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The Answer is Worse than the Problem

ISSUE 276
Front Page
Index
Headlines

Unknown airplanes circle over Hargeysa and Burao

EU: Presidency Ponders Special Envoy To War-Torn Somalia

Somalia asked us to save them from this brutal sub-clan

US Ethiopia Human Rights Africa
Revealed: Abuses of the War on Terror in the Horn of Africa

Only Somaliland Has An Identifiable National Armed Force

Ethiopian Army Kills Thousands In Somalia

Puntland approves controversial livestock export deal

Adal: History Of Islamic State Of Eastern Africa

The flawed Chatham House Report on Somalia

Regional Affairs

French Palace Denies Djibouti Crime Investigators

Human Rights Rapporteurs Denounce Deadly Conflict In Mogadishu

Editorial
Special Report

International News

Somalia: The Other (Hidden) War for Oil

Somali Held By CIA Denies Al-Qaida Link

Bush and the Generals

Global Terrorist Threat Seen Undergoing Change

German Foreign Policy On Somalia

Inside Africa's Guantanamo

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Fear Factor: Press Plays 9/11 Card to Justify Somalia Slaughter

The Global Citizen Project

The Answer is Worse than the Problem

The Pentagon’s New Africa Command

''Somalia Falls into Political Collapse''

Time Foreign Forces Quit Somalia

Food for thought

Opinions

Response to Berhanu Kebede

Borama Mayor should do something about the poor hygiene of the city!

Human Rights Violation

Somaliland Is Hargeisa Only And Hargeisa Is Somaliland

"War On Terror:" A Misleading Rhetoric For Ethiopia's Domination On Somalia

It is not yet a defeated fact

Women And Political Power


May 4, 2007

By Medhane Tadesse

The Horn of African region is one conflict system anchored in “mutual destabilization”. Even local level armed conflicts in the Horn risk becoming inter-state conflicts because of the engagement of neighboring countries. Political leadership choose to destabilize their neighbors until their internal problems are resolved. The more they are unable to resolve their domestic problems, the more they tend to take their neighbors down the road. Many of them have been meddling in the internal affairs of neighbors for some time now. I am sure; this is not helping the region, the individual countries or the world at large. The desire of some leaders to mint new rebel groups against their neighbors is simply amazing. That is how they deal with security problems. But how do they know it is a security problem, without even having a national security policy paper. That is another matter.

I have had several difficult conversations with myself, over the years, on the question: what is the main problem in this region. For many in the policy-making and decision-making world, it has always been a security problem. Judging from the widespread and never-ending instability in our region, it’s often tempting to talk about security problems. Many governments arrived into and departed from the scene blaming security problems for the grim situation they found themselves. Some of these bewildered regimes tried to keep the problem to themselves without contaminating their neighbors or hoping to spare their citizens from the grief they already know and confront.

Some broke the news of a mortal insurgency running in the country after having kept it from their population for several years. Even then, the problem is defined in security terms. Then the answer is automatic. The response needs to be military offensive or security crackdown. It may be easy to militarily overpower and destroy your opponents at home with brute and force. This may lead decision makers think that they can survive in spite of unfavorable political opinion and tied of events. Such a state of mind suffers, among others, from short-termism.

To many governments in the sub-region, everything is a security problem. The border problem is a security problem, the Somali problem is a security problem, and the problem in Darfur is also a security problem. Let’s talk about the Ethiopia-Eritrea border crisis. By any measurable standard it is a political problem. A political problem, which sprang out of a hegemonic desire and economic viability of one of the parties to the conflict. Without addressing these critical points, there is no way the so-called border issue could be resolved. However, there has to be reconciliation before any demarcation can take place. Other options cannot simply work. Any attempt, to forcefully implement any demarcation, is not only impossible but it will be counter productive and a potential for more conflict. Let’s turn to the crisis in Somalia which is much complex than the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict. It is deeply rooted in socio-economic and political problems. The emergence of an extremist force is only a manifestation of a deeper crisis. True, extremists have posed a security threat internally and externally, and they had to be confronted militarily. Once you deal with the extremist forces by force, however, you need to turn back to the political option. The military option is relevant to remove those, which stand in the way of a political solution. The military solution couldn’t by any means replace the political process. There is no alternative, whatsoever, to a political process whether in Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia or Uganda.. This is the problem.

The tendency to define every problem as a security problem is, to say the least, counterproductive. This approach deflects proper attention away from the central determining aspect of conflicts in the Horn of African region i.e. the use of power by governments. The ‘mutual intervention’ circuit is itself an extension of a different kind of political problem. This is partly attributed to the belief that political problems are complex and it is difficult to deal with them in a definite manner. For many, among the decision makers, defining a given problem as a political problem could have unnecessary implications.

They also assume that a political problem can’t be fixed soon. Thus, the only way to fix it is, first to deny it is a political problem and secondly deal with it by military means. For me everything in this region is a political problem.

Everything is political. Then can’t every political problem be fixed? It can. For sure, no political problem can be fixed by security measures. We can use every available military option, or we can pray and fast forever, it isn’t going to change the inevitable. Then there is the issue of external engagement and the foreign policy style of neighboring countries. The nature of states, or some states, in the region is really perplexing. We can call it the leadership style or governance style of these particular governments. If they would just change, not to be involved in the internal affairs of their neighbors, and not be supporting armed groups against the regimes in their respective countries, then.... then WHAT? As I pointed out in several occasions, if they did all that, they would have to democratize or loose power and wouldn’t have any place to go. Then the question would be, are they ready to take that risk? NO. Are they willing to change the governance style? Because that is where we come into this equation. We have had some difficult experiences over the last couple of years. It is not going to change soon. Of all the things the governments in this sub region have lost, it’s the state of mind that encourages civil dispute mechanism. This defines everything wrong happening in our region The more governments tilt towards applying security measures to resolve political problems, the more the trouble in coming years. Amazingly, this doesn’t miss the point. The precision of such prediction is such that it is as if we have a built-in radar system attached to an invincible satellite dish that constantly whirls on the use of power by governments anxiously searching for any hint of trouble.

Medhane Tadesse of CPRD is a long time specialist on issues of peace and security in the Horn of Africa. He can be reached at mt3002et@yahoo.com


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