afrol News, 24 May - Somalia is one of the world's chief examples of a failed state - a frequently lawless land of chronic, criminally opportunistic, conflict. This, according to a new study, could pose a real threat also to the outside world as Somalia's weakness could be exploited by international terrorists.
There is no functioning, nationally-recognised central government in Somalia. Somalia is unable to control its borders or police its financial sector and has in the past been a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Its highly fragmented internal security situation and the competing agendas of its neighbours have raised concerns that it may again become a base for international terrorism.
A new report by the Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), 'Somalia: Countering Terrorism in a Failed State,' says that the instability and power vacuum created by the collapse of the state pose the greatest danger to the outside world and to Somalia itself.
ICG Africa Program Co-Director John Prendergast said: "Somalia has largely been forgotten since the last UN peacekeepers pulled out in 1995, and current peace initiatives have run out of steam. The recent escalation in fighting between competing factions backed by regional benefactors threatens the little local progress made on economic recovery and the rule of law."
- Renewed engagement, especially by the EU, U.S. and UN, working closely with the key regional actors, is urgently needed to bring internal peace and state reconstruction, he added. "This is the only way to realise long-term counter-terrorism objectives."
The report provides a detailed assessment of the current political dynamics, the roles of neighbouring states, especially Egypt and Ethiopia, and the risks to Kenya from Somalia's instability. It also assesses the influence of the most problematic Islamist organisation, the indigenous al-Itihaad al-Islami, which aims to establish an Islamic state. The report notes that al-Itihaad has had links with international terrorist organisations in the past, including al-Qaeda, and the possibility of continued or renewed ties should be closely monitored.
John Prendergast said: "The policy objective should, however, be wider than counter-terrorism. Diplomatic efforts should aim to defuse immediate tensions both inside Somalia and among competing regional states that threaten to plunge Somalia into wider war, and to strengthen the existing regional peace initiative".
No Western military operation - in and of itself - can make Somalia safe from terrorism, the think-tank however holds. "Military threats, intelligence gathering and perhaps limited military operations to seize certain individuals may deter terrorists from using Somalia as a haven in the short run."
However, such a strategy was "unsustainable if it is not linked with a process aimed ultimately at reconciliation and the reconstitution of a functioning state," the report concludes.