Friday, July 21, 2006

Leave the Somalis alone

June 17 2006

NOTWITHSTANDING all the reservations that are coupled with any group reported to be religiously overzealous, the consolidation of territorial control of Somalia by an Islamist group could be the next-to-best thing that could have happened to the Horn of Africa country in more than 15 years.
For the first time since 1991, a single group has gained control of most the country, with warlords supposedly backed by the US having fled for their life after several weeks of fighting that killed more tha 350. Two of the warlords are said to have been picked up by a waiting US military ship, and this strengthens the claim by the victorious Union of Islamic Courts that their groups were funded and supported by Washington.
Be that as it may, the Islamist forces seem to be proceeding with determination to restore calm and order to the country for the first time after the ouster of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.
Lawlessness is the worst curse that Somalia is going through.
The country does have an interim government, which had to position itself in the town of Baidoa, some 150 kilometres from the capital Mogadishu, in view of its lack of muscle power to enforce its decisions.
Although the Union of Islamist Courts — which transcends tribalism and clan politics, the root cause for instability in the country — has imposed Islamic Sharia law in areas that fell into its control, it has said that it does not want to set up a government of its own and is open to work out an alliance with the UN-supported interim government.
They have declared that they are capable of securing Mogadishu to host the government but opposes its plan to deploy foreign peacekeepers in the country. They have called on the United Nations and African Union to let Somalis settle the situation themselves.
An indication of the group's confidence came in the form of an invitation to foreign journalists to visit Mogadishu for the first time since the Islamists trounced the so-called secular warlords.
The Islamists have also reached out to the diplomatic community after taking control in an obvious bid to allay fears that they harbour extremists — a charge levelled by the US administration.
They have announced plans to set up a police force, an authority to demobilise militias and a new administration "effective and accountable to its people."
These are positive indications of a turnaround in the country regardless of whatever ideology the Islamists profess.
The people of Somalia have paid a high price for their tribal politics which, more often than not, turns violent at the proverbial drop of a hat. Hopefully, the ascendence of the Islamists will herald an end to their suffering. In the meantime, foreign powers with their own agenda in the country should stay out and let the Somalis handle their affairs by themselves.