Connect to share and comment

Is there a solution for Somalia?

A Q&A on the situation in Somalia with the International Crisis Group's Rashid Abdi.

GP: What steps can and should be taken to resolve the crisis?

RA: The first step needed is for President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to prioritize the search for a political settlement with the armed insurgents. Without an accord with the opposition, Sharif’s prospects of creating a functioning government is nil.

Sharif has been trying to do just that in the last one month, but there are many obstacles in his path, principally the deep mistrust in his government felt by former comrades.

Sharif is using intermediaries — clerics, business leaders and clan elders — to rebuild the required trust, without which a political accord will be impossible. The international community must support these initiatives and step up its financial help to enable this government to become qualitatively different from the past failed transitional governments.

GP: How might Somalia break out of this terrible cycle of violence?

RA: The key to ending this cycle is the establishment of an all-inclusive peace and reconciliation process which could lead to the creation of genuinely popular, credible and legitimate government.

Other contentious issues such as shariah, federalism, clan and identity politics can only be tackled effectively once a consensual style of politics — if not democracy — replaces the current politics of clan quotas, ideological polarization, Islamism.

GP: Why should foreign powers, such as the U.S., care about what is happening in Somalia and are they doing enough to help resolve the problems there?

RA: The longer Somalia is left on its own the more Somalia’s crisis becomes globalized.

The pace of radicalization and youth alienation has grown to frightening proportions in the last two years in particular. Acts of terrorism are increasing and the fear is that the country is now
becoming a breeding ground for the pernicious “culture of martyrdom” and jihadism.

Even more troubling, the crisis in Somalia is radicalizing Somalis in the diaspora and this could create friction between the more than a million Somalis in the diaspora and their host communities.

As the problem of piracy has recently highlighted, the country is also vulnerable to becoming a regional centre for organized crime.

GP: How worrying and real is the threat of terrorist attacks launched from Somalia?

RA: The terrorism threat from Somalia is real. A tiny core of extremist and militant jihadists may harbour ambitions to “export” their violent brand of Islam throughout the region. These jihadists have been indoctrinating Somali youngsters. It is troubling to imagine what these brainwashed youth can do.

ICG report ‘Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State’ was published in December 2008.

More GlobalPost dispatches on Africa:

Warrant of arrest for Sudan's Bashir should make dictators wary  

 A step in the right direction for eastern Congo?


View Larger Map