19 May 2007 04:26


SW News
  • Title: [SW News] ( AP) Support from skeptical West vital
  • Posted by/on:[AMJ][Thursday, august 17, 2000]

Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000

August 17, 2000
Support from skeptical West vital to success of Somalian assembly
ARTA, Djibouti (AP) -- Defying skeptics, Somalia's new National Assembly has moved to form the country's first central government in almost 10 years. But its success now relies on contributions from international donors, who have shown little enthusiasm.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh of neighbouring Djibouti has largely stood alone in his unqualified support for the 2,000 Somali civic leaders who have been meeting under a dusty tent in his country. Those efforts have paid off in the formation of a 225-seat legislature that most Somalis have warmly welcomed.

 But the international community has largely stayed on the sidelines. The UN Security Council made an appeal on behalf of the Djibouti conference in June, and on Wednesday again called on the international community to support the peace process. But so far, there has been little response from donors.
"I very much hope the international community will not stand back," David Stephen, the UN.observer to the peace process, told The Associated Press. "If it does, those armed elements opposed to political change will win."

But those armed factions are exactly what has kept international donors from getting involved. After the factions overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, the militias turned on one another and there has been no national government since.

The largest peacekeeping force in UN history was deployed to Somalia from 1992-95 to deal with a famine, but with disastrous consequences. The peacekeepers were persistently attacked by militiamen and 18 U.S. soldiers died in a failed attempt to arrest one of the militia leaders, an episode that hardened the West's attitude toward the country at the tip of the Horn of Africa. 

Since 1995, the United Nations has spent up to $100 million US a year in Somalia, most of which has been for emergency aid, not reconstruction, Stephen said.
 If the new assembly is to succeed in uniting the country, rebuilding infrastructure and enforcing law and order, aid from international donors will be crucial.
 "The people want a national government," Stephen said. "It needs the support of the international community to make that a reality, otherwise Somalia will be the first of a dangerous trend where countries are divided between (organized) states and those with no authority, with the people suffering from warlords and mafia-style anarchy."

Djibouti, a country of 650,000 people squeezed between Somalia and Eritrea, took the lead on May 2 when it invited the Somalis to work out their problems in the town of Arta, all expenses paid. The country, made up mostly of ethnic Somalis, took donations from citizens and even raised taxes to pay for the peace effort.
 "It's cost millions. It's been a major expense," said Roble Olhaye, Djibouti's ambassador to the United Nations.
 After 12 failed peace conferences, this effort offers the best chance for real change, Olhaye said.
 The tasks set for the new lawmakers are daunting. The assembly must persuade faction leaders to respect them, recruit the militiamen who cruise the streets into new national security force and then set about collecting taxes.

The assembly plans to move to Somalia once a president, prime minister and cabinet have been selected and security is ensured. But without outside funding, there is little hope the legislature can be more than a debating society.
 Many of the diplomats observing the Djibouti conference, however, are not eager to offer support.
Francesco Sciortino, Italy's envoy to Somalia said his country -- Somalia's colonial master until independence in 1960 -- and other countries would be willing to help, but offered no details.

( Why worry? After all the hapless OAU and some other non-entities will recognize the new "Government)


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