Neglect of Somalia=Risk of Terror

The global neglect of Somalia will come home
to roost as a greater threat to terrorism. Will we ever learn?
(Revised, June 7, 2006, 8:30 am)
(This link to BBC News about the deportation of a Somali warlord from Kenya continues the saga of the changing conditions in the Horn of Africa. the Kenya government deported the warlord to prevent a “destabilizing” presence in Kenya.)

The news from Somalia is not encouraging. A coalition of Islamic militias have taken control of the capital city, Mogadishu according to the New York Times. The defeat of Somali warlords represents a failure of the strategy of the U.S. to provide financial support to the warlords to bolster opposition to the Islamist militias. Listen to an excellent analysis on NPR’s Morning Edition by John Prendergast, of the International Crisis Group and a former official in the Clinton administration.

A similar strategy proved to contribute to the undoing of the United Nations in Somalia over the past decade as well. When I was in the country just after the U.S. Blackhawk helicopter was shot down, I was told by local Somalis that the warlords were granted administrative responsibilities by the U.N., and some warlords who had fled the country after the government fell were actually repatriated at U.N. expense and located in provincial capitals.

Because some were in districts that were not their home territory this created added instability because local populations did not submit easily to their control.

Lack of attention by the world, including the U.S. has been remarkable, to say the least. Despite the brief military intervention during the first Bush administration and the peacekeeping presence of the U.N. without creating a nation-building process, the failure to take seriously the destabilizing effects of a failed state on the Horn of Africa, not to mention the widespread human suffering it precipitated, is likely to haunt the world in the form of increased terrorism and unchecked support for insurgencies in the region.

Critics also make a case that the warring factions in Somalia have brought much of the instability on themselves. Clan animosities have been exaggerated by warlords who used them to gain position and solidify territorial control. But this case does not fully address the reality that it is the powerless and vulnerable who are caught between the guns and have little choice but to submit to those who do, in reality, have control because they have the guns. Most Somalis are trapped in an untenable situation and do what is necessary to survive.

Their tragedy may become our tragedy. We may be starting to see the beginning fruits of this long neglect.

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