From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Oct 31 2008 - 15:24:58 EST
Harsh Words For Transitional Government
Credit: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
More than a million Somalis are displaced -- the international community has not delivered.
NAIROBI, Oct 31 (IPS) - Horn of Africa leaders attending a regional summit have lashed out at Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for failing to restore peace and order in the war-torn country.
"Failed they have, as can easily be seen in the lack of progress in all areas in government. This is the truth that neither the Transitional Federal Government authorities, nor we, can sweep under the rug," Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia's prime minister and IGAD chairman told the Oct. 29 summit.
The TFG was established following years of protracted talks under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Trade and Development (IGAD) -- a regional body comprising Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia itself. The transitional government's overall mandate was to constitute functional transitional federal institutions to stabilise the security situation, review the constitution, conduct a census and hold a democratic election by 2009.
Four years down the line, nothing has been accomplished. In terms of politics, security and humanitarian emergency, the Somalia situation remains disastrous. For much of its existence, the TFG has scarcely dared function within Somalia's borders.
Frequent militia attacks in Baidoa, where parliament was meant to be sitting, prompted many MPs to seek shelter in Kenya. In 2005, Islamist forces coordinated under the banner of the United Islamic Courts (UIC) established control over much of the country, imposing relative order. The TFG -- backed by Ethiopian troops -- captured the capital, Mogadishu, in December 2006, but it is still unable to assert control of the capital or the country's southern and central regions against Islamists and clan militia.
But Mahmoud Maalim, IGAD's executive director, said the ball was in the court of the TFG to transform the country: "The stabilisation of Somalia is entirely in the hands of the Somali leadership. The day they will agree to have a stable and peaceful country that can become a member of the society of nations, that will be the end of the mayhem."
Not that simple
More than a million Somalis have fled their homes for displaced-persons camps throughout the southern part of the country and neighbouring Kenya, according to the United Nations. Assistance for these refugees is hindered by regular attacks on aid workers in Somalia -- two U.N. workers were the latest victims last week -- and by increasingly bold piracy off the Somali coast, which has raised the risks and cost of bringing in aid.
The Ethiopian intervention in support of the TFG may have shattered the UIC, but the intense fighting that has continued to this day makes the period under Islamist control appear to have been an interlude of calm. Ethiopian, TFG and insurgent forces have all been accused of grave violations of civilians' human rights, including disappearances, unlawful killings and rape. The United Nations estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed since the Ethiopian invasion.
The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops has been a prominent demand in any number of peace initiatives, including the latest U.N.-backed agreement signed between the TFG and an Islamist group, the Association for the Re-liberation of Somalia, signed on Oct. 26.
Other insurgent groups in southern and central Somalia have refused to recognise the Djibouti agreement, and vow to continue fighting, even extending the battle lines into the semi-autonomous states of Puntland and Somaliland in the northeast and northwest, regions that had been relatively calm.
Oct. 29 suicide bomb blasts in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, and Bossaso, a coastal city of Puntland, killed more than 20 people and injured many others. The bombers reportedly struck at key targets including a U.N. office and anti-terrorism centres.
The incidents, analysts say, indicate a possible spreading of terrorism activities, something that has spurred renewed U.S. interest in the Somali crisis. The US has long been concerned with what it believes are terrorist cells linked to Al Qaeda operating in Somalia; it carried out airstrikes near the southern town of Afmadow in Jan. 2007, and is widely understood to have supported Ethiopian intervention agains the UIC.
In a communiqué issued at the summit, regional leaders said: "We regret the lack of unity and unhelpful competition among the leadership of the institutions as their working at cross-purposes has been the principal factor that has allowed the deterioration of the security situation in the country and led to lack of progress in national reconciliation effort."
While IGAD leaders are pointing an accusing finger at the Somali administration, the TFG is passing the buck. "The international community has not delivered the services needed. They made pledges of financial support in 2004 when the peace was signed, and they have not delivered this. We feel they have also failed us," Awad Ashareh, a Somali member of parliament told IPS.
"Somalia needs assistance in capacity-building and deployment of peace keeping forces. This assistance is still lacking," he noted. Ethiopian president Zenawi agreed, "Somalia has not been given the attention it deserves, particularly on the issue of troops," he said.
In a briefing with journalists after the summit, Jendayi Fraser, the United States assistant secretary for African Affairs conceded that the international community had not given Somalia much attention.
The deployment of peace-keeping forces to protect civilians has been a matter of concern. Currently, only 2,500 African Union soldiers have been deployed in Somalia, way below the required capacity of 10,000 troops.
"The forces on the ground currently are working under very difficult conditions. What this means is that the country has not been secured to enable normal operations to take place. We need funds for these forces," said Erastus Mwencha, the deputy chairperson of the AU Commission.
A meeting is expected next month for donors to raise funds for the forces. "When we call you, please respond. We cannot afford to quit at a time when it is so critical. We need the security issue addressed urgently," he urged.
IGAD ordered the Somali government to finalise the drafting of the constitution and enact electoral law within six months. The TFG is also required to establish a joint security committee to oversee the country's security. The committee will include members of TFG and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, an Islamist group that signed a peace agreement with the TFG in Djibouti on Oct. 26. This body should be operational no later than Nov. 25 of this year.
Progress on implementation of these issues is to be reviewed every six months by the IGAD Heads of State.
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