Louis Michel: Somalia should have an international peace force

No one will lament the demise of the Islamic Courts. But the problem remains as before

Related Topics

When I went to Baidoa and Mogadishu on 22 December in a last-ditch attempt to prevent conflict in Somalia, I told the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) that only a political solution could bring about serious chances of lasting peace and stability in their country.

The fighting that has since occurred between the TFG, with the support of Ethiopia, and the Islamic Courts has changed the political landscape in Somalia. No one will lament the demise of the Courts in which radical Islamists had gained the upper hand. But the problem remains unaddressed in the same terms as before: only a process of dialogue and national reconciliation can save Somalia from the curse of recurrent chaos and violence.

Somalia is not doomed. The Somali people are tired of war and violence. They crave peace and a chance to build decent livelihoods. The Somali leaders should seize this opportunity to lay the foundations of a proper state, with functioning institutions, security, public services for all and an environment in which a vibrant Somali private sector can flourish.

A concerted international approach to the crisis is needed more than ever. The European Union, together with other key international actors is committed to help at this critical juncture. Our support will have to be rooted in a Somali-owned process, and we all have the collective responsibility to get it right.

I see three main challenges that need to be addressed. First, security. It is crucial that Ethiopian troops - the current guarantor of stability and TFG power - withdraw quickly and an international stabilisation force deploys in Somalia within weeks. The longer Ethiopian troops stay, the greater the risk the TFG will lose support and credibility. Without doubt the Jihadi elements of the courts that are still active will exploit the Ethiopian presence to launch guerrilla warfare and terrorist action.

Considering the heavily charged history of international military presence in Somalia, some basic parameters must guide the deployment of an international force. Its mandate should focus on ceasefire monitoring and support for the building of effective Somali security forces with the progressive dismantling of militias. This mission should be limited in time, and composed of African troops including contingents from Muslim countries.

The political challenge is even more crucial. An international force should be conditional upon an unequivocal political commitment by the TFG to engage in inter-Somali talks with a view to achieving more representative and all-inclusive institutions. The rise of the Islamic Courts can, to a great extent, be explained by the rejection of power sharing which gave too much weight to warlords.

The Transitional Federal Charter should constitute the basis and framework of such a process. This should pave the way for the drafting and adoption of a new constitution. Such a constitution would almost certainly have to have some sort of federal architecture. What matters most in any case is that power-sharing arrangements be guided by genuinely inclusive considerations rather than personal motives.

The third challenge is that of rebuilding the country. There is an urgent need forrecovery and development assistance and a concerted plan for reconstruction.The EU, as Somalia's biggest aid donor, can play an active part in this process. It is, however, clear that reconstruction can succeed only if there is a genuine political process of reconciliation and power-sharing in place.

Finally, the regional dimension needs to be factored in as the fourth element in the Somali equation. Up until now, Somalia has primarily suffered from external interference and intervention. At the same time, the stability of the Horn of Africa can be ensured only if there is peace and security in Somalia.

Good neighbourly conduct is, therefore, of paramount importance. This can be achieved only through by addressing some of the root causes of regional tensions in the Horn - whether they relate to border disputes, illegal migration flows, or competition for scarce resources such as water. The Horn of Africa is one of the most strategic regions in the world, at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East, bordering the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. It has the potential to become a key trading hub between two continents and a place of vibrant exchanges between cultures and religions.

Only a comprehensive regional agenda based on security and development can help stabilise Somalia and the Horn.

The writer is European Commissioner in charge of relations with Africa, the Pacific and Caribbean countries

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'