19 May 2007 04:27


SW News
  • Title: [SW News] (Stratfor) Will America Support the Partition of Somalia?
  • Posted by/on:[AMJ][Thursday, August 24, 2000]


Will America Support the Partition of Somalia?
0040 GMT, 000824

The United States appears to be moving toward acknowledging the reality of a divided Somalia, following the visit of a high level delegation to Somaliaís breakaway northern republic of Somaliland.

Such action from Washington would fly in the face of efforts by the United Nations, which has been supporting a peace initiative from neighboring Djibouti. It would also suggest that the United States accepts the possibility of partitioning Somalia, after years of chaos. In turn, Washington could gain access to coastal facilities of strategic value, between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

 A U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) delegation led by the U.S. ambassador to Djibouti, Lange Schermerhorn, arrived in Somaliaís northern breakaway republic of Somaliland on Aug. 19. While the purpose of the four-day visit has not been made public, the delegation will hold talks with Somaliland President Muhammad Ibrahim Egal.

A former British colony, Somaliland was formed in 1991 when Somalia collapsed into chaotic clan wars following the ouster of longtime dictator Siad Barre. Since then, 13 conferences and international peacekeeping efforts aimed at reconciling the countryís warring factions have failed. Yet Somaliland has become a zone of stability and has declared its intention to secede.

The Djibouti peace conference, ongoing since June 2000, was intended to be a new and improved conference with a different cast of Somalis. Clan leaders, intellectuals, elders, religious leaders, exiles and women were all invited to attend and participate. The Djibouti plan provides for a transitional parliament of 225 members: 44 for each of the four largest clans, 24 for minority clans, and 25 women to be chosen at the conference. The parliament is to elect a transitional government that hopes someday to take its seat in the original Somali capital, Mogadishu. Elections are to be held in no more than three years.

Despite its U.N. backing, the Djibouti peace initiative is likely to fail like many other conferences before it. Somali peace initiatives are repeatedly unsuccessful due to their failure to recognize and uphold the de-facto authority of various warlords, who control their respective fiefdoms in the country. The Djibouti conference is not different enough; the warlords were actually invited but only as clan representatives rather than local governing authorities. Indeed, the only Somali warlord who bothered to attend the conference is Mohammad Ali Mahdi, according to the International Herald Tribune. Ali Mahdi - who was temporarily president after the fall of Siad Barre but has since lost power - appears to be betting his future on the formation of a new government 

This most recent delegation includes the highest level of U.S. representation that has been sent to the breakaway region. In April, another U.S. government foreign aid delegation traveled to Somalilandís port city of Berbera to assess the facilities and explore the possibility of using the port to bring relief supplies to famine victims in Ethiopia.

By sending a U.S. ambassador to a breakaway region, Washington is all but officially recognizing its autonomy. Moreover, if USAID uses Somalilandís port at Berbera as a hub for its relief operations, the region will develop its infrastructure and fuel Egalís intransigence at agreeing to give up his power.

But Washington may actually be making a prudent decision by recognizing Somaliland. After all, it is by far the most stable, organized and peaceful region in all of Somalia. The United States may be attempting to set its own agenda for achieving an effective resolution to the Somali problem: partition.

In return, Washington will gain a potentially useful port with facilities strategically located at the mouth of the Red Sea.

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