Policy WATCH:Analysis
UN To Focus On Somalia Tomorrow
Security Council Meets To Determine What Next For Favorite Failed State
03/09/2011
Somalia Flag
Somalia Flag

Somalia and the UN have had a special relationship that can be seen in it's flag, it's demeanor and it's ultimate inability to rise out of chaos after two decades of conflict.

The history of the Horn of Africa and Somalia has been a historical mix of local conflict as well as the victim of international interference. The British, Italian, Ethiopian, American, and the UN have all had a hand in causing both positive and negative events in Somalia's history. Somalia has been able to exist in both its traditional clan/xeer structure and modern imposed structures. Somalis even manage to survive under recent violent actions and mixed inventions like al Shabaab and AMISOM. Somaliland has decided to carve its own path and Puntland has already separated themselves from the TFG.

The last two decades have seen the deaths of at least 400,000 Somalis and the international exodus of those with education or funding. Starvation, terrorism, piracy have taken hold in the vacuum of governance and resources.

Somalia's recent role seems to exist to deflect attention away from other "worse" places like the Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and other failed states. Almost a third of Somali relies on international aid for its survival and most of its population in Mogadishu and the camps are under the direct control of international elements both physically and legally. Although the efforts of the international aid organizations are both Herculean and admirable there are the usual negative consequences of creating a beggar nation and running the country by remote control from Nairobi.

Ethiopia, the U.S. and other international players constantly meddle but never take full ownership in Somalia's affairs.

In some cases agencies like the UN have actually reversed the internal attempts at governance. For example, the UN recently shut down a low cost, indigenous, rapid land based anti-piracy program created by Puntland to quickly end piracy. Instead the UN supports an unwieldy, endless, expensive Russian plan to catch, convict and incarcerate pirates.

The UN, along with major partners like the U.S., continues to be the hand behind AMISOM and the TFG, two very contentious concepts that have not fulfilled their mandate. It could be argued that AMISOM has killed more Somalia than al Shabaab and the TFG has set new African records for infighting, incompetence and divisiveness. The only reason Somalia is not the poorest country in the world (by GDP) is thanks to the greater, poorer populations in Liberia, Burundi, the DRC and Zimbabwe and the tenacity of Somalia and its diaspora.

The only "successes" in the last two decades seems to be locking Somalia in that deadly cycle of underfunded, under managed and underperforming governance with no clear movement except downward for the diminishing population. Recent proposals to simply leave Somalia alone seemed destined for greater success than many of the half-hearted engagement strategies.

Piracy and the growth of Islamic fundamentalism have brought Somalia back into the international spotlight. Thursday's meeting at the UN comes at a good time when it appears that the TFG and AMISOM may be making gains. Insiders will simply chalk up the recent gains as just part of the ebb and flow of conflict, others view it as an opportunity to make good use of the momentum.

The UN Security Council will once again focus on Somalia with a split agenda. Initiatives to curb piracy from China, Russia and other members will be introduced while demands to bolster the underfunded and undermanned AMISOM effort will be brought forward. Russia wants to use a law enforcement approach to curbing piracy. Creating courts, jails and uniform international legislation to make piracy a criminal offense. There is no proof that trying, jailing and punishing pirates has diminished the threat. The United States is considered a much more pragmatic military based approach based on the recent cold blooded murder of four of its citizens. China is trying to incorporate wider thinking and solutions on all three problems: Piracy, terrorism and the lack of governance that allows instability.

Some countries like South Africa want to see the UN replace AMISOM while Ethiopia has taken a far more proactive role in taking military action to route al Shabaab from their border with Somalia. Uganda has been directly attacked by al Shabaab through terrorist acts and the death of its peacekeepers in Mogadishu. Burundi and Kenya have been threatened by the Islamic group and it is clear that regional players have taken matters into their own hands.

Maritime nations like China, Japan, South Korea, India and the neighboring countries along the Indian Ocean have seen the effects of piracy, leading them to a more proactive role in attacking pirates. A growing group of experts and countries are pushing for a land based solution to piracy.

The solutions are clear. Empower Somalis to rid themselves of piracy, create businesses, move unhindered, and defend their homeland. Harness their abhorrence of al Shabaab and allow them to take control of their basic security mechanisms. The current UN arms embargo and thinking has enfeebled the legal entities while ignoring the criminal and terrorist entities.

Somalis given opportunity have shown remarkable business and social acumen, but given bloated ineffective outside rule have never responded well. There are hundreds of thousands of eager Somalis who want the chance to change their country for the better.

It is Somalia Reports earnest desire that the United Nations include Somali's in the decision making that will occur on Friday and not just impose more top down half solutions.