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BALCAD (TAY-TAYLEEY) Waa Magaalo Qadiim ah! M.M.AFRAH - JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR 2005 Editorial: Simple Solution: No to Ethiopians, Yes to AU troops

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Double Trouble for Somalia: Lifting of Arms Embargo & Regional Peacekeeping Force
By Hassan Warsame
Somali Diaspora Network

As a Somali-American, I am appalled and disappointed that United States government is contemplating the support of lifting the arms embargo on Somalia and pushing for regional peacekeeping force. Although I am equally concerned with the influence of any radical elements in Somalia and don't wish to see a Taliban-style regime there, I believe that lifting the embargo and allowing the unabated interference of Ethiopia in Somalia affairs, under the disguise of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), is ill-advised, shortsighted, and a recipe for new conflict in the region-ethnic, religious, and nationalistic-that will parallel the Bosnia and Iraq conflicts.

Somalia is already in danger as a sovereign nation and is vulnerable to the interferences and manipulation of regional countries. To most Somalis, the lifting of the embargo is seen as a legitimization of the occupation and domination by Ethiopia. The TFG has no relevance or legitimacy to the Somali people. The top echelon is composed of warlords, criminals, and incompetent deadwood politicians. Somalis believe the TFG is a puppet government installed by Ethiopia to advance Ethiopian interests, NOT Somalia's.

The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) defeated or dislodged the warlords that terrorized, murdered, raped, looted, and destroyed much of Somalia over the past sixteen years. It brought peace and order to one of the most dangerous cities in the world-Mogadishu-and the surrounding territories under its control, thus gaining the support of the civilian population. It dismantled militia roadblocks, reduced crime and violence against civilians (in particular women and children), started disarmament of the population under its control, and reopened hospitals, schools, the airport, and the port in Mogadishu-the capital.

In one of my earlier articles, entitled "Lifting Arms Embargo on Somalia: Caution is Warranted," I said that the lifting of the arms embargo and the influx of new and more sophisticated armory into Somalia can only inflame the already perilous state. It will reverse the recent reconciliation gains among the opposing Somali groups and ignite a new division and, thus, destabilization throughout the country. It will open the door for roguish neighbors to pour an even bigger and deadlier arsenal of arms into the country. It will allow Somali warlords and arms dealers to import and trade more sophisticated arms and ammunitions at will.

Although nine months have passed since that article, I contend that all the stated concerns are still valid and applicable today. The following reasons also support my contention that the arms embargo on Somalia should not be lifted and regional peacekeeping force should not be endorsed:

1. It will ignite a new arms race between the TFG and ICU, as well as regional governments and militias;
2. It will end the Khartoum peace negotiations, hinder any foreseeable peace initiatives, and drastically increase the likelihood of a regional war;
3. It will prolong and widen Somalia's conflict and cause further bloodshed and suffering on the Somali people;
4. It will strengthen the very alleged radical elements in Somalia that concern the United States.

The United States can and should play a more direct, positive, and balanced role in Somalia and the region, and avoid infuriating and alienating a large Muslim population in the region, as it endeavors to formulate its policy.

In moving forward, the US government should consider the following steps in Somalia and the region:

1. It should appoint a seasoned special representative with the goal of protecting the sovereignty of Somalia, bringing peace and order to country, and working toward the establishment of a future democratically elected government;
2. It should forcefully demand the withdrawal of all foreign forces in Somalia, strengthen the arms embargo, and oppose regional peacekeeping force;
3. It should call for new peace negotiations and the formulation of a newly elected government under the auspices of the United Nations, the Arab League, and the African Union, IGAD excluded;
4. It should demand the immediate cessation of hostilities by all sides of Somalia's conflict, including the interference by regional countries;
5. It should recognize the success of the ICU, fully engage it, and work toward changing its direction, behavior, and actions while distancing itself from the ineffective, worthless, and disgraced TFG.

The above steps will go a long way in reducing tension and pave the way for a more constructive and positive engagement in Somalia and the region. Lifting the arms embargo and inserting regional peacekeeping force in Somalia is not only a costly political mishap, it will also have dire repercussions to the region for many years to come.

Hassan Warsame


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