The Somali Prime Minister arrives in Mogadishu in triumph, but it may be a temporary victory. After six months of Islamist rule, the government forged by the international community in 2004 is back. It is promising to restore security after 15 years of unrest but it may not be able to. Its military ally, Ethiopia, which helped deliver it victory, may in fact harm the government’s legitimacy, in the eyes of warlords and militia.
Twelve thousand ethiopian soldiers took part in the offensive in December, with tacit US approval.
But many Somalis believe Addis Ababa has imperialist ambitions.
The battle, carried out in the name of the international war against terrorism, risks exacerbating tensions in the region, between countries allied to the US and those sympathetic to the Union of Islamic Courts.
Washington accuses the militia of harbouring members of Al-Qaida, but the Islamists are credited with bringing a rare moment of stability to the country.
There is a difficult task ahead for the International Contact Group on Somalia, meeting in neighbouring Kenya. Diplomats from the United Nations, the US, African and European countries have been taking part.
The Group was established in June, at the US’ urging, to work out a solution to the country’s security problems.
It must set up an international peacekeeping force to replace Ethiopian troops and help the government maintain peace.
A deployment of eight thousand men under African Union leadership was promised in 2005. But it was delayed because of Islamist threats to attack outside forces.
The EU Director General for Development, Stefano Manservisi, says it is not enough just to deploy peacekeepers: “We also say that a military operation is not enough on its own to prevent terrorism. An operation aimed at reconstructing the society is also needed. It is a society that has been destroyed by the absence of the state during many years. During those years, the warlords had the opportunity to substitute themselves as the state.”
The changeover of power in the name of the battle against terrorism risks aggravating tensions once more in the country. Even in 1995, instability followed attempts by UN peacekeepers to broker peace between warlords.