Monday, December 31, 2007

The world should not give up on Somalia

FOLLOWING news footage of dead peace-keepers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the world abandoned a peace-keeping mission in Somalia in 1995. The American public opinion turned against participation in the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) and President Bill Clinton ordered a complete withdrawal of US troops in 1994.

Other nations such as Belgium, France and Sweden followed suit. Subsequently, talks were held to provide for a ceasefire, disarmament of militias and a conference to appoint a new government. However, the planned conference was repeatedly postponed and many faction leaders ignored the agreements. With no progress, and dwindling support from member states, UNOSOM was disbanded in March 1995. The disbanding of this mission dashed all the hopes for a possible return of a civil government to Somalia.

Somalia has since stayed without a government. For how long can this go on when the world is watching? The statement attributed to the UN Secretary General last month that the circumstances in Somalia were not favourable for UN deployment was instructive to the AU. In effect, the UN chief was telling African leaders that they must mobilise troops to from what he called the “Coalition of the Willing” and participate in the Somalia mission. Only Uganda and Burundi have deployed in Somalia; other African leaders have maintained a “wait and see approach.” The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which expires on 17 January.

Fortunately, the African Heads of State Summit is scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa. In my view, the agenda of the summit should largely be informed by, among other things, the deteriorating security situation in Somalia. If this does not happen, one can correctly say that Africa has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from her history. The world cannot abandon the Somali people. If that happens, the international community should prepare to suffer the consequences of its failure to take responsibility.

Paddy Ankunda

The writer is the AU spokesman for Somalia

Source: New Vision Online

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