The Forgotten War in Somalia

Written by Jim Kouri

by Jim Kouri, CPP
March 6, 2008
so-lgflag.jpg Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991. In December 2006, the Ethiopian military intervened in Somalia to support Somalia's transitional government, opening what many considered a window of opportunity to rebuild the country and restore effective governance.

so-map.jpgThe United States has been the largest bilateral donor to Somalia, providing roughly $362 million in assistance since 2001. Recently, the Government Accountability Office reviewed documents from U.S. and international organizations; interviewed U.S., United Nations (UN), Somali, and other officials; and conducted fieldwork in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Overall, the GAO analysts assessed U.S. strategy the desirable characteristics of an effective national strategy that the GAO previously developed. Several challenges have limited U.S. and international efforts to stabilize Somalia. The international community, including the United States, is seeking to improve the security situation in the country, mainly by funding an African Union peacekeeping operation.

However, a shortage of troops has hindered peacekeepers' ability to achieve their mission. In addition, the most recent attempt at political reconciliation was limited, in part because several important opposition groups were not involved. For example, while this key attempt resulted in resolutions to end the conflict and return all property to its rightful owners, these opposition groups denounced the resolutions, citing their lack of participation in drafting them.

According to many officials, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government lacks institutional structures and national acceptance, and these weaknesses have constrained U.S. and international efforts to establish the transitional government as a fully functioning central government. To mitigate these challenges, the international community, including the United States, is taking steps that include encouraging all parties to participate in reconciliation discussions. While the international community, including the United States, continues to provide vital humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia, its efforts have been limited by lack of security, access to vulnerable populations, and effective government institutions.

The international community's humanitarian assistance to Somalia, which primarily consists of food aid, has not reduced the country's acute malnutrition rates, which have remained above the emergency threshold in some parts of the country.

According to United Nations officials, however, malnutrition is the result of a combination of immediate and underlying causes, including insufficient dietary intake, inadequate health care, and inadequate water and sanitation services. Ongoing insecurity constrains the international community's ability to monitor its provision of humanitarian and development assistance to Somalia.

Furthermore, U.S. officials' inability to travel to the country has prevented them from independently monitoring assistance. The international community's plans to increase development assistance to Somalia depend on political progress and stability, which have not yet been achieved. U.S. strategy for Somalia, outlined in the Administration's 2007 report to Congress on its Comprehensive Regional Strategy on Somalia, is incomplete.

While the Comprehensive Strategy addresses the components required of it by U.S. law, it does not include the full range of U.S. government activities related to Somalia, such as Department of Defense efforts to promote regional stability, and it does not reference other key U.S. government strategic documents for Somalia.

The Comprehensive Strategy does not fully address any of the six desirable characteristics of an effective national strategy, lacking information on necessary resources, investments, and risk management. A separate, classified report provides more information on selected U.S. strategic planning efforts for Somalia.
Right Side News contributing editor Jim Kouri, CPP is currently vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" Visit his website for more information. 
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