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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

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06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

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04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

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30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

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04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

Read more

14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

Read more
More from this category

04 October 2019  

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa must lead the way

on Palestine

By Ramzy Baroud On 16 September, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful so...

Read more

06 September 2019  

The war ahead: Netanyahu's election gamble will be costly for…

on Israel

By Ramzy Baroud On 1 September, the Lebanese group Hizbullah, struck an Israeli military base near the border town of Avivim. The Lebanese attack came as an inevita...

Read more

04 September 2019  

Budding frenemies: The complicated US-Turkish relationship

on Turkey

When Donald Trump was elected the forty-fifth president of the USA in November 2016, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was among the first world leaders to congratulate ...

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14 August 2019  

Syria's security reshuffle highlights Russia's consolidation of power

on Syria

July began with a major shake-up in the Syrian military and intelligence apparatus. In an attempt to consolidate power after regaining territorial control over most of the country...

Read more

23 June 2019  

Strategic implications of the 'deal of the century' and the…

on Palestine-Israel

Aisling Byrne interviews Abdel Bari Atwan Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ (DoC) - whether in its actual or conceptual form - is ushering in a new strategic era, providing cov...

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14 June 2019  

Postponed: Unveiling of Trump's 'deal of the century' frozen as…

on Palestine-Israel

Touted by its architects as the ‘deal of the century’, US president Donald Trump’s plan for Palestine and Israel has had to again be kept hidden as Israel heads back to elections a...

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23 October 2018  

Jamal Khashoggi, small spark for a large fire

on Saudi Arabia

By Hassan Aourid Until last Saturday, I was hopeful that the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul was not more than a case of c...

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19 October 2018  

Khashoggi murder: Killing dissent even from within

on Saudi Arabia

The gruesome murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was designed to be a clear and firm message for Saudi dissidents, and reflected th...

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08 July 2018  

As Hudaida falls to Saudi-Emirati coalition, peace for Yemen seems…

on Yemen

The recent and ongoing Saudi-Emirati offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hudaida will render UN special envoy Martin Griffiths’s ‘new’ solution to the five-year-long Yemeni crisis...

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18 May 2018  

Beyond Tradition and Modernity: Dilemmas of Transformation in Saudi Arabia

on Saudi Arabia

By Madawi Al-Rasheed Introduction The dominant narrative through which many observers understand Saudi Arabia depicts a progressive and modernist leadership struggling to gra...

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27 April 2018  

Chaotic Yemen: The deconstruction of a failed state and regional…

on Yemen

by Helen Lackner Yemen remains in the grip of its most severe crisis ever: the civil war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abd Rabbuh ...

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12 December 2017  

How the Saudis Escalated Yemen Struggle Beyond All Control

on Yemen

By Justin Podur Yemen is a small, poor country in a region empires have plundered for centuries. This civil war is a local struggle that has been escalated out of control by the a...

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14 September 2019  

Tunisia’s presidential elections: A fragmented field

on Tunisia

  By Larbi Sadiki The Tunisian presidential race is heating up. With several front-runners and twenty-six candidates, the upcoming early elections on 15 September reflects a...

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30 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts perpetuated by post-colonial vest...

Read more

30 July 2019  

The December 2018 revolution and Sudanese professionals in the diaspora

on Sudan

WE LEFT SUDAN In drovesIn the late 80’s and 90’sIndeed, my generation of educated Sudanese professionals are scattered around the globe(Out of 200 medical graduates from Khartoum ...

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29 July 2019  

Geopolitics of Sudan Revolution - Presentation to AMEC

on Sudan

By Zeenat Adam 17 July 2019 Sudan lies in the hotbed of the Horn of Africa, a region that has been plagued by decades of instability and ruin as a result of intense conflicts per...

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17 April 2019  

Bashir falls but the security apparatus maintains control

on Sudan

Since the military ouster of Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir, early on Thursday, 11 April, after three months of protests, different military factions have been jos...

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16 April 2019  

Haftar's march on Tripoli

on Libya

Khalifa Haftar’s 4 April announcement declaring his march on Tripoli, and the subsequent attack on the Libyan capital by his forces, threaten to gravely impact the a...

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12 October 2018  

Ethiopia, Eritrea: An unlikely peace deal in a fractious region

on Ethiopia

The recent peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, signed 16 September 2018, is set to have lasting consequences for both countries and for the Horn of Africa ...

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06 April 2017  

Ensuring Somalia remains in conflict: Trump’s expanded ‘war on terror’

on Somalia

By Afro-Middle East Centre The 29 March decision by the administration of US president Donald Trump declaring Somalia an ‘area of active hostility’ will likely ensure an escalatio...

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10 October 2016  

South Sudan: Beyond the logjam of UNSC Resolution 2304

on South Sudan

By Majak D’Agoôt and Remember Miamingi No country is entirely self-contained or lacking in interdependencies. These interlocking interests form the critical part of any country’s ...

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28 April 2015  

Nigeria’s elections and future challenges

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The election of General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president will see a renewed focus by the government on domestic challenges posed by endemic...

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26 September 2013  

Kenyan hostage crisis: The desperation of al-Shabab

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle East Centre The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the...

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23 January 2013  

French military intervention will add to Mali’s problems

on Sub-Saharan Africa

By Afro-Middle east Centre   The north of Africa was plunged into yet another international conflict with France’s invasion of Mali on Friday, 11 January. Without im...

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23 April 2019  

India in Kashmir: Risking peace as an antidote to war

on South Asia

By Ranjan Solomon On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber ...

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28 August 2015  

Does Pakistan’s refusal to join Saudi Arabia in Yemen indicate…

on Pakistan

By Afro-Middle East Centre Allegedly, the current Saudi-led onslaught on Yemen has already caused destruction that resembles the destruction wrought in Syria over the la...

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31 March 2012  

The feasibility of a continued United States presence in Afghanistan

on South Asia

By Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn Recent events in Afghanistan have fuelled speculation over the ability of international forces to continue their presence in the coun...

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28 February 2012  

Dangerous uncertainty in Pakistan

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmed With relations between Pakistan's civilian government and military incredibly tense, speculation is rife in the Pakistani and international media of a looming m...

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30 May 2011  

Pakistan-USA relations in the post-Usama era

on South Asia

By Junaid S. Ahmad The assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US Special Forces was supposed to have been a landmark triumph that would bring peace and stability to the r...

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13 December 2010  

Kashmir and Obama's Indian appeasement

on South Asia

By Mohammad Abdullah Gul Obama's recent jive with school children in Delhi symbolises the nature of the new relationship that is emerging between India and the United States of Am...

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26 April 2017  

IS reorganising to face new challenges

on Political Islam

Reports in January 2017 that the leader of the Islamic State group (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed, reports that he had been captured by Russian troops in Syria, and th...

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07 March 2017  

IS in Africa: Containment and fragmentation

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre With the Islamic State group (IS) losing territory in Syria and Iraq, many believe that the group will use the territory it controls in Africa as a fall...

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14 May 2016  

The Paradox of Survival and Expansion: How the Islamic State…

on Political Islam

Omar Ashour This paper examines the reasons for the military steadfastness of the Islamic State group (IS) in the face of local and international forces that are larger in numbers...

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19 December 2015  

ISIS in Africa: Reality far different from IS propaganda

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre The revelation that the alleged mastermind of the 13 November Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) was of Moroccan descent, the tur...

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20 July 2015  

Remaining and expanding: Measuring the Islamic State group’s success in…

on Political Islam

By Afro-Middle East Centre Since its declaration of a ‘caliphate’ on 29 June 2014, the Islamic State group (IS), the brutal successor to al-Qa'ida, has gone from stren...

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31 January 2012  

The rise of 'Ikhwanophobia': Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood

on Political Islam

By Dr. Mohsen Saleh Introduction Fear of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwanal-Muslimoon), the leading Islamist movement, has gained unprecedented international prominence since the b...

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18 February 2018  

Africa and the problem of foreign military bases

on 'War on terror'

At the establishment of the African Union (AU) in May 2001, discourses about human security and counter terrorism were ubiquitous both globally and on the continent. In Africa, the...

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21 November 2015  

The Paris attacks: Aftermath and the Islamic State group’s future

on 'War on terror'

By Afro-Middle East Centre The terror unleashed on Paris streets on 13 November reverberated throughout the world. From the G20 summit in Antalya to social media debates about how...

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28 May 2010  

Al-Qaeda in the New National Security Strategy

on 'War on terror'

By Mark Lynch The Obama administration's new National Security Strategy has been released today. It goes a long way towards providing a coherent framework for American foreign pol...

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16 February 2010  

Pakistan’s attitude towards Obama’s plan to negotiate with the Taliban

on 'War on terror'

By Dr. Ijaz Shafi Gilani U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan has generally been welcomed in Pakistan. It is being seen as a vindication...

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07 February 2010  

Mission Absolute: American hegemony in space

on 'War on terror'

By Sourav Roy Come April 2010, officials from the sleepy Polish municipality of Morag will be gearing up for perhaps their most critical assignment in the new decade. Their job wi...

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The core of the Somali crisis, and the challenges of reconciliation

By AlJazeera Centre for Studies

Unlike the Lebanese crisis, or that of Kosovo, the Somali crisis is characterised by ongoing self-igniting and self-sustaining violence. The opposing forces renew, multiply, and feed the conflict in a way that makes it difficult to reach any solution. Usually, exhausted antagonistic forces tend to enter into truces and seek solutions, and, when that happens, external allies find it possible to pressurise these forces. In the Somali conflict, however, this trend will soon be hampered by the emergence of new opposition forces working to remove the previous ones and control the latter's positions. Often, these new and rising forces are not willing to find solutions, and do not seek negotiated settlements. By the time they become exhausted and seek a solution, another force dominates and removes them, as they did to their predecessors. Thus, the cycle of violence and counter-violence continues; some forces fade away and others emerge. This equation of the strengths and weaknesses of Somalia is called 'Somaliazation'.

 

This phenomenon is also evident in the reconciliation conferences. Emerging powers often find it opportune to announce themselves at these conferences. Usually, their pledge to adopt force is their declaration, or statement of succession, to their waning predecessors. This explains the conviction of the warlords to accept the negotiation and the trend towards reconciliation in Kenya in 2005. They agreed to form a central government, led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Ahmed replaced the incumbent president, Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, after his failure when four warlords declined to nominate him at the Arta meeting in 2000. Later, during the first parliamentary meeting inside Somalia, Ahmed was 'elected'. However, things did not continue as planned, and the Islamic courts emerged to renew the conflict with a new impetus and a new momentum.

Initially, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) refused to negotiate, especially after their bitter experience with Ethiopian forces who had intervened after a request from Ahmed. However, the ICU later moved towards reconciliation, and was in turn opposed by the 'Movement of Young Mujahideen', which had originally been part of the ICU. The ICU subsequently divided into two: the 'Djibouti wing' (which formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia) and the 'Asmara wing'. The Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia also split, and the reconciliation project thus put an end to the ICU, and emphasised the phenomenon of Somaliazation.

The Somali crisis is also characterised by the close interaction between internal and external factors. The internal factor relates to the battle for power between the different factions. The conflict could take a tribal character, or may be masked by an ideological gloss – whether transparent or opaque. The internal factor competes for impact with the external factor. The latter contributed to ensuring that the Somali crisis became, over time, part of the regional conflict between states in the region. Even Ethiopia, through its involvement in Somalia, seemed as if it were in conflict with Eritrea on the one hand and with Egypt on the other.

 

Somaliazation and neighbouring countries

The external factor, represented by the role of neighbouring states, occurs sometimes through hidden and sometimes through open intervention. These interventions are aimed at deepening Somalia's crisis, causing the country to become preoccupied with internal problems, thus enhancing the phenomenon of Somaliazation. In such a situation, Somalis are unable to think about restoring their historical borders. Somalia's neighbours are concerned with a vigilant sense of nationalism or religion that they believe could lead to Somalia opening a front with Ethiopia and Kenya, to complete the 'great Somali homeland', symbolised by the five-pointed star in the Somali flag. These states are concerned that Somalis seek to liberate Somali regions in neighbouring countries to create a Somalia beyond the borders of the state announced on independence in 1960.

Ethiopia and Kenya were founded at the expense of the unity of Somalia, with Ethiopia taking the Ogaden region, which now represents its fifth region. Kenya took control of the territory of what is known as 'the northern border', home to around two million Somalis. Many Somalis see the roots of the Somali crisis in the defeat of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1978. Siad Barre, in the second war against Ethiopia, tried to restore the Ogaden region to Somalia. The countdown to Barre's rule thus began, assisted particularly by Ethiopia. The latter armed and trained different tribal groups to overthrow the government, and supported many of the belligerent movements, such as those established in the north, including the Somali National Movement founded by the Isaaq clan in 1980, the Somali National Front formed after Siad Barre's ousting, and the United Somali Congress (USC), composed primarily of the Hawiye clan in 1989. Also in 1989, an insurgency occurred in the southern regions, led by the Herty tribe, which was supported both by Kenya and Ethiopia.

All this resulted in continuous conflict between Somalia and her neighbours – mainly Ethiopia and Kenya, whose policies aimed to dismantle Somali unity, encourage insurgency against the Barre regime, and flood the country with arms. This instability, which is still prevalent, is a result of these countries following a strategy of distracting Somalis with endless conflicts, with yet another conflict beginning when the previous one had barely ended.

Djibouti, however, distinguished itself from Ethiopia and Kenya by repeatedly seeking to restore stability to Somalia in order to restore the regional balance with its neighbour Ethiopia. Firstly, Djibouti attempted to prevent Ethiopia's dominance in the region because of religious, tribal and cultural ties connecting Djibouti and Somalia. The Al-Issa tribe, which constitutes the majority population in Djibouti and controls the affairs of state, originates in Somalia and is, in fact, a Somali clan. The Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict is also influential in the Somali crisis. Asmara is allied to the opponents of Addis Ababa and those standing in the way of Ethiopia's policies in the region. Since Ethiopia is considered an ally of the new transitional government, Asmara declared its hostility to the government, and works to abort the task of reconciliation which the government says it is seeking. Asmara also embraces and fosters the chief opponents of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, led by the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia. This group adopted the Asmara agenda and opposes the 2008 Djibouti Agreement.

It also appears that some major powers, particularly the United States, a prominent international player in Somalia, have strengthened the policies of neighbouring states. Washington, worried by the growing influence of Islamic groups such as Al-Shabab and Hizb al-Islam, coordinates its efforts with Ethiopia. Since the latter has similar concerns to the US, the policies of the two countries converged and turned Somalia into a theatre of real and perceived US war against al-Qaeda and associated groups. This automatically extends the life of the Somali crisis, and extends the influence of Ethiopia.

 

The reconciliation project

In Somalia, any effort at reconciliation or the restoration of stability rarely moves one step forward before it falls back many steps.Affected by the positions of the various role-players and their desire to procure as much foreign support as possible, these factions try to acquire gains that reflect considerable external interest. Worse still, unexpected events, such as the emergence and rise of radical Islamic parties, compound the complexity of the situation, linking it to external agendas. Despite this, the benefits gained from the international community are limited. This is particularly so with the amount of time, funds and effort spent, some of which were dedicated to the organisation and management of more than twenty conferences or initiatives hosted by many African and Arab countries. The first of these efforts was the 1991 initiative sponsored by Djibouti. It resulted in the formation of an interim parliament of 123 members, its recommendation being to nominate Ali Mahdi Muhammad as president, and to choose a prime minister from the north. The most recent effort was the Arta Conference in Djibouti, in 2000.

The Arta Conference was organised under the auspices of the United Nations and other international organisations such as the European Union and the Arab League, and represented a landmark in the history of Somali reconciliation. It was concluded by choosing a transitional national council of 245, with women and minorities being represented. At this conference, the Presidential Council system was abandoned, Abdiqasim Salad Hassan was elected President of Somalia, and he formed the first government after the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991.

Establishing a new system of government in Somalia, whatever its effectiveness, the Arta Conference paved the way for further reconciliation efforts. On 26 October 2008, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (the Djibouti wing), joined the path of political settlement through an agreement signed with the interim government in Djibouti. The agreement called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, former president of the Islamic Courts Union, was elected President of the transitional government on 31 January 2009.

A recent entrant into the reconciliation project was the Sufi group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a, which opposes Al-Shabab and Hizb al-Islam, and condemned them for their desecration of the tombs of Somali Sufi leaders. In March 2010, a power-sharing deal was agreed upon, and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a granted five cabinet portfolios, diplomatic postings and senior roles in the police and intelligence services.

The reconciliation project seems to be moving slowly and with very little vigour. With several obstacles confronting it, it is difficult to imagine the launch of any new initiative within this framework. The following are some considerations and priorities for protecting and building on the reconciliation project.

  1. First, Al-Shabab and Hizb al-Islam control more than two-thirds of the country. Unless the transitional government actually seizes control on the ground and forces the other side to listen, the chances of finding a solution are unlikely. However, the almost unanimous international community support for the government, and the international isolation of its opponents, may be in its favour in the medium and long terms. This is enhanced by international support for the government to launch an all-out war against its opponents, which will be couched within the framework of its commitment to achieving stability and security – especially after the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a joined it. The latter controls areas in central Somalia, and has many former army generals and former warlords within its ranks.

  2. Second, the achievements from the project of re-building state institutions, especially parliament, must be maintained. The parliament has, thus far, elected four presidents, and efforts should be made to prevent its disintegration or the exit of forces that joined the reconciliation project. There is also the issue of achieving security, stability and preserving the ability of state institutions to persist and thrive. The rapid rebuilding of the security services is a major internal challenge, and is necessary to enable the geographical extension of the government's influence, and to protect the reconciliation project.

  3. Third, to break the cycle of Somaliazation. This will not come easily and will only be achieved in stages. This effort will need the conviction or acceptance of local parties when they are at the height of their power – not only when they are weak. It also requires commitment by neighbouring states, willingly or by coercion, to refrain from feeding and reigniting the cycle. This can be accomplished by close monitoring, and considering the interests of major countries in the region.

  4. Fourth, Somalia's neighbours countries should accept its neutrality with regards to their disputes. The problems between both Ethiopia and Eritrea, on the one hand, and between Ethiopia and Egypt, on the other, hinder the launch of any reconciliation initiative. These conflicts directly and negatively affect reconciliation efforts in Somalia. The interests of these states are in contradiction, and they impede each other's efforts as a means of settling scores. An example of this is the refusal by Ethiopia and Kenya to involve Al-Shabab and Hizb al-Islam by claiming that such a reconciliatory step would threaten their national interests.

  5. Fifth, to reduce intervention by the major global powers in the internal affairs of Somalia, particularly since the anti-government parties that refuse reconciliation view the US as imposing some sort of 'trusteeship' on the Somali government, and manipulating it in fighting its opponents.

 

**This article is published as part of a partnership agreement between the Afro-Middle East Centre and the Doha-based AlJazeera Centre for Studies.

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