25 April 2006

Somalia: Somalis Support Museveni On 'African Solution'

Nairobi — While hosting an American delegation in Kampala 10 days ago, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda expressed confidence that Somalia can be stabilised by African forces. The president was hosting a team led by Maj Gen Timothy F. Gormley, commander of the combined joint task force in the Horn of Africa. Museveni urged Western powers, the United States in particular, to support the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) initiative on Somalia.

Events taking place in the first three months of this year illustrate the continuing political stalemate and never-ending anarchy in Somali. The Aden Agreement, which was reached in early January by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, was expected to break the stalemate, but the opposition expressed by Prime Minister Ali Ghedi defused the euphoria. The holding of the first parliamentary session in Baidoa town was welcomed by the public.

Attention, however, shifted from the provincial town to the confrontation between Mogadishu's infamous warlords and armed groups controlling a network of Islamic courts. The fighting in Mogadishu has been very intense. The Islamists call their warlord foes "demons" and the warlords label the Islamists "terrorists" linked to Al-Qaeda. While they are fighting for control of the city, neither of the two groups wanted the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which was established in Kenya a year and a half ago, to rule the capital.

Those who sympathise with the islamists are the majority in Mogadishu, because residents are fed up with the warlords, who led the nation into mayhem. At the same time, the public cannot express support for the TFG, fearing a backlash from both warring coalitions. Remaining neutral in times of war is one of the survival techniques Somalis have learnt during the civil war. Mogadishu residents are silently waiting for any progress that may be made by the TFG leaders in Baidoa.

The renewed squabbles over where to base the TFG, especially on the choice between Baidoa and Jowhar towns, which are 260km and 90km from Mogadishu respectively, have caused fresh worries. Even the fact that president, the prime minister andSpeaker of parliament met in Kenya early last month to work out a compromise was not seen as a good omen. The Speaker clearly prefers Baidoa, but the prime minister wants Jowhar.

While Jowhar has one ruler, Mohamed Omar Habeb, Baidoa is controlled by various factions and freelance groups and its insecurity is almostas bad as in Mogadishu. There is public sympathy for President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who finds himself sandwiched between the Speaker and the prime minister. But somehow, Mogadishu residents appear to be convinced that US policy plays a negative role in the conflict. The warlords in Mogadishu, who despite being Cabinet members defied their own government, are said to have US support.

Local media in Somalia recently reported that American officials have visited the headquarters of the European Union (EU) in Belgium to study the nature of the recently signed agreement between the EU and Somalia's TFG. "The US may attempt to block the most significant diplomatic breakthrough so far achieved by the TFG," remarked Ali Osman Moghow, a political activist in Baidoa. "We are confident that the EU will defend its support for the TFG, which stands for the best interests of the Somali people."

In these circumstances, the Somali people are inclined to view President Museveni as an African statesman with a viable solution for the Somali problem. His call for military intervention, mobilisation of local forces, the International Criminal Court indicting those opposing the stabilisation of the TFG plus financial and diplomatic support, are right on the mark. "Museveni should continue his crusade, shedding more light on the US's dubious policy on Somalia," remarked Kassim Ali alias Shombe, a Mogadishu resident.

"If IGAD, AU and EU are on the side of the TFG, Americans must be lured to support what is good for Somalia." What sends shivers down many peoples' spines is the TFG striving to stabilise the nation while the US pursues its own agenda to tackle pirates, recruit non-state mechanisms to confront suspected terrorists and cultivate a relationship with clan chiefs, sidelining President Abdullahi Yusuf.

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