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Somalia's Warlord President Belongs In A Courtroom At The Hague Not At UN Security Council 

Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 20 April 2008:  An invitation from South Africa, the holder of the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), brings Mr. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, to New York this week. Ostensibly, his visit is part of an effort aimed at convincing the UNSC to send peacekeeping troops to Somalia. The country, which is currently under an illegal occupation by neighboring Ethiopia, is in the abyss of an acute humanitarian suffering. Aid and humanitarian agencies are unanimous in their designation of Somalia as the worst crisis on earth today. Mr. Yusuf’s stated goal of the visit is to urge the UNSC to send a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force to help his teetering government.  

A former military Colonel in the National Somali Army, Mr. Yusuf has been on the Somali political scene for nearly five decades. His arrival in Mogadishu in January, 2007, as the unpopular President of an even less popular, some would even say imposed, government, ended a decades-long absence from the capital. It also marked the invasion and the start of an Ethiopian occupation of Somalia that is now in its second year. Caught between the indiscriminate use of force by Ethiopian occupation forces and a growing insurgency opposed to their presence, over 60% of Mogadishu’s residents of one million have been displaced and are now living in the “worst humanitarian crisis in Africa”, according to the UN Special Representative to Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. 

The head of an unelected government, Mr. Yusuf arrives in New York with a legitimacy bestowed upon him by Ethiopian military might, financing by the West and indifference by the rest of the world. This feigned legitimacy, however, pales in comparison to the contempt and distrust with which Mr. Yusuf and his government are viewed by Somalis. Any benefit of the doubt Mr. Yusuf and his TFG may have hoped to garner has dissipated with the blanket shelling of residential neighborhoods in Mogadishu by Ethiopian forces. Shelling to which Mr. Yusuf arrogantly, and accurately, predicted there will be more of in his April 10th, 2007 interview on Voice of America Radio. Whether Mr. Yusuf is aware of the international laws governing war crimes and violations of human rights is unclear, but what is clear is that Mr. Yusuf and his ineffective government brazenly continue the culture of impunity that has plagued Somalia for the past 17 years. This culture which continues to impede any progress towards serious and long lasting efforts towards peace has warlords, like Mr. Yusuf and others, as its protagonists.  

Since arriving at the UN, the divisive Mr. Yusuf wasted little time before introducing new obstacles to the mediation efforts recommended by the very UN whose assistance he seeks to solicit. In a BBC Radio interview on April 15, 2008, Mr. Yusuf insisted that demands made by the opposition for withdrawal of Ethiopian forces were not part of any negotiations. He also insisted that senior government positions such as the President, Speaker of the Parliament and Prime Minister were also not negotiable. When asked in the same interview what else could be the basis of reconciliation and negotiation, Mr. Yusuf had no response. These statements were made intentionally; it seems, to disrupt the peace talks currently being arranged by the UN special envoy to Somalia. 

In describing the purpose of Mr. Yusuf’s visit this week, it is instructive to quote a recent report released by Refugees International (RI) entitled “Somalia: Proceed with Caution.” In this report, RI “urges members of the UN Security Council to cautiously approach the authorization of a UN peacekeeping operation, and to seriously consider the UN’s own political and financial capacities.” RI further warns that “before designing and authorizing any UN force, the Security Council should assess the scope and complexity of the conflict in Somalia, the resources that will be necessary, and the ability to provide it with the political, material and human resources that it needs to succeed. A Security Council mandate that amounts to no more than a symbolic gesture would be one more betrayal in two decades of missed opportunities and broken promises.”  

In the spirit of Refugee International’s recent report, the Somali Diaspora Network warns against providing what may inadvertently amount to a replacement military force to keep Mr. Yusuf’s weak and unpopular government from collapsing when the over-stretched Ethiopian occupation troops eventually find it too costly to stay. Furthermore, and as Refugee International has succinctly indicated, “insecurity will continue to challenge the delivery of aid; the UN in particular should take a hard look at its mode of operation.” RI further decried the “UN’s political role in Somalia” and how it “has hampered [its] reputation as an impartial humanitarian actor.” RI concluded its report by noting how the “UN’s inability to dissociate politics and aid [in Somalia] presents the greatest obstacle.”  

And while Somalia is in the worst shape it has ever been, continuing to legitimize and provide an international platform for failed leaders such as Mr. Yusuf only serves to further erode the Somali people’s trust in the United Nations while also distancing any hope of recovery for this long battered nation. In the eyes of the Somali people, and not unlike Charles Taylor of Liberia, Mr. Yusuf belongs in a court room in The Hague rather than the halls of the UN in New York. It devalues the prestige and integrity of the Security Council to host such a man.  

To ensure the success of any efforts undertaken by the UN to help Somalia, the Somali Diaspora Network recommends that: 

  • The UN withdraws its support from the TFG as it exists today. Comprehensive reconciliation is necessary and an inclusive government must be in place before the UN provides any support. Any assistance to the current TFG amounts to supporting the human rights violations visited upon the Somali people.
  • War crimes investigations commence immediately to enable reconciliation and discourage those who may not be interested in achieving peace.
  • The UN condemns and investigates the Ethiopian occupation and the violation of UNSC resolution 1725 (2006).

ABOUT SOMALI DIASPORA NETWORK (SDN) – SDN is a grass-roots organization committed to advocate on critical policy matters pertaining to Somali-American interest and issues of concern through communication and information sharing, raising public awareness, and educating the public and government officials. SDN is a member of Somali Cause. Somali Cause is an umbrella of Somali organizations united to: (a) Work to end the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia and its replacement with Muslim & non-frontline troops with a clear mandate, (b) Educate the world about the plight of the Somali people, (c) Provide humanitarian assistance to the suffering people of Somalia, (d) Provide an alternative to the clan and regional based politics, and (e) Safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.

Somali Diaspora Network (SDN)

contact@somalidiaspora.org

http://www.somalidiaspora.org  

 

Faafin: SomaliTalk.com | April 22, 2008


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