20 June 2006

Somalia: In Somalia, Our Best-Kept Secret


Nairobi — All Africans of goodwill - and particularly those in the neighbourhood of Somalia - know the anguish and pain our brothers and sisters have gone through since the early 1990s. Recent events in Somalia demonstrate that all is not well there, despite earlier hopes pinned on the transitional government of Somalia, whose seat of power is in Baidoa and not Mogadishu, the recognised capital.

Mogadishu was recently taken over by a Somali teacher, Sheikh Shariff Ahmed, now the chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts. While this group may now be in charge in Mogadishu, the war is far from over as there appears to be fears that the fighting could degenerate into internecine warfare, long the bane of Somalia.

And the rest of the world seems to be scared of committing itself to the cause of Somalia beyond occasional high-profile visits. For instance, just last month, Hillary Benn, the UK Secretary for International Development, made a brave visit to what someone has described as the country "the world forgot."

Quite frankly, there have been few politicians from the developed world with the guts to venture into war-torn Somalia since Siad Barre's unceremonious exit in 1991.

Interestingly, unlike Somalia, Somaliland has by and large remained an oasis of peace and stability, where people abide by the rule of law. This has been achieved without foreign assistance, international intervention or regional or international conferences.

IN FACT, today Somaliland has become the focus of interest for its unique and home-based model based of modern democracy and traditional laws. No wonder, as experts have pointed out, Somaliland could be "Africa's best kept secret."

As though to confirm Somaliland's rejuvenation, a report compiled by the African Union's fact-finding mission to Somaliland that was presented to the African Union Summit in Khartoum early this year strongly recommended the country's recognition.

The good news is that Somalia's transitional parliament has voted in favour of the deployment of an African peacekeeping force to support the efforts of the interim government in restoring law and order as well as establishing state institutions. This should provide some respite for the Somali people - at least for the moment.

Oscar Kimanuka is a commentator on social and economic issues based in Kigali.

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