The Fifteenth Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Kampala July 25-27
The theme of the 15th Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government in Kampala was “Promoting Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa”. The choice of theme was appropriate as it is five years since the Maputo Plan of Action was adopted. This called for at least 15% of budgets to be spent on healthcare, but progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals on the reduction of infant and maternal mortality has not kept up. The MDG’s are due in 2015. The Summit reaffirmed previous commitments and undertook to launch the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) by the African Union continentally and nationally, and to strengthen health services and systems in these areas. It undertook to provide sustainable funding to meet the Maputo target, and called on the Global Fund for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB to create a new window to fund Maternal and Child Health. The Heads of State and Government appealed to development partners and donors to replenish the Global Fund during its October 2010 meeting and earmark funds for Maternal and Child Health. They agreed to set up a monitoring and evaluation framework at country level to monitor progress.
The Summit also spent a good deal of time on separate topics including Somalia and, following the Kampala bombings earlier in the month, on terrorism, as well as considering other items, including two items proposed by Libya which were rejected by the Assembly. One was on the suggestion that the mid-year AU Summits should be held in Sirte in Libya, rather than rotate as at present. The second was to reconsider the decisions taken on the timetable for changing the AU Commission into an Authority, agreed at Sirte last year.
In the debate on the Report of the Commission on implementation of the decisions of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Heads of State and Government reiterated their commitment to fight impunity and to use African mechanisms to this effect. The ICC’s request to open a liaison office in Addis Ababa, an issue between the Commission and the ICC, was discussed, and rejected. The ICC was felt to display an egregious condescending attitude and unjust tendencies towards African states. Some states which are parties to the Rome Statute were concerned over balancing their obligations to the AU and to the Rome Statute. It was suggested that the hybrid court of Sudanese and African judges recommended by the Panel on Darfur would provide the best alternative for dealing with possible Darfur crimes. In its decisions, the Summit expressed its disappointment that the UN Security Council had not replied positively to the AU’s request to defer any proceeding against President Bashir. It reiterated its decision that AU member states should not co-operate with the ICC over President Bashir and requested members to honor their commitments under the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The debate and decisions on Somalia
Prior to the Assembly session when the Heads of State and Government considered the issue of Somalia, Chairperson Ping, addressing the Executive Council, had identified the agreement signed between Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a and the TFG as an encouraging step. He took the opportunity to emphasize the need to take bold political and legal measures to significantly enhance the strength, resources and equipment of AMISOM.
In the Assembly session on Somalia, the AU Commission Chairperson’s report was followed by a briefing from the President of the TFG, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. He began by condemning the recent barbaric acts of terrorism in Kampala before elaborating on the current situation in Somalia, on the need for international community support for the TFG and its security institutions as well as for AMISOM in order to deal with the current scourge of terrorism in Somalia. He made it clear that the struggle in Somalia, as indeed the IGAD Summit of July 5th had underlined was now a fight between the people of Somalia and international terrorists.
President Sheikh Sharif identified to the Assembly the activities of certain countries, which for reasons unknown to him, supported Al-Shabaab terrorists financially and logistically. He pointed out that Eritrea was at the forefront of support for the terrorists financially, through training and in providing logistics. He formally requested Eritrea to desist from providing such support. President Sheikh Sharif recently attended the latest meeting of CEN-SAD in Njamena which was also attended by Eritrea’s President Isaias. Although attempts were made to bring the two together, the effort did not produce any results, and apparently the Eritrean President was abusive to the President of Somalia. In response to Somalia’s claims, the Eritrean delegate suggested that there were no witnesses to support the TFG’s accusation that Eritrea was supporting Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. It was, however, clear from the debate and the subsequent affirmations that the Assembly was not convinced by Eritrea’s arguments.
After debate, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government reaffirmed its full support for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. It strongly condemned the attacks and other acts of violence perpetrated by Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups against the TFG, the Somali people and AMISOM. Condemning the terrorist acts perpetrated on Uganda, the Assembly called on member states and the entire international community to isolate and take all required measures against individuals, entities and States engaged in terrorist acts and whose actions are undermining the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia, as well as regional stability and international security.
The Assembly encouraged the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) to enhance their cohesion, and work purposefully towards national reconciliation and unity among Somalis, in line with the Djibouti Agreement of August 2009. In this respect the Assembly welcomed the signing and implementation of the Agreement reached in Addis Ababa, on the15th March, between the TFG and Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a, as well as the Agreement signed with the Somali Region of Puntland, signed by the TFG on 12th April.
As on previous occasions, the Assembly expressed its appreciation to the troop contributing countries of AMISOM, namely Uganda and Burundi, for their invaluable contribution to peace in Somalia and for the sacrifices being made. It encouraged the ongoing effort to build up the capacity of the Somali security forces, and endorsed the decisions contained in the communiqué of the 15th Extraordinary Session of IGAD. It deeply appreciated the regional initiative, organized under Africa’s peace and security architecture, to enable AMISOM to reach its authorized strength of 8100 troops. The Assembly mandated the Commission to initiate the planning for the new phases of AMISOM deployment as immediately as possible.
In accordance with the decisions of IGAD, the AU Assembly, recognizing the imperative of political engagement in Somalia, also requested the Chairperson of the Commission to appoint a High Level Personality, to galvanize international support and attention for Somalia and for the engagement of the population in governance processes, in order to enhance the legitimacy of the TFG. The Assembly reaffirmed that the Djibouti process remains the sole basis for peace and reconciliation in Somalia, and urged the TFG to continue the efforts that it has been making to broaden its political base in the context of the legitimacy of the TFIs, to include all those who embrace peace and renounce violence. The Assembly further reiterated its call to the larger international community and the United Nations Security Council, in particular, to play their rightful role. This should include the transformation of AMISOM into a UN Peacekeeping Mission, and the mobilization of resources commensurate with the magnitude of the challenges now facing Somalia and the region.
The debate on Terrorism
Inevitably, the scourge of terrorism and the destruction it is causing to innocent lives and property across the African continent was an important topic at the Summit. The Assembly condemned most strongly the attack that was carried out on 11th July, in Kampala, by Al-Shabaab, an attack which resulted in the death and injury of so many innocent civilians, as an attack against the entire people of Africa. The Assembly underscored the need to take all necessary measures to apprehend the perpetrators and the masterminds of this shocking atrocity with a view to bringing them to justice. The Assembly expressed its condolences to, and its solidarity with, the Uganda Government and the families of the victims.
Expressing serious concern over the worsening of the scourge of terrorism and the threat it poses to peace, security and stability in Africa, the Assembly strongly condemned all terrorist attacks perpetrated in the continent and expressed its determination to fight any form terrorism. It underscored the need for renewed efforts and increased mobilization to combat terrorism. It requested the Commission to expeditiously submit to the Peace and Security Council concrete recommendations aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of Africa’s actions for the prevention and combating of terrorism.
The Assembly adopted a decision on the prevention and combating of terrorism. It has requested all African States to work closely together, directly and through the relevant organs of the AU, to implement enhanced measures for cooperation, and mutual legal assistance and coordination between security services, in order to boost Africa’s collective action against terrorism. The Commission is requested to carry out all necessary consultations and initiate appropriate measures to mobilize the wide support and effective contribution of the international community towards fighting terrorism in Africa. These should include cutting off of financing resources, and an end to the payment of ransoms for the seizure of ships or individuals The Commission is asked to report regularly on the status of the fight against terrorism in Africa and on the levels of cooperation available.
The Assembly was virtually unanimous in its condemnation of terrorism and its effects in Somalia and elsewhere. The Eritrean delegation did not disagree but earlier in the debate on Somalia, it had suggested that what has been going on in Somalia should not be associated with international terrorism. If this had been the case, the situation in Somalia would be worse than Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Eritrean delegation’s apparent suggestion in the Somali debate that the TFG should negotiate with Al-Shabaab was dismissed. Indeed, the resolution on terrorism included strong condemnation of Al-Shabaab, and the Assembly’s insistence that the TFG should endeavor to bring on board all those who embraced peace and renounced violence, made it clear there could be no negotiations with Al-Shabaab.
The US holds a consultative meeting on Somalia in Kampala
A consultative meeting organized by the US, and moderated by Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, was held on 26 July, on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Kampala, Uganda. Present were the Presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia and Tanzania, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Chairperson of the African Union, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. Ambassador Carson, in his introductory remarks, welcomed participants to the meeting and expressed his gratitude for their attendance. He extended his special thanks to the government of Uganda for allowing the meeting to happen and for its hospitality, and took the opportunity to condemn the barbaric acts of terrorism in Kampala and extend his sincere condolences to the people and government of Uganda. The reason for the meeting, he said, was that the situation in Somalia was dire. The country was at a tipping point with Al-Shabaab gaining ground and demonstrating increased confidence by extending its terrorist attacks beyond Somalia. Developments in Somalia were worsening daily and they were a serious challenge to all. If the international community did not act, and act quickly, we would all suffer a serious setback. Ambassador Carson said it was therefore necessary to identify those who can and will contribute logistically and financially, as well as provide peacekeeping troops in the effort to strengthen AMISOM and the Somali institutions of governance. No one can resolve the crisis alone, he added. We must encourage all those who can contribute in this effort. Ambassador Carson mentioned that the US government had provided US$170 million to AMISOM and US$25 million to the TFG. This was not just a promise, it had been delivered.
President Museveni emphasized that the developments in Somalia and the need to take actions were not something new. He remembered the similar situation in the DRC in1960, when Patrice Lumumba was killed, resulting in a collapse of the central state and secession of Katanga. This brought about the intervention of the UN and Congo was put back together again. More recently, Congo was rescued once more by the UN. This is one way of resolving such problems. When Ugandan troops were first deployed in Somalia, President Museveni said, it was envisaged that they, and AMISOM, would be working with local partners who would eventually organize themselves sufficiently so progress would be achieved on the ground. It appears that this is not happening. So the way to move forward, now, was to deploy enough forces to reverse the situation. The Somali people have to organize themselves, and the international community will have to provide the pay and contribute the equipment in support. The President reminded donors that a piecemeal approach would not solve the problem of Somalia. Compared to what the UN has spent in the DRC, what is needed in Somalia was miniscule. In any case, even if the cost was one billion dollars to sanitize Somalia, wasn’t it worth it? President Museveni reminded the meeting that if Somalia had been a direct neighbor of Uganda and carried out the bombings in Kampala then Uganda would have gone in by itself with out asking anyone’s help. Now on Somalia, Africa has a responsibility to assist those neighboring states which have the most responsibility to do whatever they can to address the challenges created by Al-Shabaab.
Prime Minister Meles agreed with Ambassador Carson’s gloomy assessment of the current situation in Somalia and that Somalia was at a tipping point. He also agreed with President Museveni that a larger force was needed to address the threat posed by Al-Shabaab. The local TFG forces and the force that AMISOM has currently deployed were not sufficient to address the challenges Somalia was facing. There was no question about the capacity of AMISOM to prevent any takeover of Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab, and defend itself when attacked. It could not, however, defeat Al-Shabaab. However, using AMISOM as a central pillar and mobilizing additional forces would provide for the defeat of Al-Shabaab. At the same time, the ultimate goal of stabilizing Somalia rests, of course, on Somalis. AMISOM cannot continue indefinitely. Prime Minister Meles stressed that the donors should contribute financially and that all the various training measures should be coordinated and based on what the TFG wants and needs. The trained forces must also be allocated with stipends otherwise they might switch sides for obvious financial reasons. Prime Minister Meles, reminding the meeting of what had happened in Burundi, said the critical shortage of resources could be addressed by turning AMISOM into a UN Peacekeeping Force. This, he emphasized, was the way to avert the slide to hell in Somalia. Unless the TFG and its security institutions are assisted there could not be any sustainable solution for Somalia. AMISOM could not be a permanent fire brigade. Prime Minister Meles also raised the issue of the failure of the TFG to receive no more than 30% of promised assistance. Reportedly, 70% of the amount is virtually lost in administration by those who have the responsibility for the distribution of assistance. He suggested this should change and the TFG should be directly supported if progress was to be achieved. At the same time he called on members of the TFG to stop squabbling over a mere carcass and to appeal to the people of Somalia to isolate Al-Shabaab. The international community should be very clear that the hardcore Al-Shabaab elements cannot be negotiated with. They must be defeated. Certainly one can work on how to incorporate “fellow travelers”, but there has to be clarity on this matter in a number of states. He warned of the consequences of a proliferation of initiatives. He underlined Ethiopia’s willingness to help in any form other than the deployment of troops again. He concluded by stressing that any takeover by Al-Shabaab and any threats to AMISOM could not be tolerated.
President Kibaki unhesitatingly called for swift action. Enough has been said about Somalia, he pointed out. What was needed now was concrete action. The Presidents of Djibouti and Tanzania also spoke at length on the need for resilience, action, and clarity on what to do in Somalia and the necessity of finding the necessary resolve to address the threats posed by Al-Shabaab. President Sheikh Sharif elaborated on the crisis that Somalia was passing through and on the scourge of terrorism that was posing the danger to Somalia, to the region and beyond. He said Somalis were not proud of having to ask for the support of the international community, but the situation and the composition of the enemy and the support it was getting from those bent on destabilizing the region, forced the TFG to request help.
All speakers emphasized the need for quick action in Somalia and requested any who might assist to do their part. Equally, the TFG should do more; it must avoid the problems caused by its own divisions. The danger posed by Al-Shabaab was underlined by a recent publication which made clear its grandiose schemes. The meeting agreed on the need to give the peacekeeping force enough of a mandate to enforce peace. Coordination of all the various efforts and the need for sustainability was also emphasized. The meeting agreed that the Somali problem had global ramifications and suggested specific actions to be taken. It was agreed to send joint missions to various countries in the next couple of weeks to request financial, logistical and other support for the TFG, and troop contributions from those countries that have demonstrated the capacity and willingness to strengthen AMISOM forces. It was agreed that a roadmap for action for the remaining transitional period of the TFG should be formulated. The need for coordinated action to address the twin threat of piracy and terrorism, through the provision of sustainable support to the TFG and AMISOM, was underlined.
HSGOC (NEPAD) and CAHOSCC pre Summit meetings in Kampala.
NEPAD, now the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) held its 23rd Meeting on 24 July before the Summit, and subsequently Prime Minister Meles as Chairperson of the HSGOC presented a report to the Assembly which was fully endorsed. Last February’s Summit approved the integration of NEPAD into the structures and processes of the African Union, including the establishment of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA), and the change of name to the Orientation Committee, which now operates as a sub-committee of the AU Assembly. The meeting was addressed by Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister and a representative of the Canadian Prime Minister on Africa’s Economic Partnerships and the outcome of this year’s G8 session.
There were four key agenda issues for the HSGOC meeting: progress on the NPCA; its activities between February and June; the promotion of regional infrastructure to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and development; and on Africa’s engagement with the G8 and G20 groups. The meeting noted the NPCA’s adoption of AU rules, regulations and practices and the harmonization between the AU Commission and NPCA. It endorsed the NPCA’s activity report and requested it to scale up support to AU Member States on agriculture and food security by providing technical guidelines on access to global financing. In the discussion on the promotion of Regional Infrastructure, the committee noted that the primary responsibility for implementing NEPAD priority programs and projects lies with National Governments and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The Orientation Committee agreed to set up a High-Level Sub-Committee on Infrastructure comprising South Africa (Chair), Algeria, Benin, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal, tasked with prioritizing and consolidating infrastructure sub-sector programs and projects. The sub-committee is requested to report to the next meeting of the HSGOC in January 2011. The Orientation Committee welcomed the G8 Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Under-5 Child Health, the G20 enlargement of Africa’s participation to two seats, and the G20 inclusion of development of low-income countries in its mandate. The Committee recommended that the Chairpersons of the AU and of the Orientation Committee itself be designated as Africa’s representatives in the G20. It called for Africa to participate at all levels of the consultations and decision-making processes of the G20. It expressed its support for additional individual African Countries to become members of the G20.
The HSGOC welcomed the inclusion of low-income countries and Africa in the mandate of G20 and the establishment of the Working Group as positive developments. It recognized that the NEPAD program provided a sound and adequate framework within which Africa can pursue its partnership with G20. It reiterated the critical need for delivery on commitments by development partners for the sustainability of partnerships. The meeting underscored the paramount importance of the partnership principle of mutual accountability and welcomed the mutual accountability mechanisms being put in place within Africa’s partnership processes. It emphasized that the Mutual Review of Development Effectiveness (MRDE) should form the primary basis of Africa’s monitoring of G8 partnership commitments.
Prime Minister Meles’ report on HSGOC/NEPAD was followed by a heated debate which subsequently ended with the Heads of State and Government expressing full support for the excellent work done by the Ethiopian Prime Minister. The President of Senegal who had originally, raised some issues about the report, said he was fully satisfied by the explanations given by Prime Minister Meles.
The Committee of Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) met the same day. The opening session was addressed by AU Chairperson and President of Malawi, Mr. Bingu Wa Mutharika; the President of Mexico, Mr. Felipe Calderon; the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Jean Ping; and the Commissioner for Rural Development and Agriculture, Mrs. Rhoda Peace. President Bingu Wa Mutharika, emphasizing that climate change is one of the most challenging issues that needs to be addressed collectively and congratulated Prime Minister Meles on his nomination by the UN Secretary-General as Co-Chair of the High-Level Advisory Panel on Climate Change Financing. Dr Ping observed that Africa with its united leadership is now being taken seriously. He thanked Prime Minister Meles for his leadership in the climate change negotiations, and reminded the meeting that it was vital that the developed countries met their historical responsibilities and fulfilled their financial pledges. President Calderon of Mexico said his main reason for attending the Summit was to pursue an inclusive process and to understand what the main obstacles were. Mrs. Rhoda Peace informed CAHOSCC of the outcome of the ministerial meeting in Bamako in June on setting up a single negotiation structure at ministerial and experts’ level. The CAHOSCC endorsed the ministerial recommendations.
The CAHOSCC reviewed the process of negotiations leading up to Cancun in Mexico. It felt that significant momentum has been lost since Copenhagen; and Mr. Calderon said that the majority leader of the United States Senate had indicated that there wouldn’t be any decision on climate change this summer by the US. At the same time, the CAHOSCC is convinced of the need to push for an ambitious agreement in Cancun, including a deal for the management and maintenance of the Congo basin, and for a final and binding agreement in South Africa. The CAHOSCC also made clear the need to reach agreement on long-term climate financing based on the Copenhagen Accord, and this financing had to be predictable, accessible and real. Two separate funds should be established, under the African Union Commission Board of Directors, each amounting to US$150 billion. Management would be by the African Development Bank. The first fund would be utilized for investment in clean energy on the basis of concessional loans; the second would be for adaptation, and be disbursed on a grant basis.
Prime Minister Meles subsequently presented the outcome of the CAHOSCC meeting to the Assembly. The Assembly commended the efforts of the African negotiators under the leadership of CAHOSCC in promoting the African Common Position on Climate Change. It endorsed the recommendations of CAHOSCC on the streamlined single negotiation structure at Ministerial and Experts’ levels to ensure effective coordination of negotiations on climate change prior to the 16th Conference of Parties in Cancun, Mexico later this year and the 17th Conference in South Africa next year. Algeria will serve as Coordinator at Ministerial level, together with Mali, in its capacity as current Chairperson of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment; and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria as Co-Coordinators at the Experts’ level. The Assembly accepted recommendations for South Africa to continue in CAHOSCC, as well as the inclusion of Congo in its capacity as the Chairperson of the African Group of Technical Negotiators, and agreed that the CAHOSCC should hold a meeting before Cancun, Mexico in December.
Eritrea and the African Union
Eritrea’s decision to send a high level delegation to the 15th AU Summit raised expectations that it would associate itself with other members of the African Union in the fight against terrorism and in helping to ensure peace, security and stability in the region and the continent at large. The move followed its acceptance of Qatar mediation and a peace agreement with Djibouti. Many thought, and indeed hoped, that this lifting of Eritrea’s self-imposed suspension from the activities of the AU, and the break from its previously near-hermetically sealed isolation from the outside world might imply a real change in policy.
Disappointingly, what the Eritrean delegation demonstrated at the Summit in Kampala was nothing of the kind. The delegation’s actions confirmed what many diplomats, sceptical of Asmara’s renewed involvement in AU’s activities, suspected – that Eritrea is only making cosmetic changes in policy following the UN Security Council decision to impose sanctions last December over its efforts at destabilization in the region, its involvement in Somalia in collaboration with Al Shabaab and other terrorist groups and its occupation of Djiboutian territory.
At the Summit, AU member states were nearly unanimous in their determination to provide AMISOM with more troops and greater financial and logistical resources. Eritrea was in fact the only exception. The Heads of State and Government also made it very clear they wanted to see AMISOM with an expanded mandate which could allow it to take the offensive against Al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups as well strengthen the TFG. Eritrea’s Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, however denied the presence of terrorist groups in Somalia and hypocritically advocated that priority should be given to political solutions. An appropriate response was given to that proposal when the Ethiopian delegation said political solutions should not be used as a cover for efforts designed to support terrorist like Al-Shabaab. In fact, the Eritrean delegation not only opposed the Summit’s decisions on Somalia but also played a very negative role on some of the items which attracted lengthy exchanges of views, most particularly on those items introduced by the Libyan delegation.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there has been no change of mind by Eritrea, no decision to play a positive role in AU’s activities or in the AU’s efforts to ensure peace, security and stability in the Horn of Africa or the continent at large. Those who were expecting that Eritrea was about to change policy and behave in a more normal way will have been disappointed.
“Constructive disengagement” and the abandonment of Somalia to Al-Shabaab
Surprisingly, even the shock and horror of the suicide bombings in Kampala haven’t affected those analysts who have been arguing that it would be better to pull out all peacekeepers from Mogadishu, let the Government of Somalia collapse, and Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda take over the country. Bronwyn Bruton, in a report for the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, called for the US to adopt what she called a strategy of “constructive disengagement”. The meaning of ‘constructive’ and the meaning of ‘disengagement’ are clear enough, but it’s when you put the two together that they become an oxymoron; others might interpret the phrase rather more crudely. It is in fact simply meaningless, though it is clear what Ms. Bruton intends to mean: the withdrawal of any and all US involvement in Somalia and the abandonment of the Government of Somalia. The bombings in Kampala have made no difference to her views, reiterated in an article the New York Times [“In Somalia, Talk to the Enemy, 24.7.2010]. The US, she argues, can best serve Somalia by allowing its government to disappear, and Al-Shabaab, now known to be largely controlled by a small coterie of Al Qaeda operatives, to take control.
Ms. Bruton claims that Al-Shabaab is a much divided organization and will collapse in the face of growing opposition from clan and business militias. That is an assumption that is difficult to support, and in the meantime her policy will allow the people of Somalia to fall under the control of what she herself describes as “ a vicious mob of teenage radicals” who are “clearly getting guidance from Al Qaeda”. She notes Al-Shabaab has “proudly” claimed responsibility for the Kampala bombings, and goes on to accept that it is led by extremists fresh from the battlefields of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, has recruited “thousands of Somali children into its militias and uses them to brutally impose a foreign ideology on the religiously moderate Somali people. The ‘child judges’ as they are known are responsible for many of Al-Shabaab’s worst human rights violations, including stoning and amputations.”
It is in the face of this scenario that Ms. Bruton returns to her suggested “constructive disengagement”, which in fact looks to spread this horrifying behavior even more widely. Al-Shabaab currently controls less about a third of Somalia. Ms. Bruton wants to hand over the rest of the country to it! The destruction of the Government of Somalia will mean the imposition of a climate of fear and human rights abuse over huge areas of Somalia currently free from AL-Shabaab’s extremism. The fall of Mogadishu will lead to the flight of hundreds of thousands more IDPs and an even more extensive humanitarian disaster. Already the international agencies are finding it almost impossible to cope, not because they have pulled out but because Al-Shabaab refuses to allow their operations in areas that it controls.
Such a policy will allow the advance of Al-Shabaab forces into currently peaceful areas of central Somalia where it will face considerable resistance from the more moderate Islamic forces of Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a, an ally and indeed a participant in the TFG. It will then threaten other essentially peaceful areas to the north east, Puntland and even Somaliland which has just held a peaceful and impressive democratic change of government. Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda have already made very clear their intention to try to expand their brand of terrorist extremism across the whole region. Abandoning the TFG will provide them with a green light. Frankly, it is a truly terrifying scenario.
Another US analyst who has recently taken to arguing the same point is Dr. Peter Pham: “remove the foreign interests, let the cards fall where they will for the transitional government and you will see Al-Shabaab beginning to break apart into various factions.”
It’s no surprise that Al-Shabaab and its supporters have welcomed the concept of “constructive disengagement”, a concept that would allow them a free hand in Somalia and in the region. .
In fact, these arguments are based on a number of inaccurate or untested assumptions: that Al-Shabaab’s strength is based on anti-foreign feelings in Somalia (a claim that ignores the fact that Al-Shabaab appears well before the arrival of Ethiopian troops at the request of the Somali government); that Al-Shabaab’s current leadership will be unable to control the organization; that the climate of fear that it has engendered will break down; or that some Al-Shabaab elements will be prepared to join another government (begging the question of how such a government could be established in the wake of the disappearance of the TFG). There is, of course, no indication whatever that Al-Shabaab is interested in any element of moderation. All available evidence is to the contrary.
Of equal concern is that Ms. Bruton and others apparently have no understanding of current IGAD or regional policies towards Somalia. Boosting AMISOM and the security capacity of the TFG are not the only elements. Capacity building for the TFG, and the TFIs, constitution drafting in advance of the end of the transitional period, efforts to expand government support through the peace and reconciliation process, as indicated by the agreement with Ahlu Suna wal Jama’a and the agreement with the government of Puntland, are all elements of IGAD policy.
The TFG has its own internal problems, of course, and there is a very real need to resolve its divisions. But as important has been the failure of the international community to understand the dangers of the situation in Somalia, to provide properly targeted and sufficient support to enable the TFG and the TFIs to function effectively. The international response to the Kampala bombings, and the recent AU Summit, do however suggest the international community may finally be closer to understanding the realities of the Somali situation. These do not involve “constructive disengagement”, abandoning ten million Somalis to the hands of a “vicious mob of teenage radicals” controlled by Al Qaeda, or offering up an entire region of the African continent to the international terrorism.
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Ministry of Foreign Affairs