SOMALIA: A FRAGILE NATION IN THE HORN OF AFRICA NEEDS STABILITY.
African countries are praying for the return to normalcy and peaceful co-existence in Somalia which has been torn-apart and devastated by civil war since 1990.
The African countries, particularly those drawn from Eastern Africa, among them Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan, are committed to see the transformation of Somalia to its pre-1977 tranquility and pre-1991 stability.
The dreaded al-Shabaab insurgents are fighting the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) while the African Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) is working out tirelessly to restore peace and stability in the country.
Though the United Nations elevated Somalia from failed to fragile nation status in January 2010, some of the stop –gap TFG members are not committed to the peace process. President Sheik Sharif (former member of Islamic courts union) is the man to watch in the fragile nation. Though it is allegedly said to be driven by religious ideals, he is shaping the destiny of Somalia through the TFG with over 40 ministers and 500 members of parliament drawn from various competing interests.
Kenya cannot be ignored in the search of peace, security and tranquility in Somalia. At the same time, Kenya’s relations with the Horn of Africa countries are vital and Kenya has indeed played a major role in the region’s conflict management efforts.
However, Kenya’s relations with the Horn of Africa countries have been characterized by ups and downs. The northeastern part of Kenya is inhabited by ethnic Somali and was claimed by Somalia at the end of the colonial era. In 1960s upon Kenya’s independence, Somalia supported rebels against Kenya but the two countries resolved the issue through the diplomatic means in 1967. This was short-lived since Siad Barre who came to power in Somalia in 1969 renewed its claims to both northeastern Kenya and to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.
Professor Pontian Godfrey Okoth however says that Kenya and Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selaise worked together closely and improved working relations in the region. In 1977 war broke out between Somalia and Ethiopia in the Ogaden, and nationalism tempo heightened in Somalia.
By mid-1980s, Professor Okoth writes, all the regimes in the region-Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, were unstable. Sudanese President General J.G. Numeiri imposed Sharia Law but he was overthrown in 1985. Relations between Kenya and Sudan deteriorated when Kenya supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Kenya therefore took the lead in regional efforts to mediate the conflict between Khartoum and the rebels in the south as 500,000 lives were lost in a decade in a conflict between the Islamic North and the Christian South.
President Barre was overthrown in Mogadishu in early 1991. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia and gained independence in May 1993.The History and International Relations expert asserts that the decay in the Horn of Africa led to the influx of about 800,000 refugees into Kenya, and security in North Eastern province weakened due to the proliferation of small-arms and light weapons.
Western forces moved out of Somalia in October 1993 largely due to the deaths of the United States peacekeepers. Warlords called the shots in Somalia for many years and the security situation deteriorated to unprecedented levels as clans struggled to outdo each other in the failed state.
Nairobi has been the focal point for negotiations among the Somali warring factions since 1994 to establish a new government in Mogadishu which is slowly taking shape under the Somalia TFG. This initiative is a noble and bright one which requires total support from the African Union and the entire world.
Somalia indeed needs peace, stable government, national cohesion and nation-building. With law and order restored in Somalia, the potential of the country and the people would then be exploited. Peace and security will prevail in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in which pirates have threatened to destabilize the flourishing business activities which dates back to the Indian Ocean trade.
Diplomatic methods, military approach and other methods of conflict management need to be employed for the sake of peace and stability in the region. East African Community and Intergovernmental Authority (IGAD) members should collaborate in the search of restoring a stable government in Somalia.
With peace in Somalia, Eastern Africa would be a very strategic and important business location in the continent.Eastern Africa serves Central Africa and the combination of Eastern and Central Africa in joint business ventures would greatly benefit the people. This would also give impetus to the realization of the goals being pursued by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and other regional integration bodies.
Whatever the case in Eastern and Central Africa, priority should be given to peace question in Somalia. The region will not develop without peace and active participation of the Somali nation. The world has to intervene through the acceptable means and support the fragile Somali government and the wider interest groups in order to construct a new Somalia.