East Africa: Big Rush to Cash in On Somalia, Protect Uganda, Save Sudan
Dec 20, 2011
World and regional powers are now in a big rush to simultaneously tackle
three big and intractable East African problems - the Somalia war, the
crisis in eastern DR Congo, and the risk of South Sudan imploding.
For the first time in a very long, diplomats appear to be optimistic that
lasting peace in the Greater East Africa region may be closer than it has
been expected. This has set off a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at
boosting peacekeeping efforts and paying for the reconstruction in some of
the trouble spots.
In the past one week, China, which has traditionally chosen to concentrate
on its economic interests in Africa and had stayed away from Somalia,
announced that Beijing was keen to work with other parties "to play a
constructive role in pushing forward a resolution to the Somali humanitarian
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council sat to consider a proposal by
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to expand the Amisom force strength. If Mr
Ki-Moon gets his wish, Amisom could grow from the approved force of 12,000
to 20,000, the standard required of a UN peacekeeping mission.
On the same day, the World Bank Group working closely with Norway, Turkey,
and the United Kingdom; the African Union; the European Union; the United
Nations and the Corporate Council on Africa hosted a donor conference that
will eventually fund the start-up nation of South Sudan. Since 2005, this
donor group has funded South Sudan to the tune of $540 million.
Now billions of dollars are needed urgently to pull Africa's newest nation
from the brink of crisis. The African Development Bank has also been in
discussions about funding the reconstruction of South Sudan. A similar
effort is also underway for the reconstruction of Somalia.
In the same week, the European Union offered $1.2 million that will be used
to help efforts by Uganda's military and American special forces hunt for
the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony.
On the diplomatic front, two weeks ago, Mr Ki-Moon and the President of the
UN General Assembly, Qatar's Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser made a brave visit
to the Somalia capital Mogadishu, and pressed the flesh with Transitional
Federal Government (TFG) leaders.
Ki-Moon and Al Nasser were the most high profile international diplomats to
visit Somalia in over 20 years and their stop was seen as an early Christmas
present for the fledgling TFG, and a boost for the African Union
peacekeeping effort AMISOM.
In recent months, AMISOM has pushed the Al Shabaab out of all the 16
districts of Mogadishu, unifying the capital under the authority of one
government for the first time since 1991.
However, there were concerns that AMISOM's gains could be threatened by
Uganda increasing attention to old enemies - the regrouping of the
anti-Kampala Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and other once-defeated Uganda
rebel groups in eastern DR Congo.
Uganda and Burundi are the only two countries that have contributed troops
to AMISOM so far, with Uganda providing the most. Diplomatic sources told
The East- African that they were "picking up signals that Uganda was about
to send a large force into eastern DR Congo." According to our sources,
Uganda was "weeks, if not days away," from reopening a front in DR Congo.
Not only were there concerns that that would distract it from Somalia, but
some diplomats are also worried that a messy campaign inside DR Congo would
rob Kampala of the moral authority to remain in a peacekeeping mission.
Other sources told The EastAfrican that the flare up of fighting between
(north) Sudan and South Sudan, and the eruption of communal violence in
parts of the South, threw up the worst nightmare many governments had had
about South Sudan Independence - a new state that fails on arrival.
One of the most lethal instruments that Sudan has to destabilise the South
is the LRA, which for years was a proxy force for Khartoum, which it used to
punish Uganda for its support for the SPLA.
The hawks in the Uganda military and intelligence still maintain that the
LRA is being kept alive by the Omar Al Bashir regime. It was probably no
surprise then, that two weeks ago Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni became
the first regional leader to warn Khartoum to "back off" South Sudan.
With these developments, the fluid situation in eastern DR Congo and the
rumbles at the Ugandan border; the upsurge of violence in Sudan; and peace
in Somalia, became joined by one thread.
In October US President Barack Obama sent 100 Special Forces to Uganda to
help it combat the LRA in eastern DR Congo and the Central Africa Republic,
the wide swathe in which the highly mobile and murderous Kony army operates.
Media reports indicate that the US Special Forces and the Uganda People's
Defence Forces (UPDF) are setting up a base camp near the confluence of the
South Sudan/DRC/Uganda border to pursue Kony. A security analyst in Kampala
told The East African that; "If any deep links are established between the
LRA and Khartoum, then we should not be surprised if the US role grew to
address 'Sudan's subversive' role too."
In recent weeks, Khartoum has become an irritant. Last month, Navi Pillay,
the UN's High Commissioner for human rights, called for an "independent,
thorough and credible investigation" into allegations that Sudan's air force
had bombed a refugee camp in South Sudan.
"If indeed it is established that an international crime or serious human
rights violation has been committed, then those responsible should be
brought to justice," Pillay said.
For its part, the US pressed the UN Security Council to adopt a statement
condemning Sudan's government for the attack.
Meanwhile, in an early sign that the US-Uganda anti-LRA campaign is quickly
growing to draw in other players, over a week ago the European Union offered
to finance the construction of a new base for the UPDF to be used to launch
operations against the LRA.
The $1.2 million base will act as the co-ordination centre for ongoing joint
anti-LRA operations by a coalition of forces from Uganda, DR Congo, South
Sudan and the US, which has deployed its Special Forces to the hunt.
"We have now been joined by the EU and they offered us $1.2 million to help
us ensure a quick and successful ending to this operation," Uganda's Defence
Minister Crispus Kiyonga told The East African.
The controversial election a few days in DR Congo, in which President
Laurent Kabila was re-elected with a large majority, but which his opponents
have rejected as a stolen victory, will have helped to focus minds about the
dangers of allowing armed militias to lurk in eastern Congo. (READ: Uganda
plays down risks of DR Congo meltdown)
The election itself was marred by violence, which has continued since Kabila
was announced winner.
The danger of DR Congo slipping back into the chaos of the late 90s and
early 2000 are real. With that, the message seems to be going out that any
criminal militia or militant group with crossborder links, can cause
wide-ranging problems in the region.Against this background, the
stabilisation of Somalia would be a treasured trophy, and give credibility
to the international effort mounted to pacify the country as a model for
dealing with similar extreme trouble spots.
While the facts suggest that it's prudent to be cautious about peace in the
region, particularly in Somalia, the notable change is that this time more
and more voices are talking up the prospects of peace in Somalia. An African
diplomat who was at a recent Djibouti meeting with Somali leaders -
including those from the "republics" of Somaliland and Puntland - told The
East African that; "While the divergence of views is acknowledged by all,
what was more astounding to me was the general feeling that this time it
might be different, that the Somali nation could well be salvaged."
The AU, shamed and swatted aside contemptuously in Ivory Coast, and the
Libya war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, the country's dictator for 42-years
who was eventually killed in the frenzy of his capture by Libyan
revolutionaries, also seems to be smelling an opportunity to mend its image
It quickly acted to invite Kenya to be part of AMISOM, after it sent its
army across the border into Somalia to pursue Al Shabaab militants. The AU
found a little joy when the Kenya Parliament voted to participate in AMISOM.
If the number of countries and diplomatic missions opening shop in
Mogadishu, or pitching into the stabilisation effort, are anything to go by,
then the cautious optimism about the long-suffering country might turn out
to be justified.
When Ki-Moon was in Mogadishu, he announced the UN was to reopen its mission
there after a long absence. Italy followed suit, saying it too was going
back to Mogadishu.Turkey set up shop a few months ago, and is active in
helping rebuild things like hospitals.
Then China indicated it wanted in. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin
gave the signal at a daily press briefing while commenting on Ki-Moon's
visit to Somalia.
"We have paid attention to the situation in Somalia," Liu said, adding that
China hopes Somalia will put an end to internal disorder as soon as possible
and realise peaceful development."
He said China supports the positive role of the international community,
including the UN, in promoting the Somali peace process and easing the
country's current crisis.
China's view is important because it's completing a vast $200 million office
complex in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, a "gift to the African people"
that will serve as the AU's new headquarters.
In addition, China also offered $500 million to Peace & Security of the AU
for the next three years. China's re-engagement with Somalia could,
therefore, comes with new funding for the cash-strapped AMISOM operation,
which is set to grow bigger now that Kenya is set to be part of it.
Should progress in Somalia continue, it can be expected that a scramble for
a place at the table will break out, and lead countries in AMISOM that have
hostile insurgents on their flanks, could benefit from the international
push to calm the wider Great Lakes region.
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Received on Tue Dec 20 2011 - 05:02:49 EST