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Somalia Needs Power-Sharing, Expert Tells U.S., EU Lawmakers

19 June 2007

Former diplomat sees hope for peace if current government opens to moderates

Washington -- The main hope for a nonmilitary solution to the Somalia crisis is for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to share power with moderate opposition groups, making national reconciliation a prime goal, a former ambassador told U.S. and European lawmakers.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn, now an adjunct professor at George Washington University, spoke June 8 at a meeting with members of the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress, sponsored by the House Subcommittee on Africa.

Shinn said most observers agree that power-sharing is the key to sustainable peace in Somalia, and therefore "political reconciliation … is the most urgent task."  The question, he said, is how to achieve that reconciliation.

Finding a satisfactory solution to the current crisis in Somalia, where Ethiopian peacekeepers battle insurgents in the streets of Mogadishu, "will not be easy, even if all the major Somali parties finally agree to act in the best interest of the Somali people and put their personal ambitions aside," Shinn told the lawmakers.

But a good result is not impossible, he added.  “The first step should be the immediate initiation by the TFG of serious power-sharing with elements now excluded from power," he said.

As soon as that process has begun, the retired diplomat said, the Ethiopians quickly should begin their "final and complete departure from Somalia."

The TFG is the only Somali government recognized by the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League and the international community, Shinn said, so it is important to help it "succeed, so long as it is willing to become a truly inclusive government."

The diplomat said the only groups that should be excluded from a Somali government are those that:

• urge war or support terrorist acts against neighboring countries;

• have indisputable links with terrorist or criminal organizations; and

• hold views so extreme that they would prevent a national government from functioning successfully and peacefully.

Shinn stressed that "plaintive calls for political dialogue … will not result in a solution.” Somalis, he added, "will dialogue the process to death."

While conferences and months of discussion are part of Somali culture and tradition, Shinn said, the current situation calls for something different. "Time is running out,” he said, “and I doubt that anyone has the patience to wait for a reconciliation conference that may never happen anyway."

He repeated that it is time for the TFG, instead, to reach out to its moderate opponents and bring them into the government.  "It may be possible to convince enough of them to accept responsible positions so that the political factions in Mogadishu can then begin the real process of reconciliation and the isolating of hard-line spoiler groups."

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer touched on the reconciliation process at a Cairo, Egypt, meeting of the Somalia International Contract group in April, when she warned "spoilers" not to interfere in the Somali peace process.

Referring to upcoming reconciliation talks in Somalia, she added that they should not exclude Islamist groups that recently fought the TFG.  "There are many ways in which individuals who are Islamists or militias could be part of the process," she explained.

In May, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice highlighted her concern over Somalia as she announced the appointment of Ambassador John Yates as special envoy for Somalia.  She said he would work with "the Transitional Federal Institutions and other key Somalia groups, as well as coordinate on Somalia with our regional and international partners."

Rice stressed that the United States is "committed to helping Somalis develop their national institutions and overcome the legacy of violence and disorder of the past. By supporting the people of Somalia in this effort, we are also contributing to the peace and stability of the Horn of Africa, and to the African continent as a whole."

To meet the humanitarian challenges posed by the incessant clan fighting that stepped up in 2006, the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State, has provided more than $135 million in emergency assistance since October 2006.

During that period, the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration provided almost $7 million to assist refugees in Somalia as well as in camps in Kenya, Yemen and Ethiopia.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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