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Back-up Plan Lacking in Somalia, Says Analyst

15 February 2007

Many of the peace proposals for Somalia call for reconciliation between the transitional federal government, militia leaders and moderate members of the ousted Islamic Courts Union. But what happens if reconciliation fails to take place? That’s a question being posed Somali expert Ken Menkhaus.

Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about a backup plan to a government of national unity.

“I don’t think currently there is a back up plan. I think all energies diplomatically are focused on trying to create conditions for the best case scenario. And that’s certainly understandable and applaudable. But I do think some governments need to start thinking about less than optimal outcomes because I think that’s what we’re looking at. As a very likely outcome of the Somalia crisis right now is that it is going to get worse.

Reconciliation will not succeed in bringing together the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) and the core elements of opposition in Mogadishu. And I suspect we’re going to end up with a return more or less to the Somalia of 2005, where you have a weak TFG that will have to retreat back to Baidoa, facing a loose coalition of opposition in Mogadishu,” he says.

Menkhaus explains the difficulty in achieving reconciliation. “The key impasse in reconciliation is that both sides perceive it to be contrary to their interests. Within the TFG there is real reluctance on the part of leaders to contemplate a government of national unity that would bring in important Mogadishu constituencies because many of those individuals in the TFG would lose their positions. It’s also not entirely clear that their Ethiopian patron would be willing to see some of the Mogadishu constituencies entering into the TFG,” he says.

He adds, “On the other side, Most of the Mogadishu opposition is at this point is unwilling to even contemplate being part of the TFG. They view it as illegitimate. They would rather make Mogadishu ungovernable and run the clock out. The TFG has only two and a half years left on its mandate. So, the opposition feels that time is on their side. The problem with this scenario is that the people who pay the cost of two and a half years of renewed state collapse are the Somali people themselves.”

Menkhaus says, however, that all is not lost. But he says the TFG must work toward a constitution and having an independent electoral commission to give people confidence in the interim government.

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