Friday, December 29, 2006

US: East African peacekeepers for Somalia

Here's a plan:
The United States said Thursday it continues to support a U.N. plan for an East African peacekeeping force for Somalia that would obviate the need for intervention by that country's neighbors. The U.N. plan, approved early this month, has stalled amid mounting violence in Somalia. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Efforts to implement the U.N. plan have bogged down amid the latest violence including Ethiopia's large-scale intervention.

However in a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said implementation of Security Council resolution 1725 remains an administration priority.

He said U.S. diplomats are in touch with key parties including the African Union, the Arab League, Kenya, and with Uganda, which has offered to provide the core of the regional force.

He said if the peacekeeping mission, to be assembled by the East African regional grouping IGAD, is deployed, Ethiopia and other outside parties could "reassess" their involvement.

"The idea, very specifically, in setting up this force is that it would not involve the immediate neighbors of Somalia," Casey said. "I think at this point we want to get that [force] to be stood up and established. And that will give everyone else an opportunity to then reassess their positions. But part of the reasoning behind the creation of that force, and part of the reasoning for not including Ethiopia's neighbors in its composition, was to make sure that none of the different players involved inside Somalia itself would see this as something that might potentially provide a conflict of interest for any of the parties that would be involved in the force."
This approach might take care of some of the concerns expressed in this piece:
The quick victory over the Islamists, analysts warn, leaves a dangerous vacuum in a country that has only recently seen calm. Without a political strategy for winning the peace, they say, Somalia risks becoming a quagmire that sucks in neighboring countries. If the Ethiopians keep their word and withdraw quickly, radical elements within the courts - such as the young fighters of the Shabbab, led by Afghanistan-trained Aden Hashi Ayro - might run a guerrilla campaign, drawing in foreign fighters.

"The risks are that if Ethiopia and Somalia are unable to politically consolidate their military victory, then we are back at square one with the conditions that gave rise to the courts in the first place," says Matt Bryden, a consultant to the International Crisis Group.
And something needs to be done to address this:
Convoys of Islamists' pickups mounted with antiaircraft guns or heavy machine guns were seen leaving the city on Wednesday night and heading towards Kismayo, an Indian Ocean port still held by the Union of Islamic Courts.
Humanitarian aid is being restarted:
Shortly after wresting control of Somalia's capital from Islamic militants, the U.N.-backed transitional government Thursday approved the immediate resumption of humanitarian flights.
Their airspace has been declared open, which means that we and others can fly in," said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, known as OCHA.

"The U.N. will first do a security assessment of the situation, which is standard procedure," she said. "Once we've done that _ and we don't yet know when that will be _ we will resume our flights if it's safe enough to do so."

The U.N. plan is to resume cargo and passenger flights to the southern port of Kismayo to reach flood-affected areas, and to other locations to quickly reach thousands displaced by the fighting, OCHA said.
Wait, Kismayo? Now where has that port's name popped up? Oh, yeah, that's where the UIC technicals were reportedly headed...

UN OCHA office news here:
OCHA also stated that with transport routes in southern Somalia having been cut by conflict and the recent floods, the prices for food and other commodities had risen in Bay region.

Thursday's clashes in Mogadishu were sparked by the breakdown of law and order after the UIC left on Wednesday.

According to an unnamed local journalist, the absence of militias on the streets, and the improving security situation, were a result of the presence of TFG and Ethiopian forces. "The militias are not sure what to expect so they are lying low until things become clearer," he said.

The government said it was continuing with its efforts to assert its authority and take full control of the city. "The situation is calm this morning. It is much better than yesterday [Thursday]," Abdirahman Dinari, government spokesman, told IRIN on Friday.

He said government security forces were moving into different parts of the city and "by this afternoon they should have the entire city under control".
UPDATE: Bill Rogio has more:
Ali Mohamad Gedi, the Prime Minister of Somalia, spoke 20 miles south of the capital, and declared there would be months of martial law in Somalia, secured with the help of the Ethiopians. “This country has experienced anarchy and in order to restore security we need a strong hand, especially with freelance militias... No clan will be allowed to possess weapons of any kind. We will deal with people who claim they seized grounds according to the government laws... The capital will be secured by our good friends, the Ethiopian troops and the Somali forces.” Gedi later entered Mogadishu in an armored column.

Shabelle reports Ethiopian Prime Minister Males Zenawi said his country's troops will withdraw "when the [Somali] government becomes able to handle its security and problems in the country." The hunt for Islamic Courts leaders and al-Qaeda operatives remains a major priority. “We are working with the international community that the radicals should not escape by sea or land”, said Zenawi.

Mohamed Dhere, a warlord that controlled the Middle Shabelle region, has indicated low level Islamic Courts fighters would be pardoned. "Only the members of the Shura Council of the courts will be brought to justice. Like Mohamed, government spokesman, Abdirahman Dinari, Prime Minister Ali Gedi and Colonel Abdi Qaybdid who controls lower Mudug and Galgudug provinces, all said they are not interested in revenge... The only wanted people are members of courts' ruling congress and foreign fighters," Somalinet reports.

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