The international community can no longer afford to ignore Somalia. States in the grip of prolonged internal conflict tend to turn into safe havens for extremists. Insecurity remains widespread throughout Somalia. Clashes in Mogadishu continue to restrict the international community s ability to fully implement critical humanitarian programs.
We are looking today at a potential axis of crises linking the Horn of Africa with the situation in Yemen, and it may even stretch as far as Afghanistan. With growing military engagement in Afghanistan, an increasing number of terrorists are reported to be moving to Somalia and to Yemen. Moreover, radical Somali groups are believed to have established close links with other groups in Yemen, where about 1 million Somalis live today. In addition, the incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Aden are further fueling the instability in the region. The upshot of all of this is quite simple: the longer we wait, the more interaction we shall be seeing between the situations in Yemen and in Somalia. Thus the situation in Somalia and its repercussions should have been right at the top of the agenda at the London Conference of 27 January.
After 20 years of civil war, Somalia has become the theater of a clash between extremists, war lords and the forces of reconstruction that answer to the authority of President Al-Sharif s legitimate Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Consolidating the TFG and preventing terrorism from gaining the upper hand isn t only in the interest of a majority of the Somali population, it is also a shared interest for the countries in the region and for the international community. Supporting the TFG is the only viable option we have. We all encourage the TFG s commitment to dialogue and to constant outreaching in an effort to achieve reconciliation and secure a lasting peace. However, if reconciliation is to succeed, it has to be inclusive and it has to be based on the Djibouti Agreement.
Moreover, re-establishing an international presence in Mogadishu would mark another significant step toward demonstrating our joint commitment to fostering legitimacy in the country. The Arab League currently has an office in Mogadishu, along with a very few other Arab and African missions or embassies. Last October the Government of Djibouti also decided to reopen its Embassy in Mogadishu, which had been closed since 1991.
The international community has shown no lack of commitment in Somalia over the past few years, but barring a few exceptions, that commitment has been sporadic and insufficient, thus inevitably ineffectual. Much less than half of the aid pledged at the Brussels Conference back in May 2009 has been disbursed. There is an urgent need for a quantum leap in international action. Europe, in conjunction with the United Nations, the African Union and the Arab League, can and must take the initiative to focus international attention on Somalia and to mobilize the resources required to foster the country s stabilization. It is high time for multilateral action to focus on resolving the crisis in Somalia rather than on just managing the crisis. What is needed is joint and integrated action between the different regional and international organizations concerned with Somalia: the African Union, the League of Arab States, the IGAD, the EU, the WFP and the UNDP under the leadership of the UN.
How should we go about this? In two ways:
In the immediate term, security and the humanitarian assistance should be our number one priority. We need to strengthen the Somali security forces, to support AMISOM, and to provide the Somali people with humanitarian assistance. Security and humanitarian assistance are interlinked. It s far more difficult for international agencies to deliver assistance if there is no guarantee of minimum security, as demonstrated by the WFP s (hopefully) temporary decision to suspend its activities in the south of the country.
Italy has already disbursed the 4 million euro that it pledged in Brussels, and it is about to disburse an additional 4 million euro through the Italian Africa Peace Initiative in favor of the Somali security forces and of AMISOM. The Arab League recently contributed with an additional one million dollars allocated directly to the TFG. Moreover, Italy is considering organizing robust training for the Somali police forces in Kenya. We anticipate that other countries will follow suit soon. Time is of the essence.
In the medium term, we need to devise a comprehensive strategy with clear benchmarks and a timeframe for the stabilization of Somalia. A Compact for Somalia could be launched at an international conference to be held this year. The Conference should be prepared very thoroughly, engaging the countries of the region, the African Union, the Arab League and the IGAD. The conference must serve for the international community to send out a strong signal of support to the Somali Government. The Somali Government, for its part, will have to commit to boosting its effort on the domestic reconciliation front, both in order to expand its own support base and to foster the development of properly functioning, transparent, and fully accountable institutions. Local and regional ownership must drive the new compact.
Stability and security are going to depend ultimately on the activity of the TFG, but there is much at stake for the international community to allow things to continue as usual. These developments will not take place automatically. We need to act now!
Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States and Franco Frattini is the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs.