The New Darfur

Originally a British and Italian led colony, the free Somalia has fallen to violence under warring clans and leaders. The situation, which remains mostly unnoticed in the shadow of the crisis in the Sudan, has developed into the main source for instability in the Horn of Africa. It is crucial that outside players examine possible solutions for stability before the option of peace is completely lost. Somalia gained its independence from colonial control in 1960, and General Mohammed Siad Barre took over the developing government in a coup d’etat in 1969. The government remained stable until its disastrous fall to unorganized militarized clan leaders in 1991. Today, the country remains in disarray, split under the control of various leaders with little sign of reformation and unification in the near future. In fact, the northwest region has formed its own self-declared republic called Somaliland, and although it has remained unrecognized by all other countries, it has led elections and prints its own currency and travel documents. A similarly autonomous Republic has developed in the northeast called Puntland. In the south, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) asserts control and has organized a code of law and even an education system. However, it is suspected to be associated with a radical cell of East African al Qaeda. These three examples exemplify the regional division since the fall of Barre’s leadership throughout the country. It is this division of the nation that prevents its unification under a central government. Constant struggle for total power intensifies violent clashes and a growing humanitarian crisis. The violence has brought some international attention in the form of humanitarian missions, including the United Nations Mission in Somalia I and II in ’92 and ’93 respectively. Although these projects temporarily relieved some civilian suffering, violence among the clans has escalated since then. Some efforts within the country initiated by national leaders have been held as well, including the Conference on Humanitarian Assistance in ’93, but the calming effects were similarly temporary. More recently, temporary governments have been put in place, including the internationally supported Transitional National Assembly (TNA) and the Federal Transitional Parliament (FTP), which met for the first time in 2006. However, such organizations leave much to be desired because their powers are very limited. Regional leaders still maintain much power and inflict violence amongst the civilians. A temporary military ceasefire must be drawn amongst the warring groups in order to allow the Transitional Federal Government to develop a stable grasp on regional control. Such a ceasefire cannot be initiated by the divided Somalian leaders; instead, outside forces such as the UN must take action. International intervention is necessary in this situation not only to quell violence causing the humanitarian crisis but also to prevent the growing power of the UIC, which has the potential to lead the Somalian nation towards a path of radical Islamist leadership. If the UIC continues in this direction, Somalia could become a new safe haven for world-threatening terror suspects. Although the issue is currently only one of regional significance, the vulnerable country has the potential to become a global threat if radical Islamic leadership takes hold. Significant international and UN intervention is necessary to prevent such a crisis.