From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Dec 26 2008 - 06:33:31 EST
Somalia's "Stakeholders" Fail to Fill a Perceived "Security Vacuum"
Dec 26, 2008 - 12:17:05 PM
Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
Through December, the political dynamics of Somalia have been determined by
the growing expectation on the parts of all actors that exactly two years
after Ethiopia invaded south-central Somalia in a campaign to crush the
Islamic Courts movement, Addis Ababa would pull the plug on its occupation,
opening up a projected "security vacuum" rife with dire consequences - civil
war, descent into "anarchy," or a radical Islamist takeover, depending on
who was making the prediction.
Whether or not such a "security vacuum" will eventuate from the likely
Ethiopian withdrawal - a forecast that is questioned by some analysts and
observers, such as Prof. Abdi Samatar, who argue that if left to themselves,
Somali factions will reach some sort of modus vivendi, if not reconciliation
- the political players were convinced that it would and acted accordingly.
Fearful of radical Islam and regional instability, the major external actors
- Western powers, regional states, the United Nations and the African Union
- engaged in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at trying to fill the perceived
vacuum with some sort of force that would replace the Ethiopians: they
Meanwhile, domestic actors moved either to defend interests threatened by an
Ethiopian withdrawal or to take advantage of opportunities presented by it,
continuing a previous situation marked by increasing fragmentation, shifting
alliance formation and mutual distrust of intentions, all spelling radical
The "International Community" Fails to Fill the Vacuum Among the external
actors, the ones that stood to lose the most from an Ethiopian pull-out were
Uganda and Burundi, which had sent two battalions each (3400 troops) to
Somalia's official capital Mogadishu as part of a projected 8000 strong A.U.
peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) endorsed by the U.N. that was supposed to have
replaced the Ethiopians, but remained - due to lack of force commitments
from African states and financial and logistical support from Western powers
- confined to guarding key installations. An Ethiopian withdrawal would
leave AMISOM unable to defend itself against an ever more powerful
Islamist-led insurgency that was encroaching on Mogadishu and already
controlled parts of the capital.
On December 3, AMISOM commander, Ugandan Major-General Francis Okello,
announced that the peacekeepers did "not have enough forces" to replace the
Ethiopians. Okello's plea for help was followed quickly by a visit by A.U.
Commission chairman, Jean Ping, and the head of the organization's Peace and
Security Commission, Ramtane Lamamra, to Cairo where they held talks with
the Arab League on possible contributions by Arab states to AMISOM. Lamamra
said that Uganda and Burundi had pledged to contribute another battalion
each to the peacekeeping force if they were given financial and logistical
help, adding that the pledged forces would "almost make up for" the
That the U.N. was not ready to respond decisively to fill the security
vacuum became evident in a press conference held by Michele Montas,
spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon. Montas said that Ban
was "concerned" about a "security vacuum," but had failed in his efforts to
find any state willing to lead his preferred solution - a multi-national
force composed of a "coalition of the willing" that would function as "peace
enforcers" rather than peacekeepers. When asked about the collapse of
Somalia's internationally- recognized Transitional Federal Government
(T.F.G.), which is dependent for its existence (such as it is) on foreign
military support, Montas responded: "The fact that there is a government who
is there and who does not control the territory is not something that I can
really comment on." Montas concluded: "There cannot be something on the
political front if you don't have security
The collision course between the A.U. and U.N. was set on December 11, when
Lamamra went to New York on a mission to persuade the U.N. Security council
"urgently dispatch" a peacekeeping mission. On the same day, reports began
circulate in the media that Washington was preparing a resolution to be put
before the U.N.S.C. authorizing a U.N. force. Adding to the pressure,
Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, addressed the country's parliament
and said that AMISOM had expressed the desire to withdraw from Somalia
before Ethiopia did, and that Addis Ababa would "help their safe passage"
and then would leave the country. Zenawi stated that Ethiopia would
intervene again in Somalia if its security was threatened, but had already
"given the international community enough time for peacekeeping force
Uganda and Burundi quickly responded that they were not contemplating the
withdrawal of their AMISOM forces; indeed, Uganda's deputy foreign minister,
Okello Oryun, confirmed Lamamra's earlier statement that Uganda was "ready
to increase" its presence. The picture changed the next day when Ping said
cryptically that the withdrawal of peacekeepers was "subject to a certain
number of conditions that are not yet met." He then appealed to African
states to beef up AMISOM, to A.U. "partners" to finance a build-up, and to
the U.N.S.C. to "join us."
As a scheduled meeting of the U.N.S.C. on December 17 drew close, A.U.
representative for Somalia, Nicolas Bwakira, traveled to Uganda and Burundi
December 13 to pound out a common position. Burundi's president, Pierre
Nkuruziza reaffirmed support for AMISOM, but Uganda's permanent secretary
for foreign affairs, James Mugume, announced, in a reversal of position,
that Kampala would withdraw its forces if Ethiopia pulled out, adding that
"our troops are not enough" unless the "international community" provides
more forces. Bwakira said that the "responsibility for peace and security"
belonged to the U.N.S.C.
As Bwakira threw the ball to the U.N., Nicole Deaner, spokesperson for
Washington's U.N. mission, dealt the final blow to Ban's plan for peace
enforcers, claiming that in addition to the absence of a lead state, such a
mission would rely on individual states to provide forces and equipment, and
to bear the costs. Deaner concluded: "AMISOM is an effective peacekeeping
force and will provide a good starting place in developing and deploying a
future U.N. mission." Reuters quoted a diplomat at the U.N.S.C.: "No one
wants to go to Somalia; it's too risky.
>From then on, the fate of U.N.S.C. backing for a more robust peacekeeping
mission was sealed, although Washington continued to press for a more modest
force that would build on AMISOM at a meeting of the U.S.-inspired
International Contact Group (I.C.G.), composed of Somalia's "stakeholders,"
ahead of the December 17 U.N.S.C. deliberations. The chair of the I.C.G.,
U.N. special representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, promised
that the group would come up with "positive concrete measures" at its
December 16 meeting.
With Burundi continuing to pledge another battalion to AMISOM and Uganda
announcing that it had not yet decided on withdrawal and was conferring with
"stakeholders," Washington failed to gain sufficient support within the
I.C.G. for a U.N.S.C. resolution that would enhance AMISOM. Rather than
reporting any "positive concrete" action, the I.C.G.'s communique expressed
appreciation for AMISOM and recognized the "urgent need" to provide it with
greater support. In the most telling phrase in the document, the I.C.G.
"recalled" its support for a U.N. stabilization force, adding that its
possibility was discussed, with some participants backing the idea and
others desiring "more discussion."
When the U.N.S.C. met on December 17, it was a foregone conclusion that no
resolution would be presented authorizing an enhanced U.N. force. Briefing
U.N.S.C., Ban reiterated his preference for a multi-national mission with
"full military capabilities" to stop "armed confrontations," but
acknowledged that he had found scant support for the plan. As a fall-back
position, he urged providing AMISOM with "substantial and credible
resources," building up Somali security forces and creating an international
maritime rapid-response force that would undertake operations on the ground
in Somalia when U.N. political, development and humanitarian missions were
threatened, and when AMISOM needed help (the last proposal partaking of
None of Ban's requests was tabled and the explanations for inaction offered
by Council members and stakeholders revealed major differences in the
"international community." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said
that Washington still believed that it was "time to authorize a U.N.
operation" and would continue to press for one that would be approved by the
end of December, adding that she could not "imagine American forces" being
part of it. Italy stated that support for AMISOM was the "best option" and
that perhaps a trust fund could be set up to finance a "phased U.N.
involvement" contingent on "political progress" in Somalia. The Arab League
expressed a preference for a multi-national force. The A.U.'s Lamamra asked
for a U.N. mission to be incorporated in an enhanced AMISOM, and called for
stronger political support for the existing mission. France's U.N.
ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, was blunt, stating that a U.N. mission was
neither "feasible nor desirable," and
that Somalia needed to be "stabilized" before peacekeepers could be
On Dec 20, Nigeria announced its commitment to bolster AMISOM with three
battalions by the end of the first quarter of 2009. According to minister of
foreign affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the contingent would be heavily armed,
able to defend itself and function as "peace enforcers." Maduekwe added that
the battalions would be sent whether or not Great Britain supported the
The addition of the Nigerians would bring AMISOM up to a strength of 6000
and, if Burundi and Uganda came through with previous pledges, AMISOM would
its originally projected level of 8000. Even then, AMISOM commanders have
that they would need 17000 troops just to secure Mogadishu in a
deteriorating situation, and Ban projected an initial force of 10000
"highly-skilled" troopsm to prepare the way for a 22000 strong mission in
The question of adequate force levels, of course, does not even touch the
issues of whether a mandate can be secured for "peace enforcement," what the
results of AMISOM taking sides in violent conflict would be, and whether a
peacekeeping/ stabilization/enforcement mission would fill a purported
security vacuum or - as is more likely - would incite more intense conflict,
not to mention whether donors would come through with the adequate material
support (on December 18, the A.U.'s Bwakira said that (U.S.)$200 million
would be needed to bring AMISOM to the 8000 troop level). Those issues are
beyond the scope of the present analysis, which is devoted simply to
reporting the failure of external actors to serve what they claimed to be
their own interests.
Tragic travesty is the appropriate term for describing the "political
theater" - as the diaspora group Canadian Friends of Somalia calls it - that
characterizes the present behavior of all Somalia's political actors,
external and domestic. They strut around grandiloquently and come up
impotent. Based on their track record, it was to be expected that the
external "stakeholders" would fail to fill the "security gap" that they
claimed to perceive and seemed to fear so much that it was an "urgent need"
to address. The reason to describe their failure in some detail is not to
provide any new insight, but to make it crystal clear that Somalia can
expect nothing from the "international community" but the accustomed malign
neglect accompanied by fits of destructive meddling.
No more than the domestic factions in Somalia are able to evince political
coherence is the divided "international community" capable of coherent
policy and decisive action, even when its members believe - if they actually
do - that disaster is on the doorstep.
No doubt, the external actors will continue to mount their dreary
performance and continue to cripple Somalia thereby.
Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University
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