Somalia’s uphill struggle to restore security

with 3 comments

Obama had a point when he said: “the poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow.” Somalia, afflicted with insurgents, piracy and poverty, has become a haven for trouble and terror.  With very little law enforcement and government infrastructure in a country that has lacked central government in its 20 years of conflict, it may cynically be argued that the state, like it or not, is regretfully failing.

Not long ago, when Sharif Sheikh Ahmed took the wheel of the country with a tarnished name around the globe, embroiled in war, displacement, poverty and above all incomprehensible internal conflicts. His mission to transform Somalia into a peaceful, cohesive state had convinced us all that if any of the leaders of the Islamic Courts Union were going to be involved in the process of reconciliation, it would be him. Indeed, the world needs a few optimists.

In his column on the Guardian last week, Sharif insisted that Somalia is not the “failed” state of popular imagination. Acknowledging the existing problems in Somalia, Sharif announced that “significant progress” has been made and that “something can be done” to assist the state. Calling all Somalis to “abandon the defeatist notion that Somalia’s problems are insuperable,” which Sharif argued, would become a self-fulfilling expectation.

At the Foreign Commonwealth Office reception in London last week, Sharif explained that building a cohesive state in Somalia would require reasonable international support. To be fair, Sharif has been deliberately careful with his international intervention discourse. What has been underplayed is the potentially effective security system which international support may supply. Solving Somalia’s problems requires serious action and a genuine assistance to those Somalis who are prepared to collectively join in effort to surpass the militias.

Any international intervention, however, will have meaning, even outside Somalia, and its implications for how Somalia sees itself and how the world sees Somalia are too vast.  Much has been made of the state considering its security best served through controversial friendships and policies that may sometimes alienate the more traditional powers in the region. Perhaps regional tensions are to blame for the paralysis. The biggest challenge for Somalia has been the sense that it is a hopeless case of internal conflicts.  What’s more, it doesn’t help that Somalis themselves feel are in some sort of psychological warfare; and the more external powers interfere, the more the country bleeds. Any interference on African soil is often fraught with difficulty: there is now a general feeling among Somalis that foreign interference is the larger part of the two evils.

Sharif is a refreshing change from the administration Somalia has had for the past 20 years and his diverse background may actually give him aptitude of healing divides rather than creating them. Yet, we cannot expect him to repair the titanic damage which his predecessors have perpetrated within Somalia itself and around the globe. The seemingly impossible task of restoring stability in a country entrenched in perils will prove difficult, to say the least. How Sharif bridges the demands of the law with the pressures of politics will tell us much about him. And because every act performed by the militants has become his responsibility he has no time to dither.

There is an incongruity here. Viewed from the outside, the sphere looks darker than ever for Sharif. The reality is that Somalia has no way of functioning in a dysfunctional political order and tensions beneath the surface have a habit of ultimately setting off into violent outbreaks. Seen from the inside, things may be looking up.  It was only after the collapse of the army and security institution that civil war began in Somalia. In light of this Sharif has said that plans of a strong security institution will guarantee the prevention of sedition and war. And in fact what matters here is power. Security is important if it brings influence. For Sharif, the real issue is reconciling the competing factions and disarming the militias. It may be a while before Somalia is able to stand but international intervention, Sharif believes may be the vehicle to get the country back onto its feet at least. Only time will tell, but if Sharif is able to restore some sense of security in Somalia, he will have succeeded where numerous others have failed.

Published at: Raxan Reeb


Written by Magda M Ali

March 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Published pieces

3 Responses

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  1. You know Magda, I wish your countrymen would give him a chance. I really think he’d be good for the country.

    Great article – keep it up – ps you went off the scene for a while – good to see you’re back.



    March 18, 2010 at 2:36 am

  2. So do I Nacer. So do I! I met the chap last week.

    Magda M Ali

    March 18, 2010 at 3:54 am

  3. On a random internet search I cam across this article which appears to have posited a narrative where the Mr Sharif’s tenure has created an arena of positive change for Somalia relative to the previous transitional bodies.

    I don’t think Mr Sharif is the answer and perhaps a recent report conducted by the UN coupled with a review by the Kuwait fund further highlights the reality of the situation.

    One is entitled to their opinions but I am more disappointed at the lack of feedback on the blog.

    The sooner he goes the better.

    Cali X

    May 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm

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