Somalia: The political resuscitation of a dying State

What a difference a couple of weeks make. First, the bloody on-again, off-again fighting between a U.S. funded coalition of warlords and a controversial coalition of Islamic Courts (ICs) came to an end- at least for the time being.

The coalition of the warlords who actively kept Somalia in a state of chaos and brutally exploited status quo for more than a decade was defeated. Some of the most feared warlords had to surrender, flee the capital- Mogadishu- or seek refuge from their clan elders in order to negotiate surrender or face-saving defanged cooption.

Second, the U.S., after an international uproar against its covert operation in Somalia and its dicey ramifications, decided to halt its failed clandestine activities and sideline the hawkish elements driving that ill-advised strategy and seek a diplomatic approach to the Somali political conundrum.

This strategic u-turn was unveiled a few days ago when the State Department openly expressed its interest in supporting the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), something that the U.S. has been unequivocal about, and its willingness to officially become part of an umbrella group of stakeholders and potential donors who are set to meet in New York in order to facilitate a diplomatic solution to the Somali problem.

According to the State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, the U.S. will be convening an international (strategic) meeting on Somalia to be held in New York. The meeting, as articulated by McCormack, will deal with "how the international community might coordinate their policies, might bring together their political, diplomatic and perhaps other resources to try to help support the transitional federal institutions in Somalia".

Furthermore, in his testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Henry Crumpton, the State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator, while indirectly confessing what now is recognized as a wild-goose-chase promoted by “false intelligence”, said that his department never anticipated the recent events in Mogadishu and that they had an "imperfect understanding" of the Islamic Courts. "We expect them to work with the transitional government, and we also expect them to work with us to hand over Al-Qaida and foreign fighters," Crumpton added.

Third, after a timely meeting, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a political body made of neighboring states such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Uganda, Sudan, and Somalia, issued a statement declaring their adoption of Kenya’s unilateral initiative to deny the warlords the accommodations that they enjoyed in that country since breakdown of the Somali state.

In a joint statement issued at the end of their special meeting last Tuesday, IGAD’s Council of Ministers said that “(its member states) will apply the same sanctions against all warlords as has been applied by Kenya, including a travel ban and freezing of accounts, except for the passage which may be extended to those warlords who will have surrendered and subjected themselves to dialogue with the TFG”.

Fourth, the TFG has started to soften its confrontational rhetoric against the Islamic Courts. Prime Minister Ali Gedi appealed to Islamic leaders who now control most of the Southern Somalia to work with the TFG in restoring law and order. "We appeal to the Islamic Courts to join the efforts of the peace process, but the dialogue should be in line with the Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia, democracy, human rights, free elections and peaceful transition," he said.

In the meantime, the Pan-Somali Council for Peace and Democracy, a Washington-based Somali advocacy organization, has sent an open letter to the U.S and the international community in which it expressed cautious optimism per the volatile political situation in Somalia, commended the diplomatic efforts of certain stakeholders, and offered the following recommendations for a sustainable solution to be attained:

That “no country should directly or indirectly support the warlords to continue their reign of terror”; that the U.S. and the international community should “support the ICs to maintain peace and order” and to “assist and empower the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to fulfill its constitutional mandate”; to “uphold UN Resolution 733 imposing arms embargo on Somalia”; to “refrain from providing any shelter or haven to the warlords”; to “help set up a Somali War Crimes Tribunal”; to “help build institutions that would provide rehabilitation programs, maintain peace and sustain democracy”; to “support legitimate civil societies with proven track records”, and lastly, to “provide trainings in governance”.

Whether or not these turn of events will help Somalia rise up like the legendary phoenix from the ashes of chaos, hate, and clan vendetta is not yet clear. However, even in the most cynical estimate, the recent chain of events and their subsequent results, as ironic as it may sound, are the best things to happen to Somalia in years for they are the impetus that propelled a direly needed political resuscitation process. And that process is only possible when the U.S. and the international community accept their critical, respective roles and the TFG and the ICs come to terms that this could be the last opportunity for the survival of the Somali state.