The East African reports:
There are four major factors that have bogged down the military campaign. They are: Lack of finances to run a long-drawn war; the differences between interested parties over whether to divide Somalia into autonomous regions or maintain one united country; differences over the option to engage Al Shabaab in a political dialogue, and the ambivalence of Somalia’s President Sheikh Shariff Ahmed.
Kenya’s intention has always been to create an autonomous region in southern Somalia to act as a buffer to the chaotic mix that is central Somalia. The plan has apparently become even more ambitious:
Kenya is proposing the division of Somalia into eight autonomous regions: Central region or Hiran; Somaliland; Puntland; Bay Bakool; Jubaland; Shabelle; Gedo and Mogadishu, commonly known as Banadir.
But it is increasingly becoming apparent that the cost and politics of such an operation may not be as palatable as the planners had initially thought.
President Sheikh Shaiff’s ambivalence is intended for the domestic audience and also motivated by his desire to concentrate power in Mogadishu (he dislikes the idea of autonomous regions proposed by Kenya).
The first source of ambivalence is reasonable. No president wants to be in support of a foreign invasion that occasionally results in the death of innocent citizens. I hope the Kenyan commanders, under AMISOM or not, do not pay too much attention to his flip flopping on how to engage the al-Shabab.
The second is not. Two decades of warfare have made it clear that trying to solve Somalia’s problems from Mogadishu may not be a good idea. The only way that might happen is through a force like the Islamic Courts Union. But the international community will not allow a pure military solution, given the human rights implications.
Perhaps it is time a decentralized peace initiative got underway.
Finally, it is encouraging that after weeks of pro-war jingoism the news media in Nairobi have begun to question the execution of the war in Somalia. More public discussion about the logic and cost of the war needs to take place in order to keep both the generals and politicians on the straight and narrow.