salad Hassan, speaking to a local radio station in Mogadishu, voiced his objection at IGAD’s troop increase. Likewise, some members of Somalia’s parliament voiced similar sentiments.

Meanwhile, the Somali general leading the fight against the Islamists has come-up with a fighting strategy that will limit the degree of harm inflicted on innocent civilians. He was quoted saying that in the future forces under his command will be required to confront the opposition in their hideouts and away from civilian populations. For many war strategists, how to implement the general’s new approach to war may seem impervious to reasoning. What the Somali general fails to grasp is that even distinctive surveillance and special reconnaissance applied by advanced armies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo have failed to preserve civilian lives.

As a regional bloc IGAD has preposterously failed in its Somalia operations. For the moment, the best it can do is to open direct negotiations with the opposition-a proposition that will obviously end in disarray-because the ultimate goal of the Islamists is to impose Islamic sharia in Somalia. For Sheikh Sharif, because all your good intentions of establishing an all-inclusive government have been out-rightly rejected by the opposition, the best option you can do is relinquish power so as to allow fresh blood take over the helm.

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