Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Wednesday, April 06, 2011,Nairobi Plans for the formation of another semi-autonomous region in the anarchic Somalia is an idea whose time has come. The country, which has been without a stable government since the ouster of dictator Siad Barre in 1991, continues to pose several challenges to Kenya and the Horn of Africa.
Talks in Nairobi this week, which brought together elders, religious leaders and activists from Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Gedi regions to consolidate ideas, have come at the right time. The extremist terror group Al Shabaab controls most of central and southern Somalia and most parts of the capital city, Mogadishu, and unless the citizens of Somalia get fed up with the state of insecurity wrought upon them by the militia group and other rag-tag armies controlled by warlords, they will not free themselves from the iron grip of anarchy. They should draw a leaf from the Arab nations that have stood up against and felled authoritarian regimes, reminding those in power that power belongs to the people.
Al Shabaab militia have been a constant source of insecurity along the border with Kenya and beyond as witnessed last year during the bomb attack on innocent people in Uganda. Residents of Liboi town have lived in fear for the last few weeks as battles between forces loyal to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Al Shabaab fighters spilled over into Kenya’s territory.
Somalia needs homegrown solutions to their challenges. The weak TFG has failed to achieve the desired results because it is viewed as a stooge of the international community and has spent most of its time quarrelling in Nairobi and other capital cities. Most Somalis are still suspicious of a central government because of the historical injustices they suffered under the Barre regime, which concentrated all power and resources in Mogadishu and starved the regions.
The semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland stand as beacons of hope for peace in war-weary Somalia. The leaders in those regions took control of their affairs early in the conflict and have managed to maintain peace and stability in the enclaves. There is hope that if these models are replicated throughout the country, then Somalia would enjoy peace, setting the stage for the formation of a central government with devolved power to the regions.
Some people have argued that Kenya should completely keep off the affairs of the war-torn country so as not to risk being drawn into its internal conflicts and be safe from the wrath of Al Shabaab. Some have said Kenya should remain neutral in the conflict.
They are right but only to some extent. Yes, it would be foolhardy for Kenya to send in soldiers to engage Al Shabaab fighters. Kenya has for long played the role of mediator in the conflict and would not like to be seen to be siding with any group. However, Kenya has had to bear the brunt of the spillover of continued fighting in Somalia and it is high time it moves to safeguard its interests. Most of the people fleeing the fighting cross over to Kenya for refuge. Then there is the proliferation of small arms, human trafficking and insecurity.
The insecurity in Somalia has provided a breeding ground for piracy that has greatly pushed up the cost of doing business in East Africa in general and Kenya in particular. Kenya must support initiatives that promise to bring hope and peace in Somalia because it is in its best interest. Those initiatives must be those that offer win-win deals for Kenya and Somalia.
The talks for the southern semi-autonomous regions is a good example. The hard part, however, will begin after the talks are over and efforts to dislodge Al Shabaab militia get under way. The rag-tag army will obviously not give up without a fight.
Kenya would need to beef up security and carry out patrols along the border. Previous assurances by Government on security along the border have not been backed up by putting boots on the ground. If they fail to do that, they would be exposing Kenyans to danger.