Fresh crisis in Somalia

By Tabu Butagira   Posted Sunday, November 7 2010 at 00:00

Regional leaders are due to hold an emergency summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week to thrash out action points to handle the dicey security and governance situation in Somalia.

The Inter-Government Authority on Development (IGAD) meeting, at which Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa is representing Uganda, comes amid reported defection of Somali government troops to al Shabaab militants.

Security and diplomatic sources say President Sheikh Sharif’s beleaguered Transitional Federal Government is corrupt, deeply divided and unable to pay soldiers and police who get attracted to lucrative offers by insurgents.
“There is no proper military command structure and as a result, some of the soldiers either opt to join al Shabaab or sell off their guns and desert,” a diplomat familiar with goings-on in the restive Mogadishu, said.

Mr Abdirahman Omar Osman, the Somali government Information minister, in an e-mail interview, admitted defections by their troops but said the problem has now been fixed.

“Yes, we had very few of our soldiers defecting in the past due to lack of resources to maintain regular payments and al-Shabaab’s propaganda, in particular how they portray the image of Islam,” he wrote.

Presently, international actors are scratching their heads on what to do as mandate of TFG that they have been propping up in power to stablise the Horn of Africa nation runs out, opening the possibility for worse violence.

Power struggle
Shiekh Sharif’s government, already ruptured by internal bickering and bitter power struggle, under present the arrangement will cease administering Somalia by August 2011.

However, anticipated reforms for smooth succession, among which is drafting of a new Constitution, remain wet in the wings. A fall out with President Sharif forced Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke to resign while naming of his successor, Mr Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, whom Parliament approved on October 31, initially unsettled power brokers there.

“We are concerned about the continued bickering and internal fighting as well as the mandate of TFG that’s about to expire,” Uganda’s State Minister for International Affairs Oryem-Okello, said. “We have warned leaders in Somalia already,” he added.

Uganda helps
Uganda contributes the bulk of the 7, 000 foreign troops, otherwise called peacekeepers, guarding key state installations in Mogadishu under the aegis of the African Union.

Mr Alberto Merlan, the principal information officer at the European Union Training Mission – Somalia, said on Friday that the first batch of 1, 000 Somali forces whose training in Uganda they are financing, graduate this month at Bihanga Training Camp.

“The European Union Training Mission – Somalia will provide specialist training, and support to the recruit training provided by Uganda, up to two thousand Somali trainees in two intakes,” he wrote in reply to our e-mail enquiries.

It has emerged that EU and other international stakeholders are in the dark about secret training of about 1, 000 Somalia police officers by Germany in Ethiopia.
This week, the United States that has directly and through the UN Logistical Support Package, spearheaded funding for AMISOM operations, called on partners to put in more money to halt Somalia from slipping into a terrorism hotbed.

America’s Shs500 support
Mr Matt Goshko, the US public affairs officer for the Somalia Unit, said they had since 2007 spent $229 million (Shs526b) on Somalia and Washington remains committed to the Djibouti Peace Process and supports TFG.

“We are also broadening our engagement with regional and local administrations, civil society groups, and clan leaders in Somalia who share the same goals of peace and stability.”

This newspaper was told both EU and US representatives will attend the IGAD meeting, but as observers.

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