External Factors and the Prospect of Peace in Somalia

No objective individual would disagree that the commonsensical approach to problem-solving is to first identify the problem, then tackle it at its source. Likewise, no reasonable individual would have difficulty understanding how any effort invested on treating symptoms at the expense of the core problem is an exercise in futility. Except, when it comes to the Somali political problem!

For approximately two decades and 14 different conferences, the Somali problem was approached in ways that ignored its multifaceted nature and thus failed to address the role of the external actors in fueling the fire. In each of these sensationalized, indeed costly "reconciliation conferences," ill-advised focus was put on clan power-sharing that placed the cart before the horse and granted individual clan representatives official licenses to loot.

During that period, the Somali problem has metamorphosed into different political dynamics, groups, and indeed challenges; depending on that particular period’s influential actors and the balance of power. However, since the Ethiopian occupation, a natural political fusion has systematically taken its course; one that ultimately merged, and therefore reduced, the Somali problem into two groups- albeit these two groups espouse several competing interests that push the Somali one to bottom.

On one hand, there is the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopia along with its partner, Washington. On the other, there is the Alliance for Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and Eritrea . However, it’s worth noting that at this critical juncture, neither the TFG nor ARS is entirely free to make independent decisions in the best interest of the Somali people or for the future of the Somali state without grave repercussions.

As a result of an unprecedented brain-drain, Somalia remains a mummified geographical body with rapidly fading history, corroding identity, and questionable reason to exist as a nation state. This failed state is now at the mercy of the international community. More specifically, at the mercy of external actors who wield powers that routinely frustrate any positive political dynamics that could inspire hope and pave the way for peace.

A case in point: While the Somali people were eagerly awaiting for the signing of the (hole-riddled) UN-backed Djibouti peace accord, a circus of acts and counter-acts made its way to the center stage of the political theatre of that country- dashing the hopes of millions whose lives hang on the balance.
Eritrea, Ethiopia’s archenemy, driven by the old adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," began to pull its strings of influence by pressuring a faction of the ARS still situated in Asmara to break ranks with their Western supported colleagues who have partaken the Djibouti peace process.

While a failed peace process and the continuation of the violent insurgency is in strategic best interest of Eritrea as that could, in due course, drain Ethiopia economically and demoralizes its military, it entails a hefty price paid by the helpless Somali civilians who die as a result.

Reacting to the news of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys becoming the Chairman of the Asmara-based faction of the ARS, Washington who considers Sheikh Aweys a terrorist and has a warrant for his arrest has issued a statement reasserting its position.

The "United States does not consider Aweys a legitimate representative of the opposition movement, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia," said Nicole Thompson, a spokeswoman for the State Department. Concurrently, John Yates, the U.S. Envoy for Somalia , has held a press conference in Kenya confirming his government’s commitment to continue its global war on terrorism. Plainly stated, this means neither Sheikh Aweys nor Al-Shabab, an entity that Washington lists as a terrorist organization, will be considered as partners for peace any time soon- all the while, making diplomacy a distant dream.

Furthermore, in order to remove one of the major obstacles of peace and defuse the insurgency, the UN Special Envoy, with a support from Washington , has encouraged the TFG Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, to sack the Mayor of Mogadishu Mohamed Omar Habeeb (aka Mohamed Dheere).

Mohamed Dheere is broadly recognized as one of the most vicious warlords and the most loyal enforcer of the brutal policies of the Ethiopian occupation. Following the news reports that he was sacked by the Prime Minister, thousands of Mogadishu residents took their jubilation to the streets. The action was not only seen as an olive branch to the people of Mogadishu who suffered under his reign, but as a first step toward eliminating the elements that radicalizes insurgency. Mohamed Dheere was not just loathed for his brutality, but for the provocation of his vulgar boast. It is no secret, Al-Shabaab– the militant wing of the defunct Islamic Courts Union– is now much fiercer and enjoys much more popularity than pre Christmas 2006 when the Ethiopian bombings started to drop in Mogadishu .

However, this seemingly sound strategy has apparently offended another external actor- the Ethiopian occupation. Therefore, before the Mayor could clear his highly protected compound, he was reinstated by the TFG President, Abdullahi Yusuf- their mutual clan-based hatred notwithstanding.

Immediately following the announcement of the reinstatement, eleven pro Ethiopia TFG cabinet ministers have submitted their resignations. These resignations were not, in any way, a protest against the reinstatement; rather, they were against one of the main pillars that sustain the occupation.

As the old adage goes: in politics, nothing happens at random! These ministers were herded to topple Prime Minister Hussein’s government. And, once again, both Washington and Eritrea–the remote control influencers–are reminded who has the capacity to make the ultimate decisions in Somalia. In the mean time, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world continues to get worse.