Just the other day, I realized that there was a feeble response to my teasing offer of a return ticket to Mogadishu, the steamingly hot Somalian capital. Who would want to go to hell’s doorstep, one man fired back.
It all shows how Somalia is rated in the continent and how much people are willing to let the country go its own way until its leaders decide that it is usually the last straw that would break the camel’s back.
The past days have been bad readings on the barometer with the contesting partners fighting to regain territorial losses all be it in the name of who rules a tangled state. Even though it was precisely between the supporters of the current government of President Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed and the Islamist al-shabab group, the extension to it all is that the 4,000 African Union peace keepers presently in the country are often taken pot shot at.
It’s like in the days of segregation in the southern towns of the United States when white policemen went out in the evenings saying:’ I am going black hunting,’ one Somalian living in Canada recalled. Dealing with Somalia however remains a risky business.
Even the UN Security Council members admit that it is unsafe to post UN troops in the semi-desert country now and in the foreseeable future until all sides get their acts together and clearly say what they want their country to be.
In the African setting and precisely within the African Union parameter, nations that had eagerly supported the quest to send peace-keeping troops are now having a rethink about the security and safety of the boys.
The message being touted in Kenya for instance is: let the boys stay put, a rewritten version of the message put out by American protesters during the days of the Vietnam waujnr, “bring the boys home”.
The upsurge in the fighting, considered by military strategists as being the most serious since the country toppled over the cliff, should make any thought of sending Sierra Leone troops on any peace-keeping mission be put on hold while the situation is being closely studied.
It is well and good for Sierra Leone to pay back what others like the UN and the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) had helped shaped even with their lives. However throughout the Sierra Leonean situation, there was a twilight of peace in the background while this is still absent in the Somalian setting.
What makes it hard to see what peace there is to keep in Somalia? If other African nations are marking time, there is any reason for Sierra Leone to haste. Although officials of the AU peace keeping missions in Mogadishu are seemingly diplomatic that their troops are not involved in the melee of the past days, one need not read the small prints to realize that it is only the calm before the storm.
How many times have the AU peace mission been entrapped by Somalian restless fighters? The government which the AU peace keeping mission protects controls a relative fraction of the vast territory, mainly dotted areas in the capital and isolated spots in the interior. The rest of the country is controlled by non-descript bands of happy-go-lucky, rag tag, self-professed militants whose favourite past time is to rob, plunder and rape.
As a Somalian pal old mine asked the other day, if things were shaping out pretty good in my country, why did the Ethiopians leave, lock, stroll and barrel? But they are back, sneaking into see what unfinished business they can accomplish.
Even with their renewed presence, Somalia remains hostile, terrains which even the brave should ask-to go or not to go. A joke in Somalia is that when the guns are silent, it’s because the fighters are cleaning and oiling their AK 47s and bazookas to start the scenario all over.
The AU troopers’ presence is only a token many analysts say, drawn from neighbors like Burundi. Added to the quagmire is that the troopers are under equipped and could hardly roll up their sleeves for a show down if its degenerates to such a level.
Everything that moves remains a target in Somalia and there is no exception… not even civilians. They have been the hardest hit and according to UN statistics, the recent fighting uprooted some 43,000 people.
The reason why insecurity in Somalia cannot be stemmed is that there are too many arms and ammunition than cash around. There is an urgent need to impose a blockade on airstrips and sea ports to prevent particularly the Islamist factions getting weapons and recruiting over zealous fighters.
The just concluded emergency meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Kenya called for sanctions against Eritrea which has been criticized for arming Islamist forces- a charge which it has repeatedly denied.
But IGAD’s communiqué says “the war is exacerbated by an influx of foreign-armed aggressors.” What it all seems is that Somalians are apparently ill-prepared to end the intermittent bickering that had given them the label of a failed state.
If that is what they want, why not let them have it… without our involvement?