Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Remember that placed called Somalia



Somalia: Don't Cross the Mogadishu Line

Nairobi/Brussels, 9 February 2005: The decision by African regional organisations to send troops to Somalia risks destabilising Somalia's fragile transitional institutions and jeopardising the peace process.

At an emergency session of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa last week, the Horn of Africa inter-governmental organisation IGAD received the green light to send 7,500 troops in response to a request from Somalia's interim President to help him return to the country and disarm its warring factions.

The Somali transitional government is deeply internally divided over the issue, and the parliament has not yet approved any foreign military deployment. Various Somali leaders and groups have threatened to oppose such an intervention by force.

"By forcing the issue at this critical stage, IGAD's members risk crossing the 'Mogadishu Line' where peacekeepers become party to a conflict - as they did during the U.S.-led intervention of the early 1990s," said Matt Bryden, Director of Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project.

Two years of peace talks have produced the first Somali government in fifteen years with a realistic chance of restoring peace, security and order to the country. A broadly representative parliament has been formed and an interim president elected in October last year. Most major faction leaders have signed on to the initiative and received posts in the new cabinet. Progress has been made in negotiations for the demilitarisation of Mogadishu and its environs. Although the transitional government is still based in Nairobi, Kenya, donor governments are cautiously beginning to pledge start-up funds for reconstruction programs.

Somalia's peace process will certainly need the support of some foreign troops: a modest peacekeeping force from the African Union (AU), possibly in collaboration with the Arab League, should now be deployed to assist in monitoring ceasefire arrangements, supervising the process of disarmament and demobilisation, protecting infrastructure and institutions, and training the new Somali armed forces.

Unconvinced by the Somali President's initial demand for 20,000 African troops, and stretched by peacekeeping commitments elsewhere, the AU has so far been dragging its feet, leaving IGAD to step into the breach. But Somalia's neighbours -- Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya -- should be excluded from a Somali peacekeeping force. All seek to project their own strategic interests in Somalia and have backed rival factions during the conflict.

"Having Somalia's neighbours lead and constitute such a force, especially Ethiopia, would be unnecessarily inflammatory and could jeopardise the entire peace process," said Suliman Baldo, Director of Crisis Group's Africa Program.

Instead, the AU and Arab League should jointly take responsibility for mustering international backing for a broad-based peace support operation in Somalia. Donor governments should encourage such an initiative, and offer to cover the costs of the Somali government's relocation to Mogadishu, while making it clear that they will not meet the costs of an IGAD deployment. And no foreign troops should set foot in Somalia unless the transitional Parliament first endorses the plan.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 485 555 946
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
To contact Crisis Group media please click here

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 100 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

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