More Somalia/Uganda Commentary

Andrew Harding at the BBC has a sensible column on what Western powers can do about al Shabab – sensible as in, it makes sense but I do not necessarily agree with it. Check it out:

As Ethiopia and the US have learned to their cost, heavy-handed foreign intervention in Somalia is unlikely to advance the cause of peace.

The trouble with the current carrot-and-stick approach has been that the stick is too short and weak, and the carrot too often ends up in someone’s back pocket in Mogadishu.

Donors, regional and international, need to help beef up the African Union force in Mogadishu to its intended strength or beyond, and to accelerate the training of Somali troops in Uganda. “More needs to be done, and quickly,” said the diplomatic source.

There has been talk for months of a big offensive against al-Shabab in Mogadishu. The Ugandan peacekeepers, sinews stiffened, may well feel more inclined to take robust action. But this is where the carrot starts to come into play.

There is no point in seizing territory if you can’t keep it. Somalia’s transitional government is hopelessly factionalised and weak, but it is the only show in town and it has had some success in forging alliances with other groups in Somalia. Somehow this needs to be encouraged and supported.

Whether or not one agrees that this is what “should” be done, Harding’s suggestions might work well as a prediction of what is likely to happen. The big offensive some have envisioned might not materialize at all, or if it does it might fail, and it does not seem Western powers are ready or willing to cut support for the TFG and leave southern Somalia to al Shabab – so “more of the same” could well be the most likely scenario going forward.

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