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International Military Intervention: A Viable Option for the Stabilization of Somalia

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International Military Intervention: A Viable Option for the Stabilization of Somalia

Omar A. Osman

November 8 , 2005




It has now been over a decade since Somalia has been engulfed in a bloody civil war leaving behind a large-scale catastrophe. The tragic consequence of this senseless war has contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilian lives, widespread famine, hunger, destruction of infrastructure and property, displacement of a major segment of the population and a refugee crisis of enormous proportions.


The lack of central authority has further marred the image of the once proud Somali nation and rendered it to a failed state. In view of the magnitude and gravity of the conflict situation in Somalia and its serious implications for regional and international peace and security, many believe that international military intervention is the most appropriate option to reestablish peace, law and order in the country. I strongly support this viewpoint.


Warlords, Militias and the Collapse of the Somali State

Since the collapse of the Siad Barre dictatorship in 1991, Somalia has been unable to establish an effective central government. The country has been fragmented into fiefdoms controlled by blood thirsty and ruthless warlords who continue to benefit from the prevailing anarchic situation. Powerful warlords exercise full authority on the capital city Mogadishu and they charge taxes on goods and services, ports and airports as well as other public facilities.


The consequence of this has been tribal and factional warfare of which lines are drawn based on tribal claims on various important zones of the Capital City. Ethnically speaking Somalia is the only homogeneous nation in the African continent where people share the same characteristic features, religion, culture and language. Tribalism and clanism are the root causes of the conflict. The war that is being fought today and has lasted for all these years can be attributed to historic inter-clan animosity and rivalry, which has been fueled by the factional warlords.


The main question that arises from this is what can be done to restore a functioning legitimate government that can stabilize the nation and restore the peace and security, which Somalis have longed for all these years? In order to address this we must examine and analyze in some detail the challenges facing Somalia today.


Internal and External Challenges

First and foremost, the presence of factional militias particularly in the south of the country has created an environment of lawlessness and chaos. The sole purpose of the warlords is to stay in power and maintain the current status quo, which has undoubtedly tilted in their favor.


Secondly, the self-proclaimed renegade state of Somaliland in the north of the country has been vehemently opposed to joining the South thereby dividing the Somali nation. Thus if Somaliland secedes from Somalia then ultimately according to the domino theory other Regions will follow and there will be no Somali nation. This is unacceptable.


Thirdly, several neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya have aligned themselves with warlords and various clans in pursuit of their political, economic and strategic interests in the region. This is yet another significant factor, which continues to pose a serious threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of the Somali nation. In the absence of a military peacekeeping force, the signings of peace agreements alone cannot solve the challenges and problems facing the Somali people.


Weak Ineffective Transitional Federal Government

As we are aware, Somalia has been in a state of civil war and anarchy years and has no effective central government for over 14 years. Although, in 2004 a government was established by the Transitional Federal Parliament after the conclusion of the Nairobi Peace Conference, it cannot function in the nation's capital Mogadishu due to security concerns.


Many warlords have threatened to use violent attacks against the government should it come to Mogadishu to proclaim its constitutional authority. Some concerned neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Uganda have offered to send troops to reestablish peace and security to disarm the militias and protect transitional national institutions. However, certain armed groups and militias under the authority of the warlords have threatened to attack peacekeeping troops in case they intervene.


The warlords argue that any intervention force would cause problems and is in violation of the national sovereignty of Somalia which they have vowed to defend and protect. The TFG is ineffective and too weak to deal with the warlords who are fully armed and equipped. The only course of action to salvage the Somali nation is for the international community to launch a campaign to send a coalition force to the devastated country in order to rid the nation of the warlords and protect the established constitutional government so that it can function effectively in the country and without the threat of an all out assault from the warlords.


Missed Opportunities by the International Community

Following the humanitarian crisis that unfolded in Somalia in1993, American and UN troops were deployed to help feed the starving population as the result of the civil war. The warlords should have been held fully accountable for the human tragedy that followed and the chaos and mayhem that ensued after the debacle with US troops. However, regrettably there was no underlying effort to stabilize the country and restore law and order, and most of all, restore central authority through the establishment of a government.


The plan was simply to make sure that channels of supplies were open to ensure the safe delivery of food supplies to the people. Nevertheless what Somalia needed most at the time was international assistance to help it get back on its feet. By this I mean that the international community should have helped Somali statehood by providing military support to stabilize the country and restore peace and order and economic and developmental assistance so that the country reestablish central governance which it urgently needed.


International Military Intervention and Peace Enforcement


I believe that it is time for the international community to take a bold decisive action and send a coalition force to Somalia in order to stabilize the country, and most important, allow the elected government (now operating in Jowhar within Somali territory) to perform its functions without the threat of violent attacks and reprisal from warlords and their militias.

In an age where terror has become a crucial issue of global concern particularly after the attacks of 9-11, it is imperative that the international community pay special attention to the so-called “failed states†which if not assisted could be a fertile ground for terrorists to promote their agenda.


Indifference or lack of action by the international community will not only aggravate the situation in Somalia but contribute to the destabilization of neighboring states with serious implications for regional and international peace and security. In this regard, the international community particularly the western nations have a vital interest and a special role to play.


Disarmament of Clan Based Militias: A Prerequisite to Achieving Peace


The major problem to be addressed is the question of total disarmament of clan based militias. It would be recalled that in 1992, the US Government had taken the initiative to take the lead in dispatching a sizeable military force to Somalia to assist in the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies to the affected Somali population, Operation Restore Hope was subsequently launched.


The mandate as clearly defined was limited to the UN Security Resolution 794, which authorized the U.S. led intervention “to use all necessary means to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia as soon as possible.†It was however unfortunate that the critical issue of disarmament of the militia factions was not given priority attention. Without disarming the factions, the establishment of a secure environment in the context of the UN Security Council Resolution (794) would not be possible; this was strongly opposed by the US Government.


The US strategy was to cooperate with the faction leaders and avoid a confrontation with them so as to ensure the safety of their forces. According to Ambassador John Hirsch of the United States Institute for Peace and former US Ambassador to Somalia, “many observers, however, believed that failure to disarm the factions of their heavy weapons which could have been accomplished with limited resistance at the time was one of the major blunders of UNITAF as shown by subsequent developments of the conflict situation in Somalia.†This is an important lesson, which the international community should take into account.


Protection of the Transitional Federal Government and Safeguarding of Transitional Federal Institutions to Reestablish Peace and Security


Since a new government under the leadership of President Abdullahi Yusuf has been established, it is incumbent on the international community to fully recognize the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and assist in the fulfillment of its national and international obligations to reestablish peace and security and effectively address the challenging problems facing the Somali nation today.


I propose that a military coalition intervention force much like the initiative taken in Afghanistan which ousted the Taliban regime be deployed under the auspices of the UN Security Council. Military solution comprising of troops representing the international community is in my view the only conceivable option for the restoration of peace to provide an environment for political stability and socioeconomic development.


Need for International Peacekeeping Force


The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan submitted a Report on the situation in Somalia in October 8, 2004 in response to the peace initiatives taken in Nairobi. This report was released prior to the election of the President, the Prime Minister and other cabinet officials. In the report the Secretary General points out that “at this crucial stage in the peace process, I can only reiterate the crucial importance of progress in the political arena being accompanied by serious efforts on the part of Somali leaders to bring about a tangible improvement in the security situation on the ground. Such efforts would do much to ensure that the political agreement and the government formed on its basis receive the full support of the people of Somalia and the international community.â€


According to the Secretary General, the Somali leaders must come together to form a consensus in order to achieve peace and security. However, he failed to underscore the numerous peace initiatives in the past which all ended in total failure as they could not be implemented on the ground. Repeating similar appeals time and again is a waste of time and an exercise in futility. If however, an international military force is mobilized to keep the peace process and protect the elected government the Secretary General's proposal will work and peace can be enforced on the lines proposed by him.


No doubt, the plight of the Somali people rest at the hands of its leaders and the effective support of the international community. It is quite evident that in the absence of international support the African and regional countries would not have the means and capabilities to provide military force in order to put an end to the chaos and restore law and order. Launching a robust international force, in my view, will effectively lead to the removal of the warlords and thereby create a peaceful political climate of stability conducive to nation building and reconstruction in Somalia. It is about time something is done!


Omar A. Osman

Fairfax, Virginia


PS--Do you think it is about time something should be done?

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