From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 06:22:02 EST
MEDIAWACTH: Somalia teeters on the edge 19 Nov 2008 17:57:00 GMT
Written by: Joanne Tomkinson
As Islamist insurgents close in on Mogadishu, Somalia's government has warned that the east African nation is on the verge of complete collapse. This is worrying news for a country the U.N. has labelled "the world's worst humanitarian crisis", where 1 million people have been forced from their homes and millions more need food aid.
Most of the country is now controlled by Islamist rebel factions, hostile to the Ethiopian-backed transitional government that is unpopular and virtually powerless.
As the country's future hangs in the balance, many commentators are pointing to the West's role in the country's devastating decline.
"Decades of diplomatic neglect, ill-advised interventions, and half-hearted peace plans are now resulting in not so much a failed state as a state of anarchy," says Simon Tisdall in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
The country, he says, is certainly the planet's single biggest humanitarian disaster, even taking Sudan, Zimbabwe and Congo into account.
The U.N.'s past failures and current focus on Sudan and Congo mean it's unlikely to act to help if the country plunges further into anarchy. "Washington's main interest is preventing Somalia becoming a terrorist haven," Tisdall says, and "that narrow focus is partly blamed for the wider disintegration".
The sad truth is that it's Somalia's pirates, rather than its people, who are likely to spark the world into decisive action, Tisdall says.
"It's a shame that leading countries and their navies seem more exercised about safeguarding sea lanes than saving the 3.25 million Somalis - 43 percent of the total population - who are dependent on food aid." Martin Fletcher in London's Times newspaper, meanwhile, says the West's intervention in Somalia in the name of the "war on terror" may soon come back to haunt it. "(The West) has helped to destroy that wretched country's best chance of peace in a generation, left more than a million Somalis dead, homeless or starving, and achieved the precise opposite of its original goal. Far from stamping out an Islamic militancy that scarcely existed, the intervention has turned Somalia into a breeding ground for Islamic extremists and given al-Qaeda a valuable foothold in the Horn of Africa." When the United States supported an invasion by predominantly Christian Ethiopia, traditionally Somalia's bitter enemy, it replaced Somalia's most effective government in memory with a deeply unpopular one led by former warlords, Fletcher says. The bitter irony now is that one of the main insurgent groups closing in on Mogadishu, the hardline Shabab group, openly support al-Qaeda. "All in all, hardly a resounding triumph for the War on Terror," Fletcher says. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy in Focus, a think tank focused on U.S foreign policy, urges Ethiopia and the West to stay away from the country in order to allow it to rebuild itself. "Further intervention from neighbouring Ethiopia or the United States will be ruinous. Leaders in Addis Ababa and Washington would do well to withdraw completely, then wait and watch - returning only if summoned by the new Somalia." Somalia, the think tank urges, must look inward to fix its many problems. Uganda's Monitor Online newspaper also worries about terrorism - but for reasons closer to home. "East African states have already experienced terrorism firsthand with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998 and have every reason to worry when terror groups organise in their backyards," an editorial in the paper says. "This problem should not be left to the under-facilitated African Union peacekeeping force or the conflict-ridden Intergovernmental Authority on Development."
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