Ranneberger, US Ambassador to Kenya speaks to Fred Oluoch
on the Somali crisis.
than the stated purpose of supporting the Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) and capturing the three Al Qaeda suspects,
does the US have any other reason for going into Somalia?
objective in Somalia is twofold. We want to ensure security
on the ground and that includes trying to interdict these
foreign terrorist connected with Al-Qaeda that have been operating
in Somalia. Second, we want to promote stability in Somalia
and the only way you can do that is through having a broad-based
government. We have been working to achieve that.
backing the Ethiopian invasion, dont you think the US
is creating instability, given that TFG will be seen as a
foreign-backed government that does not enjoy wide support
on the ground?
that is a misperception. We need to give it sometime; of course,
you are not going to get a broad-based dialogue and broad-based
government overnight. It is going to take weeks or months
to achieve. So, a lot of people are making the instant judgment
that there is a problem with the TFG and I think that is a
of people also say that the TFG does not have legitimacy,
but that is not true either. Remember the TFG was restricted
to Baidoa and a small area around Baidoa because of the Union
of Islamic Courts. Now that TFG is gaining control of the
whole country, they have to be given time to prove that they
are capable of governing. And I think as they do that, they
will gain broad popular support.
the reason the Islamic Courts had broad support is not because
people believed in their radical Islamic ideology, it was
because people wanted to see law and order.
the extent that the TFG can establish peace, law and order,
I think they will be supported by the Somali people as well.
long do you think this will take?
it will take a while. It would be a mistake to put an artificial
time line and say that it will take four months or six months.
But what we are looking for is an immediate indication that
the TFG is reaching out to all segments of Somali society,
all the clans and sub-clans, to try build a broad-based governance
already seeing some indication that they are doing that, but
not as much as we would like to. Remember, TFG is also going
to need foreign support in order to help govern, build institutions
and get the basic services on track that is going to
take a while as well.
announced $40 million to support that effort, but it is going
to take time to start dispensing that money. I think it is
going to take months, and it is important to reserve judgment
until the process finally works.
you think continued Ethiopian presence in Ethiopia could promote
an insurgency as in Iraq?
dont think there is any comparison with Iraq. Obviously,
it is a very different situation. What I do think is that
it will be important to enable the withdrawal of Ethiopian
forces quickly, and the way to do that is to get African forces
in there, because everybody realises that the TFG cannot provide
for its own security yet. We have to train the TFG forces
so that they have a professional military and police.
meantime, Somalia will need stabilisation forces. Uganda has
promised at least 1,500 troops, hopefully to be deployed this
month, but that is not sufficient. There are efforts to get
other African countries to provide troops. Kenya has sent
emissaries to various countries, the African Union is working
on this, so we hope there will be sufficient forces.
you confirm reports that Ethiopia has started pulling out
in phases even before the African forces arrive? What is the
US position on this development?
logical that Ethiopia might withdraw some of its forces because
it has a lot of troops there. But I dont think you will
see Ethiopia withdrawing all its forces from Somalia; what
you are likely to see is an orderly withdrawal as the African
forces come in. The Ethiopians do not want to leave a power
vacuum in Somalia.
you think the Somalia situation will require only a handful
of peacekeepers operating on a short timetable to pacify the
think African forces can stabilise the country, I think stabilisation
has to come from within through the actions the Somalis themselves
are going to take. The most important of those is dialogue
among all sectors of Somali society so that TFG can be truly
broad-based, that is the only way to get long-term stability.
has to be seen as legitimate, it has to maintain law and order.
The African forces are there only in a supporting role and
they will not be able to do anything, unless the Somali people
themselves are doing what they need to do.
of that will be to control the warlords to ensure that there
is no return to the situation that led to the intervention
of the Islamic Courts.
the citing of fighting terrorism as justification for US intervention
in various situations getting overused?
think so, because one has to look at the facts here. Some
people would argue, echoing the disinformation coming from
the Islamic Courts, that the terrorism issue has been exaggerated.
The fact is that Al-Qaeda has been operating in Somalia for
some time, after taking advantage of the vacuum, and has used
the country as a base of operations and a safe haven.
that, three of the terrorists involved in the bombing of US
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have been taking refuge in
Somalia. When the Islamic Courts came in, Al-Qaeda saw it
as an opportunity to expand its activities and influence.
And what we saw during the last days of the Courts is that
Al-Qaeda was steadily expanding its influence within the Courts.
Courts many not have been taken over by Al-Qaeda, but what
has been documented by the Ethiopians is that some of the
people killed in the fighting were foreign jihadists, whom
we know have a direct connection with al-Qaeda.
are trying to stop these people and it is a legitimate thing
to do; it is something that is supported by TFG, and by the
governments of Ethiopia and Kenya.
you think the Somalia situation might attract people with
an axe to grind with the US, whether real or imagined?
I think the situation is different from that of Iraq. You
have a legitimate Somali government, and you have Somali people
wanting to see law and order. I dont think the Somali
people want to see their country being used by foreign terrorists
who will destabilise it and cause problems. I think once they
know the facts, the Somali people will support this effort
to fight terrorism and they will support the TFG. It would
be very difficult, then, for Al-Qaeda to exploit that because
they work best where there is a vacuum and where there are
it true that the US is the main backer of the TFG and the
sources of its newfound strength?
fully behind the TFG, and we have announced a $40 million
package of support for the TFG and civil society in Somalia.
We are looking at ways to identify more money, so we have
indicated our support in very specific ways and we are committed
to remaining in Somalia in support of TFG for the long term,
because we understand the importance of building stability
in that strategic country.
you foresee the TFG becoming a real government that is credible,
stable and accepted by all?
are that it will. The Somali people saw the potential for
law and order when the Islamic Courts took over. But then
they saw the Islamic Courts going in a very radical direction,
shutting down television and movie houses and the rest. I
think we will see a government that responds to the needs
of the people in terms of their beliefs, and social values,
but also a government that tries to establish law and order.
will see is increasing support from the international community
in coming weeks. You will see more support coming from the
EU and other countries. As the TFG gets that support, the
Somalis will be able to get their children back to school,
their health clinics functioning, police deployed and all
essential services up and running. If that happens, it will
help build support among the people.
mandate of the TFG will end in 2008 and it is yet to pacify
Somali society and put structures in place for the election
of a popular government. Do you see the TFG achieving these
goals within the remaining time?
it can happen. If the international community moves quickly
to support the TFG, we could see significant results within
the next three to six months. We are committed to ensuring
that the agreement holds, that there is a transition and a
constitutional referendum is held. We have said repeatedly
that the Transition Federal Charter needs to be respected.
do see the viability of the peacekeeping operation in the
like to stay there as briefly as possible. We have not set
a time frame to it, but we do not see the African forces staying
there for a long period. We think that the TFG will be able
to put up a police force fairly quickly, and one of the priorities
is to work with them and set up a national army. We believe
that the people will rally behind TFG and within six months,
we are likely to see a much more stable Somalia, which will
then enable the African forces to leave.
much influence does the US have in the assembling of the African
been approaching a number of African countries on our own
to encourage them to contribute. But the leadership on this
is coming from both Kenya, as chair of Igad, and the African
Union. We are supporting them and we have offered to provide
some funding for the deployment of these forces
the warlords back in Mogadishu, how long does the US expect
them to behave before they turn on each other? Is your government
prepared for that kind of eventuality?
the warlords posed a major challenge for the process. They
had their own forces and they had a lot of influence and some
of them had a lot of economic power, so it is a difficult
problem to deal with. But, we have made it clear that the
TFG must deal with it.
Abdullahi Yusuf has met with the warlords and we understand
that they have agreed to disarm. But it is not going to be
an easy process. Our view is that the warlords cannot return
to their old ways. Some of them are Members of Parliament,
they have a legitimate role to play, but beyond that, there
is no role in Somalia now for individual militias and the
way the warlords behaved in the past.
are supporting the TFG on that and the Ethiopians have also
told us that they dont want to see the return of the
warlords. With that kind of support, the warlords will not
be able to return to the status quo.
the Al-Qaeda threat in East Africa real, or just an excuse
to expand Washingtons influence and probably to scare
Kenya into enacting the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill?
real, more real than we earlier thought. We have been saying
that there is an Al-Qaeda cell here for a long time, but the
information that is now coming out, now that the Islamic Courts
have been thrown out, is alarming in terms of what was going
is no doubt that Al-Qaeda has been in East Africa before the
Islamic Courts came to power, that they increased their level
of activity while the Islamic Courts were there and were intending
to continue increasing their activities.
you warned that Al-Qaeda was planning to attack Kenyans. Do
you think Al-Qaeda is after Kenya or simply after US interests
would target us, but also target Kenya in its own right not
just because Kenya is associated with us, but because Kenya
is the most stable country in the region and was behind the
Sudan and Somalia peace process.
Kenya has shown for the TFG to stabilise Somalia and the co-operation
Kenya has been providing in general in the global war against
terrorism all these are reasons why al-Qaeda would
like to destabilise and hurt Kenya.