Global Policy Forum

Who Are to Count on for Somalia’s Stability?


By Zhang Lei and Pei Guangjiang

People Daily
January 09, 2009

The once-rampant piracy off Somalia's coast has been weakened slightly due to the participation of multinational vessels in theirs escort missions. Chaos or disarray in Somalia, however, remains basically unchanged. Since Ethiopian troops began a partial withdrawal from the seaside capital of Mogadishu on January 2, forces opposed to the Somali government have turned active again. Ethiopian troops and Somali government forces have reportedly clashed with the Somali anti-government forces west of Mogadishu. In the past three weeks, note media reports, Ethiopian troops have sometimes retreated and sometimes turned back, so the anti-government forces decided to drive them out with the use of force.

Somali Civil War is an armed conflict in Somalia that started in 1988. Ethiopia started to engage itself in its conflict in late 2006 to help kick out the Islamic Court Union (ICU) and subsequently controlled the central-south region. The situation in Somalia, nevertheless, did not basically improve or turn for the better afterwards. The anti-government forces continuously launched assaults far and wide and, to date, they have won control of almost the entire Somalia, except the capital of Mogadishu and Baidoa, where Parliament is seated. On January 3rd, Ethiopia announced in a Foreign Ministry statement its decision to withdraw its 3,000 or so troops from Somalia in a matter of several days.

Then, why Ethiopia is so obstinately bent on pulling out its troops from Somalis in disregard of African Union's (AU) appeals? First of all, it can no longer stand an exceptionally heavy economic burden, and it has spent too much on troop stationing in Somalia since commencing there two years ago, according to He Wenping, a director of African Studies in the Institute of West Asian and African Studies affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). For Ethiopia, an African nation with poor economic conditions, a two-year period of adventure is the longest time limit it had primarily set for its troop stationing. Besides, it has come to realize that no substantial changes could bring to the troubled, war-torn region if it perseveres in stationing its troops in Somalia. Moreover, along with relatively heavy casualties with Ethiopian forces, there have been incessant appeals for a troop withdrawal at home.

AU began to send troops into Somalia in March 2007 in an effort to help resume the country's domestic stability, and its original plan was sent to 8,000 soldiers. But, owing to acute fund, goods and materials shortages, only 3,400 troops from Uganda and Burundi are currently performing their peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Though AU is trying its best to spur relevant African nations to keep up their promises for the troop deployment or troop increase, progress in this regard has been rather slow. Jean Ping, AU Commission Chairman, on January 6 urged the UN Security Council to play due roles in the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Somalia, and empowered Somalia to deploy UN peacekeepers and take over the peacekeeping mission of the AU peacekeepers in the country.

Though the United States and other related countries have actively spurred the troop dispatch to Somalia for a fear that the situation there could be out of control in the wake of Ethiopia's troop withdrawal, there is an increasing complexity of the UN peacekeeping mission and the deployment of peacekeepers, according to researcher He Wenping. At present, the UN is also facing a shortage of peacekeeping human resources. Furthermore, Somalia, unlike other areas, has long been frequented with armed conflicts, and there is even no "peace" available to keep there. The UN has recognized that the situation in Somalia remains too violent and unstable to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission. When the Ethiopian troops are pulled out, noted the CASS researcher, there will surely be vacancies of power in Somalia.

Meanwhile, year after year of war turmoil and armed conflicts could make Somalia a region possibly alive with terrorists to the detriment of the global war on terror. And pernicious influences will also inflict to the world trade and economy at large. Pirates who haunted the Somali waters repeatedly have posed a threat or already menaced the global shipping industry since a great many countries are obliged to spend so much human and material resources for their escort missions, which could possibly exert a still greater negative effect onto global economic recovery.

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on Somalia
More Information on Index of Countries on the Security Council Agenda


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