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A Paper Cease-Fire Turns in to Ashes

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Garowe Online


by Dr. Michael A. Weinstein


For the thirty days between June 9 and July 9, the attention of Somali political actors and particularly of the "stakeholders" in Somalia's conflicts - the United States, European powers, the United Nations, Arab states and states in the Horn of Africa and its neighborhood - were focused on the fate of the agreement, signed in Djibouti, between Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and a faction of its organized political opposition, the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (A.R.S.).


The heart of the agreement, which was reached under pressure from the Western powers working through the U.N., was a timetable of 120 days, of which the first thirty days were to be devoted to preparation for a cease-fire between the T.F.G. and the military wing of the A.R.S. that has been mounting an insurgency against the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia, and the remaining ninety were to be spent solidifying the cease-fire so that the adversaries could reach a political reconciliation and the conditions for the deployment of a U.N. stabilization mission that would replace the Ethiopian occupiers could be established.


July 9 has come and gone, and it is starkly evident that the Djibouti peace process has been an abject failure. During the thirty-day run-up to the projected cease-fire, violent armed clashes between insurgents and Ethiopian and T.F.G. forces did not diminish, with the insurgents continuing to make impressive gains on the ground, achieving control of the capitals of several of Somalia's regions and setting up either Islamic administrations under their control or friendly "independent" local administrations in the many towns and districts where they had gained a foothold throughout the country.


Unable to stem the insurgents' advance, the Ethiopian and T.F.G. forces responded with spasmodic counter-offensives that resulted in mass displacement of civilians who, because fighting had spread everywhere, had no place to seek refuge. Since July 9, the conflict has become even more severe and the humanitarian crisis has worsened, with no sign that the external stakeholders have any alternative plans to replace their failed stabilization policy.


Diagnosis of Failure


The Djibouti process was a result of a shift of Western policy in late 2007, when the Western powers realized that the Ethiopian occupation had proven to be ineffective in stabilizing Somalia and that the conflict within the T.F.G. between its president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad, and its then-prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, had crippled the transitional institutions. As a consequence of that tardy awakening, the Western powers retreated diplomatically, moving to the fall-back position of trying to turn the T.F.G. in the direction of negotiations with the elements of the A.R.S. that were willing to participate in talks.


The cornerstone of the Western powers' new strategy was the replacement of Gedi by Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein, a perceived political neutral without a domestic power base, who pledged to pursue initiatives to bring the A.R.S. into reconciliation talks. At the same time, the Western powers continued to rely on Ethiopian forces on the ground to prop up the weak and incapacitated T.F.G., because the going alternative, an African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM), had failed to reach its projected strength of eight thousand troops, due to the unwillingness of African states, except Uganda and later Burundi, to commit forces to an active conflict zone with what they claimed was inadequate financial and logistical support from the West.


The West's policy shift was by no means a reversal, but spelled instead the adoption of a dual-track strategy aimed at containing the predominantly Islamist military opposition through the agency of the faltering Ethiopians while co-opting the diplomatic wing of the A.R.S. into a power-sharing process that would isolate the insurgents and their backers. The flaws in that strategy quickly revealed themselves as the military opposition increasingly gained momentum; Nur Adde was constrained to support the occupation, weakening his legitimacy and credibility; political opposition to Nur Adde surfaced within the T.F.G.; and the T.F.G. was unable to exert authority in Somalia's regions, which continued to devolve into the hands of local clans and their militias, or of the Islamists.


The decision of the A.R.S.'s diplomatic wing to engage in the Djibouti process, which caused a rupture in the alliance and the reasons for which remain obscure, was hailed by the U.N. and the Western powers as a "breakthrough," but it has turned out to be anything but that. From the outset, the West and the T.F.G. were fixated on the cease-fire, which they viewed as a pre-condition for the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, and the A.R.S.'s diplomatic wing was focused on Ethiopian withdrawal, which it came to interpret as a binding commitment.


That divergence of interpretations was based on the underlying balance of political and military forces in Somalia today. The T.F.G., which lacks popular support and exists only by virtue of the recognition that it receives from the "international community," the meager financial contributions that it gets from Western donor powers and international organizations, and the Ethiopian occupation, is otherwise defenseless against the insurgency and the resistance of local power centers. Making the Djibouti agreement's success contingent on a cease-fire could only benefit the T.F.G., which is what the West desired. In contrast, the A.R.S.'s diplomatic wing stood to lose all its credibility if it did not make Ethiopian withdrawal its top priority, so it stated from the beginning that it had chosen a "peaceful" path of liberation and was ready to revert to the military track if progress toward Ethiopian withdrawal did not occur within the agreement's time



The decision of the A.R.S.'s diplomatic wing to enter the Djibouti process was denounced by the alliance's militant faction, which pointed to the success of the insurgency as grounds for continuing on the course of armed liberation; the relatively independent military forces of the A.R.S. on the ground, which announced that they would carry on the insurgency while the Djibouti process went on; and the internationalist Islamic revolutionary al-Shabaab movement, which is organizationally independent of the A.R.S. and simply ignored the Djibouti process altogether.


In light of the rejection of the Djibouti process by the militant faction of the A.R.S. and al-Shabaab, the West's hopes for a cease-fire were dashed from the start and the A.R.S.'s diplomatic faction was left hanging on a limb and has responded to its precarious situation by moving closer to the alliance's military faction and seeking to heal its rift with the latter by entering talks with it brokered by Yemen. On July 15, Garowe Online reported that Sheikh Yusuf Ali Aynte, a spokesman for the Islamic Courts, which dominate the A.R.S., had announced that an agreement had been reached between the two factions on "ending their differences." With no details of the agreement available, it is not possible to assess its political effects, but it is likely that the diplomatic wing of the A.R.S. will be drawn to take a harder line toward the T.F.G. and the withdrawal of the Ethiopians. There is little promise that a cease-fire will come into effect and that in

its absence reconciliation will proceed or the U.N. Security Council will approve a stabilization force. Ethiopia will be pressured to continue to be exhausted by a war of attrition that it is losing. One can only conclude that the Djibouti process is already a thing of the past and that it will have little, if any, effect on the future political configuration of Somalia.


Prognosis: A New Phase in Somalia's Political History


The collapse of the Djibouti process opens up a new phase in Somalia's political history. Through the first half of 2008, the Western powers pursued their last hope for stabilizing Somalia half-heartedly, refusing to take the initiative and to back up their dual-track policy with sufficient pressure and resources, because they would not take the risk of providing support until "reconciliation" was underway, which served as the alibi for their inaction. Now the West has surrendered the role of protagonist and is likely to turn its back on conflict resolution in Somalia.


The likelihood that the West will draw back leaves the insurgency with the initiative and momentum, the T.F.G. debilitated, and Ethiopia seeking to extricate itself from a morass of its own and the Western powers' making. Whether or not the A.R.S. has healed its rift is of secondary or little importance; the multi-dimensional insurgency will not surrender its gains even if a "peace process" restarts under the pressure of the dishonest brokers of the West. Ethiopia cannot repeat its 2006 invasion of Somalia and is a wasting or already wasted "asset" for the West. Local power centers, whether Islamist, clan-based or both, have become deeply entrenched and will be difficult, if not impossible, to displace by any "national" initiative, whether military, political or both.


Somalia begins to look more and more as it did before the Islamic Courts movement undertook its 2006 revolution, which was aborted by the Ethiopian invasion - a patchwork of local power centers - with the difference that Islamism has now become the dominant political formula and its supporters have learned to adapt to Somalia's congenital localism, making them stronger than they were during their revolutionary ascendancy, though more limited in their ability to carry through their utopian aim of transforming Somalia into a Shari'a state. In return for being constrained to adopt a local strategy, the Islamists have become an integral force in Somalia's power configuration.


Although it made a devastating miscalculation when it invaded Somalia and has since then been engaged in a brutal occupation that has turned the Somali people overwhelmingly against it, Ethiopia grasps the reality of Somalia's power configuration and its unfavorable position within it, and has begun to adapt, with or without the blessings of the Western powers, on which it has become dependent for military and financial support.


Having had to open up a new front against the insurgency in Somalia's central regions, bolster its military presence in the country's southwest regions, and continue its counter-insurgency in Somalia's official capital Mogadishu, Ethiopia is reported to have broken with official Western policy by rearming Mogadishu's warlords, who had divided the city among themselves and had resisted the T.F.G. before the Islamic Courts routed them in 2006. In addition, the Somaaljecel website reported on July 15 that Ethiopian officers had held a secret meeting with the T.F.G.'s defense minister, Muhidiyan Mohamed Haji Ibrahim, and had told him that the T.F.G. needed to train its own forces to provide security, and that all T.F.G. units should be commanded by an Ethiopian officer to prevent T.F.G. troops from collaborating with the insurgents. Haji was reported to have responded that he was amenable to Ethiopian command, but that the T.F.G. had no funds to arm security

forces or to pay them.


Rearming the warlords would sound the death knell of the T.F.G. and demanding that the T.F.G. provide its own security is simply a cover for abandoning it, although Ethiopia has made efforts to train some T.F.G. forces in "counter- insurgency and counter-terrorism."


Ethiopia's adaptive strategy appears to aim at extricating itself from Mogadishu and concentrating on protecting its border with central and southwest Somalia, leaving the country to localized power centers, even if the Islamists gain the upper hand in some of them, including Mogadishu after another civil war between the warlords and the Courts movement.


If the reports of Ethiopia's recent moves are correct, it is reasonable to conclude that Addis Ababa has determined that the West lacks the will to take any further initiatives and that it has to and has the opening to pursue its own interest in fragmenting Somalia while hoping that the Courts can be held in check by countervailing factions.


Wounded and battered by the malign neglect of the West and a brutal Ethiopian occupation, Somalia is likely to be left on its own to sort out its conflicts or revert to chronic civil war.

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it was doomed from the very begining ..... the agreement was not worth the paper it was written on .. if they would have come up with something more platable to the brave young bucks maybe it would have had a chance in succeeding but then again we are now close to 20 'peace' talks & agreements that have done nothing.


nothing short of the complete destruction & anihalation of the TFG , Ethiopians will put everything back on track to the breif glimmer of peace & stability that was seen in the 6 months the ICU was ruling xamar.

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