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The African Union Must Devise A Long-Term Somalia Redemption Project

IDEA Editorial

November 20, 2011

The troubled Horn of Africa Region, epitomized by the torn-apart Somali nation, whose people seem to have opted for an intriguing and paradoxical decision to dismember their own country, have never enjoyed tranquility for generations. For all practical purposes, at this juncture of history, the Republic of Somalia that prevailed as an independent nation on the political map between 1960 and 1991 does not exist now. Sadly, now we have three Somali nations, namely Somaliland, Puntland, and Mogadishu (the beleaguered Somali proper), and soon we may witness a fourth Somali nation: Jubaland.

Outside Mogadishu, it is the marauding extremists Al Shabab that rule and govern the people by intimidation and terror. Although these terrorists claim to be the liberators of their people, they are on the contrary the enemy of the Somali people. They torture, maim, and kill innocent Somalis; they have mutilated hundreds of Somali youth as form of punishment; they are the curse of Somalia that came out from its womb, and they are constant reminders of destruction and instability vis-ŕ-vis the relative peace the Somalis enjoyed in the post-independence era. There is no doubt, some Somalis now would be nostalgic of Said Barre, a dictator but nonetheless a juvenile delinquent compared to the Al Shabab and the killing fields of Somalia. 

The above extrapolation of current Somali affairs is the true image of Somalia, but the Somalis, like any other people, are good-natured human beings. Violence is not in their genes but some of them became violent due to unfortunate circumstances. However, the bulk of the Somali people are peaceful and they are the victims of terror and famine; of the latter group, millions have made it to Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Millions are still trapped in the inferno of senseless civil war.

The Somali nation is in complete disarray; its traditional law (Xeer) and its dispute settling revered elders (Guurti) are long gone, and its modern state apparatus has crumbled ignominiously. The Somalis need help from the global community and from Africa. The African Union (AU) has a historical duty to extend not only temporary relief to the Somalis but also long-term redemption projects to revive Somalia and alleviate the condition of the people.

Military intervention alone is not going to solve the Somali problem. The Somali problem, after all, is complex and compounded and the AU should make a careful diagnosis of the problem and come up with lasting prescription (solution). It is true that the Al Shabab provoked and attacked now Uganda and now Kenya and the latter two countries in response conducted punitive expeditions. Their actions are justified to some extent, but they could not salvage Somalia from its carnage.

The AU must devise a Comprehensive Somalia Redemption Project (CSRP) that includes military operations against Al Shabab and projects of reconstruction and development to remake Somalia and uplift the spirit of its people. The United Nations should take the initiative in undertaking development programs such as rebuilding the infrastructure, schools, and clinics etc, followed by sound macroeconomic policy to revitalize basic agriculture and industry.

Development programs, however, cannot be realized when the most important precondition to development (peace) is conspicuously absent in Somalia. Thus the AU must seriously consider, that 1) peace must first be accomplished; and 2) peace could be attained if the many contending Somali groups (the new Somali mini-states) negotiate on a round table, and the AU mediate and facilitate the peace process.

In light of the above preconditions, thus, the African Union must rethink its “decision to sending Ethiopian troops to Somalia” (the New York Times, November 18, 2011). The redeployment of Ethiopian forces to Somalia could exacerbate the situation on the ground unless it is coupled by CSRP, suggested above.

On behalf the Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA)

Ghelwdewos Araia, PhD


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