Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mission Creep in Somalia

It looks like the African Union will deploy an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to Somalia. At the same time, the AU may loosen the peacekeepers’ rules of engagement, rendering that moniker even less apt than it is already.

While the AU’s commitment to its Somali mission is admirable—and a hopeful sign for the continent’s future in some respects—it may be extraordinarily misplaced. The truth of the AU mission is that there was no peace for the peacekeepers to keep at the outset. Instead, the AU really served a stop-gap function, allowing Ethiopia to withdraw its troops after it invaded Somalia and toppled the ICU. In the wake of Ethiopia’s withdrawal, the AU troops have functioned as international props for the Transitional Federal Government—a western-backed farce. Increasing the number of AU troops and loosening their rules of engagement will likely only serve to transform the peacekeepers ever more into the TFG’s security service, enmeshing the AU’s mission ever more into the international community’s quixotic attempts to deliver the TFG Somalia.

Unfortunately, the AU and the TFG cannot hope to succeed. Foreign troops are incredibly unpopular in Somalia, the TFG is a Potemkin government of war lords and would-be elites without any real power base—think an entire Iraqi government, formed in Damascus, composed of Chalabis, and then delivered to the Green Zone. The only likely resolution to Somalia’s persistent anarchy is a homegrown, indigenous government. Don’t laugh—it is just such a government that has preserved stability and more than a semblance of democracy in Somaliland. Such a government requires local support, a local constituency, credibility, and of course legitimacy—all things lacking in the TFG.

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