Global Policy Forum

Peacekeepers in Somalia "May Jeopardise Peace"

afrol News
February 10, 2005

Peacekeepers in Somalia "May Jeopardise Peace" afrol News, 10 February - With the current lawless situation in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, the upcoming African Union (AU) peace-building mission to Somalia could spark another civil war in the country, analysts warn. In Mogadishu, militias are increasingly organising armed resistance to the soon-to-come transitional government and possible AU troops. According to a new analysis of the situation in Somalia by the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG), "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 AU's 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. However, the Somali transitional government is deeply internally divided over this issue, and the war lord-dominated Somali parliament has not yet approved any foreign military deployment. Various Somali clan leaders and militia groups have threatened to oppose such an intervention by force. The ICG analysis therefore fears that the AU's decision to send troops is anticipated. "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 US-led intervention of the early 1990s," said Matt Bryden of the ICG. Two years of peace talks have produced the first Somali government in fifteen years with a some possibilities of restoring peace, security and order to the country. A 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. Further, some 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 programmes. Also the ICG analysis holds that Somalia's peace process "will certainly need the support of some foreign troops." This, the analysts say, could be a modest peacekeeping force from the AU) possibly in collaboration with the Arab League. Such peacekeepers, according to the ICG "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 IGAD consists of Somalia's neighbours - Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya - which according to the ICG analysis "should be excluded from a Somali peacekeeping force." These countries were found to "seek to project their own strategic interests in Somalia and have backed rival factions during the conflict." Also others have warned against deploying IGAD troops in Somalia. "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 ICG's Africa Programme. - Instead, the AU and Arab League should jointly take responsibility for mustering international backing for a broad-based peace support operation in Somalia, the political analysts recommended. "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." Finally, the analysis points out, "no foreign troops should set foot in Somalia unless the transitional parliament first endorses the plan." After all, the parliament consists of Somalia's warring militia leaders, who over the years have engaged in different alliances with neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, In Mogadishu, there are increasing signs that a foreign intervention will be rejected by a growing group of armed militias. Several grave incidents have demonstrated these militias' opposition to a power transfer to the transitional government or its allied peace-builders, including the recent killing of Mogadishu's police chief.

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