SUNDAY EDITORIAL | Somalia does not need another century of enmity with its Ethiopian neighbors, but Ethiopian troops must withdraw.
The numbers say it all: by the end of 2008, the United Nations estimates that 3.5 million people in Somalia will be in need of food assistance. This estimate is according to the UN's World Food Program, whose country director for Somalia, Mr. Peter Goossens, told reporters in London on July 18 that parts of Somalia "could be in the
grips of disaster similar to the 1992-1993 famine" if sufficient humanitarian assistance is not delivered in the coming months.
There is no question that Somalia, in the conflict-ridden Horn of Africa region, is now facing what many have termed "the worst humanitarian crisis" on the entire continent. This miserable milestone has been reached due to a series of factors, one after the other, that have severely aggravated living conditions in Somalia and led to the massive upheaval of civilian populations, especially from the national capital Mogadishu. By any measure, the Ethiopian occupation – ostensibly at the behest of the UN-recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia – has contributed to the mass exodus of civilians from Mogadishu and other centers of conflict, while global food prices have had a negative impact on the local economy and sparked protests.
Sadly, this is the current state of affairs in Somalia, where a relentless anti-Ethiopia insurgency has killed upwards of 8,500 people since early 2007, according to local human rights groups. However, an opportunity to stop the insurgency presented itself when, on June 9th, an Islamist-dominated opposition group known as the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) inked a peace pact with interim Somali Prime Minister Nur "Adde" Hassan Hussein. The Djibouti Peace Accord, as it were, gave the Islamists a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia – a key demand for participation at the UN-brokered peace talks. A major issue remains the possibility of replacing the withdrawing Ethiopian force with a UN peacekeeping mission, the government's only security guarantee under the peace deal.
The year 2009 will mark a historic crossroads for this war-ravaged country of nomads. If the Ethiopian-backed interim government and its Islamist rivals effectively implement a nation-wide ceasefire – as required under the agreement – then the need for the proposed UN peacekeeping force is greatly diminished, and daily violence is replaced by genuine cooperation among the Somali players. Already, Prime Minister Nur Adde has reiterated his noble position that, for the sake of peace, he is
willing to resign'. For the sake of peace, are the Islamists willing to put down their guns and compete at national elections next year?
Certainly, this week's announcement that Islamist factions have agreed to '
the Djibouti Peace Accord is a welcome sign that even some of the hardliners are beginning to accept the prospects of peace. Somalia does not need another century of enmity with its Ethiopian neighbors, but Ethiopian troops must withdraw so under-the-tree reconciliation can once again begin to heal a wounded nation.
Somalia needs a chance at lasting peace. This is a country that cannot afford another decade of conflict, with foreign powers practicing their long-discredited "war on terror" policies that are highly dependent on militarism, i.e. the unsuccessful occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
he children of Somalia have not had proper schooling over the past two decades of conflict; in fact, many of today's youth who have only 'heard of' a government are eagerly joining al Shabaab's militant ideology.
The Djibouti Peace Accord is a chance for Somali leaders to save their troubled homeland from chaos and improve the living standard for the country's suffering masses. It is a genuine opportunity to end years of conflict and a historic opportunity to begin of a new era of governance, justice and economic development for Somalia's future generations.
Garowe Online Editorial,