opinionBy Lord Triesman
The current turmoil afflicting Somalia is of grave concern. There is a continuing tragedy being faced daily by the Somali people. The fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian army has prolonged the agony of a nation hungry for peace and reconciliation. The UK and the international community are committed to helping the disparate factions come together, settle their differences and work toward peace, reconciliation and stability. This is in the interests of all Somali clans and their members.
Somalia and her people stand at a crossroads. President Yusuf can now directly influence the course Somalia takes. The British Government has stressed to him that the process of re-establishing the authority of the TFG and its institutions should be inclusive to meet the aspirations of all Somalis.
While this will not be an easy task, we believe there is no viable alternative and his government is the only one recognised by the international community. Since the TFG was established, we and our international partners have been encouraging it to pursue an inclusive political process as envisaged in the Transitional Charter. Latterly, we pressed for that process to include dialogue with moderates in the UIC. There were negotiations in Khartoum, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Djibouti. But these failed. I am hopeful that the TFG can now work with the various clans and factions to build an inclusive and representative government.
Of course the situation is complex. But the Transitional Charter provides the framework for the way forward. UN Security Council Resolution 1725 further helps lay the groundwork by calling for a protection and training mission to Somalia to help provide the internal stability needed to rebuild the Somali state; to establish effective functioning of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs); and to provide urgent humanitarian and essential development assistance. Our aim is to help provide the necessary stability until the Somalis can do so themselves.
There has been concern about the Ethiopian intervention. We, like all our international partners, want Ethiopia to withdraw as a regional stabilisation force deploys. Ethiopia has said it wants to leave as soon as possible. To facilitate this but avoid a dangerous security vacuum, the international community must work urgently with the African Union and the TFG on the quick deployment of a stabilisation force. We applaud Uganda's offer of troops and encourage others from those African nations who are considering participation. And we are convinced there is a vital role for the UN given the current huge demands on the AU.
Providing for the immediate and long-term needs of the people of Somalia is an international priority and high on the UK's agenda. The Department for International Development (DFID) has been working closely with other international donors to help the TFG to deliver on the ground.
DFID has been the second largest humanitarian donor to Somalia since mid-1995. Since the end of 2005, DFID has spent over £20 million in addition to the £4 million provided to partners in Somalia and Kenya to assist displaced people. DFID's programme will increase to £21 million this year. Internal stability and security will facilitate spending on institution building of Somali administrations and delivery, via UN agencies and NGOs, of support for education and health. We are working with the UNDP to take forward a new Somali police strategy, including police training and to develop other elements of the rule of law. These are important components in building Somali capacity to deliver security to its people.
Somalia has too long suffered from regional and international interference; we all must take this opportunity to help Somalia govern herself and re-join the international community of nations. The clear interest by Al-Qaeda and international terrorists spreading their hateful ideology by opening a new front in Somalia is part of its attempt to bring instability to the Middle East and Africa. Al-Qaeda has shown that they operate most comfortably in failed states where anarchy rules alongside poverty and ignorance. Al-Qaeda is not interested in, and offers nothing to improve, the daily lives of the Somali people. It would be a travesty were the interests of the Somali people to be subsumed into the self-serving propaganda of divisive, marginalised extremists keen to maintain a cycle of violence.
Many people are concerned that those elements of security and basic services provided by the UIC to the people of Mogadishu have been needlessly swept away. In fact the clans played a vitally important role in the transition from the lawless rule of the Warlords to the relative peace of the last six months. We have encouraged President Yusuf to talk to the clan leaders and senior members of civil society, including the business community. I congratulate him for beginning to do so.
We hope that constructive elements of the UIC can also play a positive role in the future of their country. They too must act with responsibility and patience. They have shown they can contribute to stability and providing services, which can only help the TFG to re-build their stricken country more rapidly.
Somalia will need our help for some time as it reconstructs itself politically and seeks to make violence a thing of the past. Somaliland has shown how stability can deliver prosperity. We want that stability to endure and for the rest of Somalia to be able to look forward to a future where peace, stability and democracy is the norm. It is for the TFG and Somaliland authorities to agree between themselves their own future relationship. But we will not neglect the Somali people in their moment of need and allow the current opportunities to slip away.