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Enough Project Releases Policy Statement on Bush Administration’s ‘Transition Land Mines’ in Somalia
WASHINGTON D.C. – The Enough Project at the Center for American Progress issued the following statement today regarding the growing crisis in Somalia:
As the Bush administration prepares to leave office, it is taking three ill-considered actions that threaten to exacerbate the already catastrophic situation in Somalia and tie the hands of the incoming Obama Administration. The Bush administration is: 1) urging Ethiopia to keep its armed forces in Somalia until after the administration leaves office; 2) pushing for authorization of a U.N. peacekeeping mission to protect the fractious and impotent Transitional Federal Government after Ethiopia’s departure; and 3) moving to place Ethiopia’s arch-rival Eritrea on the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list. There is little indication that the Bush Administration has thought through the implications of these major steps that would not only prolong the violence on the ground, but would hijack the incoming Obama Administration’s policy prerogatives while leaving it with an even more intractable crisis in the troubled Horn of Africa.
“These eleventh hour shifts in policy will only create more blowback for the United States in the region, and serve as a de facto recruiting tool for the hard-line Islamist militia, or shabaab, that is wrapping itself in a mantle of Somali nationalism fighting foreign forces,” said Enough Project adviser, and long-time Somalia expert, Ken Menkhaus, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Davidson College.
Ethiopia is currently scheduled to withdraw its forces from Somalia by the end of 2008 as part of the fragile U.N.-led Djibouti peace process. The two-year Ethiopian occupation of southern Somalia has been a magnet for violence and a growing insurgency in Somalia. By urging Ethiopia to maintain its presence in the capital, Mogadishu, the Bush administration is handing the shabaab a recruitment bonanza while undermining the credibility of moderate Somalis seeking to advance the Djibouti process.
“The Bush administration policy in Somalia has not only been ineffective, it has made the situation on the ground considerably worse,” said Enough Project co-Chair John Prendergast. “It is not too much to ask that the Bush team practice the maxim of ‘first, do no harm’ before they depart. The incoming Obama administration should have the chance to rethink Somalia policy, including its counter-terrorism dimensions, without having to react to a firestorm of bad ideas weeks before the inauguration.”
The Bush Administration is also pushing for a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize a U.N. stabilization force for Somalia to replace departing Ethiopian troops. This is a bad idea on a number of fronts, and there is zero indication that the administration or the U.N. is serious about putting in place a genuinely credible force. There is no thirst among member states to contribute troops in Somalia at the current moment, and whatever U.N. forces could be scraped together would surely become the main target of insurgent attacks. In short, the Administration is pushing the United Nations to authorize a force that is designed to fail. This policy is the worst of both worlds: U.N. forces would be unlikely to create political or military stability in Somalia while giving shabaab militias a new foreign occupying force to attack.
Finally, by placing Eritrea on the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, the Bush administration would push Eritrea into a corner precisely at a time when they are willing to demonstrate some flexibility. There may or may not be sufficient evidence to make the case against Eritrea, but such a strategically significant determination should not be made by a lame duck administration. This determination has the potential to spoil U.S. peacemaking efforts in Sudan and Somalia, and could deepen the crisis in the Horn of Africa by fueling already intense antipathies between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Designating Eritrea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism would have no purpose other than to shrink the Obama administration’s diplomatic room for maneuver in the region while possibly making the very real counter terrorism imperatives in Somalia more difficult to achieve.
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, Chad, eastern Congo, northern Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. ENOUGH works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. To learn more about ENOUGH and what you can do to help, go to www.enoughproject.org.