07 February 2002
Text: Kansteiner on Terrorism and U.S. Policy Options in Somalia
(Says weak states attract terrorists) (2030)
Walter H. Kansteiner, assistant secretary of state for African
affairs, told a Senate committee February 6 that Somalia is a "failed
state" because of "civil war, external intervention, clan conflict,
Commenting on the link between weak states and terrorism, Kansteiner
said: "Where there should be a nation-state, there is a vacuum filled
by warlords. What better place for the seeds of international
terrorism and lawlessness to take root?"
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee
on African Affairs, he listed three policy goals of the United States
related to Somalia. These include removing the terrorist threat in
Somalia, thus ensuring against its use as a terrorist base; preventing
Somalia's internal events from threatening regional peace; and
overcoming challenges to governance that terrorists exploit to make
Somalia a base.
To make Somalia and other weak African states less fertile places for
terrorism, the State Department has adopted five goals that guide
policy efforts, he said. These are to increase democracy and good
governance; combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious
diseases; expand U.S. trade and investment with Africa to spur
economic development; conserve Africa's environment, because people
"cannot prosper when the air is not fit to breathe, water is
unavailable, and forests and farmlands have turned to dust"; and end
Accomplishing the last goal, Kansteiner said, "is an absolute
necessity, and you really can't pursue the other four policy goals
Following is the text of Kansteiner's remarks as prepared for delivery
to the Senate subcommittee:
Weak States and Terrorism in Africa: U.S. Policy Options in Somalia
Walter H. Kansteiner, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Subcommittee on African Affairs
February 6, 2002
Chairman Feingold, Members of the Committee,
Thank you for inviting me to testify today on an issue that the tragic
events of September 11, 2001, thrust into bold relief: the
characteristics of weak states that make them attractive to terrorists
and international criminals.
Leo Tolstoy did not have successful and unsuccessful states in mind
when he wrote, in Anna Karenina, that "all happy families resemble one
another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Nevertheless, his words apply to our discussion today. For all their
differences, successful states resemble each other because they all
have found ways to function as polities; they have cohesive national
identities and social compacts that bind them together. Unsuccessful
states, however, fail as polities for a wide variety of reasons. Some
so-called "failed states" have been torn asunder by civil war, others
by external aggression. Some have foundered on unresolved conflicts
based on clan or ethnicity; drought and grinding poverty have claimed
still more. All have potential for destabilizing their neighbors.
Africa is far from being immune to the illness of nation-state
failure. Recognizing that fact, and being aware that it is far easier
to prevent failure than to cope with its consequences, the State
Department has adopted five goals that guide policy efforts to
confront the conditions leading to nation-state failure in Africa.
-- Increase democracy, good governance, and respect for the rule of
-- Combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases that
threaten to cost Africa a generation of its most productive citizens.
-- Expand United States trade and investment with Africa to spur
economic development and improve the well-being of Africans.
-- Conserve Africa's environment because people and the institutions
they create to govern themselves cannot prosper when the air is not
fit to breathe, water is unavailable, and forests and farmlands have
turned to dust.
-- End Africa's wars. Doing so is an absolute necessity, and you
really can't pursue the other four policy goals without it.
Regrettably, some African states have suffered so much for so long
that they cannot be helped by a prevention strategy of the type I've
outlined above. Like Tolstoy's unhappy families, these countries'
unique problems must be addressed individually.
Today, Mr. Chairman, you and your Subcommittee are focusing on one
such country, Somalia, a place to which, quite frankly, the United
States has not paid a great deal of policy-level attention since 1994.
Civil war, external intervention, clan conflict and poverty have
combined to turn Somalia into a "failed state." Somalia has no central
government. Three principal factions (none of which is recognized by
the United States as Somalia's legitimate government) hold sway in
separate parts of the country. In addition, numerous warlords continue
to vie for dominance at the local level. Hundreds of thousands of
Somalis live as refugees in neighboring countries, and many others are
internally displaced. The economy is underdeveloped, with drought
seriously affecting the country's pastoral and agricultural base.
Somalia's primary sources of income are foreign assistance and
remittance income from overseas. One of its principal exports --
livestock - is banned from what should be Somalia's major regional
market. There is little infrastructure, and even less in the way of
civil services such as schools. Where there should be a nation-state,
there is a vacuum filled by warlords. What better place for the seeds
of international terrorism and lawlessness to take root?
Al-Ittihad al-Islami, a Somali organization dedicated to creating a
radical Islamist state in Somalia, has filled the vacuum in some parts
of Somalia by opening its own schools and providing other services
normally associated with government. We consider that development
profoundly disturbing because Al-Ittihad has conducted terrorist
operations in neighboring Ethiopia and was named in the President's
September 23, 2001, executive order blocking property of and
prohibiting transactions with terrorist groups.
The United States has three policy goals related to Somalia:
-- removing the terrorist threat extant in Somalia and ensuring
against Somalia's use as a terrorist base;
-- preventing developments in Somalia from threatening regional peace
and stability; and
-- overcoming the long-term governance challenges that terrorists
exploit to make Somalia a base.
In accordance with your request that my testimony focus on long-term
issues, I would like to spend a moment outlining several steps that
already are in motion, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to address
the last goal, overcoming the governance challenges Somalia faces.
Then I will describe an effort that the USG has just begun to identify
and develop additional ways to overcome those challenges and thereby
prevent Somalia becoming a base for international terrorism.
At the bilateral level, we are providing some assistance to the Somali
people to mitigate the impact of and prevent future disasters through
infrastructure development. USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) is working to rehabilitate Somalia's war-ravaged
potable water system, rebuild its primary health care facilities, and
improve cargo ports and airports. In addition, we are working with
Somalis through CARE to create civil society organizations, and
encourage the further development of those already in existence. In
this way, we hope to strengthen the governance and management capacity
of Somali groups and communities, thereby creating a grass-roots
demand for good government.
These initiatives are modest; USAID's entire budget for Somalia
(including a substantial sum for food-aid) was $17.9 million in FY
2001, to which we could add $4 million allocated for refugee
resettlement to Somaliland. These are, however, vital; if Al-Ittihad
is the only source of services people need for their survival, it --
and not a legitimate, terrorist-free government -- will gain their
allegiance. But while these small, vital United States-funded programs
provide a foundation upon which to build, they do not tackle directly
the core problem facing Somalia: developing a polity that can command
the respect and voluntary allegiance of all the Somali people.
Tackling that problem, of course, is something that the Somali people
themselves must want to do if it is to be accomplished successfully.
If the United States and the international community want good
governance for Somalia more than the Somalis do themselves, the effort
is doomed to fail. We saw this situation in 1993 to 1994, when peace
agreements among the principal warlords that the United States had
brokered along with Ethiopia and Kenya soon fell apart. Only then did
we close our mission and decide to wait until the Somalis were ready
for another effort. Assuming that the Somali people themselves want
peace and reconciliation, however, there are multilateral initiatives
under way that can help. They also come at a good time, since the
Somali people in general have so far refused to support the political
program of Al-Ittihad, despite the services and funding it provides.
The government of Djibouti, for example, has shepherded, under the
auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD),
the so-called Arta process. This process began in May 2000, when
Djibouti convened a Somalia reconciliation conference attended by over
2000 delegates. On July 16, 2000, conference leaders announced the
formation of a three-year Transitional National Government (TNG) with
a 245-seat Transitional National Assembly intended to govern all of
Somalia. Thus far, however, the TNG has not succeeded in overcoming
opposition from local warlords to expanding its scope of control
significantly beyond several parts of Mogadishu and a small portion of
the Somali coastline. Nor has the TNG crafted working arrangements
with other principal Somali factions, including Puntland State and the
self-styled "Republic of Somaliland." Finally, the TNG has not yet
purged itself of ties to Al-Ittihad that are problematic from a
counterterrorism perspective. Nevertheless, the United States stands
ready to work with Djibouti in the Arta process should all the
principal Somali factions choose to use that vehicle to accomplish
Late last year, Kenyan President Moi began a new initiative to bring
the Somali factions, some of the main warlords, and Somalia's
neighbors together to pursue Somali national reconciliation. That
effort was brought under IGAD auspices at the January, 2002, IGAD
summit in Khartoum. There, Ethiopia agreed to participate in the
Kenya-led initiative. This is a particularly hopeful development
because one of the main warlord groups resisting the reconciliation
process, the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), has
close ties to Ethiopia. The United States attended the IGAD summit as
an observer. We have pledged our cooperation to the governments of
Kenya and Ethiopia in this new effort to help bring peace to Somalia.
Our own government has begun the process of marshalling ideas and
resources to confront Somalia's long-term governance challenges. A
sub-group of the Policy Coordinating Committee for Africa created
specifically to examine this question met for the first time yesterday
(February 5). It discussed topics such as working with Gulf states to
lift the ban on importing livestock from Somalia, developing
alternatives to schools financed by Al-Ittihad, creating new financial
institutions to replace those, such as Al-Barakaat, that are tainted
with connections to terrorism, and increasing support for Somali civil
I also wish to take this opportunity to support a position often made
by Secretary Powell in his discussions with Congress. Precisely
because the factors that cause states to become weak or fail vary from
state to state, it is crucial to know which factors are in play in
order to address them. Knowing such nuances from afar is difficult,
and that means we have to have the right people in the right places --
which means having the resources to put those people in place and
sustain them. We appreciate the steps being made to meet this need,
and I look forward to working with you to ensure that as our
activities in relation to Somalia and other weak states develop, we
are able to meet the demands imposed.
Mr. Chairman, Somalia did not become a "failed state" in a day.
Similarly, solving the governance problems that make Somalia an
attractive potential home for terrorists will not happen overnight. We
have made a start. I am cautiously optimistic that the United States,
Somalia's neighbors and the international community can make a
significant contribution to helping the Somali people regain
functional government, and that the conditions that make Somalia
attractive to terrorists can be overcome.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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