Published on HPR online, by JOEY MICHALAKES, November 16, 2007.
Since the overthrow of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has experienced a nearly uninterrupted state of armed conflict between militias loyal to a rival local warlords. After fourteen failed attempts at establishing a unified, sovereign national government, Somalia’s reputation as a failed state also makes it a highly desirable haven for foreign terrorists. Acutely aware of this disturbing possibility, the United States has made the continued pursuit of al-Qaeda operatives the centerpiece of its foreign policy in the region.
Yet Somalia deserves attention for humanitarian as well as strategic reasons. Its people suffer through both constant warfare and an absence of domestic institutions capable of providing even the most basic levels of stability, infrastructure, or life necessities. With the international community increasingly concerned about Somalia’s humanitarian plight as well as its geopolitical significance, reaching a workable, nationwide political solution has become a key aim for all actors involved …
… The role that remnants of the ICU may play in this process is unclear, but even the United States has left the door open for the inclusion of certain opposition elements, provided they renounce violence. As Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs James Swan remarked publicly this past September: While there are genuine opposition voices that should be brought into the political process, we must emphasize that violence is not acceptable as a means of achieving political objectives. Indeed, without an end to violence, achieving the ambitious political and economic goals laid out by the UN and by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Charter would likely prove impossible. Ultimately, the hope is that a more stable political environment will help bring closure Somalia’s seemingly intractable national crisis. (full text).