Somali Government Asks for Protection, Encourages Ignoring International Law

AU troops advance on Al Shabaab positions May 2012 (AU/ UN IST/ Stuart Price)

African Union troops advance on Al-Shabaab positions, May 2012 (AU/UN IST/Stuart Price)

“Whoever comes trying to help them defeat Al-Shabaab, they are more than welcome… they are given a license to completely ignore any local or international law.” This was a statement made by Omar Jamal, a Somalia Mission to the United Nations. Somalia just held their first election in twenty-one years. However, the newly elected government in Somalia is beyond weak.  Numerous militant forces remain in Somalia and they have no respect for the authority of the government. In fear of the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab and other threatening militant movements, the Somali government has given a green light to foreign nations to come give military support, and deems them free to ignore any and all law.

Imagine not knowing which nations’ military troops were currently fighting in the U.S.? The Somali government does not even know which forces are fighting on its side. It is a chaotic warzone.

The United States currently has around 2,500 military personnel in the region known as the ‘Horn of Africa.’ The CIA has been actively involved in operations, but the full extent of these operations is unknown. Matt Bryden, the former head of the UN Monitoring Group, commented that there is a lot more going on, and that reports may only capture half the picture. Between June of 2011 and April of 2012, the UN recorded sixty-four unauthorized flights over Somalia, most believed to have been Kenyan air strikes. The African Mission in Somalia has 16,500 soldiers on the ground, and forces from the neighboring Ethiopia are present as well. There is also a private army from Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia. There are thousands of troops from all over Africa and the world in Somalia, and yet the newly elected government feels it is right to give anyone who will protect them, power beyond any laws?

13652456715724448.JPGMembers of Al-Shabab are paraded by African Union troops at Maslah square in Mogadishu after their surrender to the authorities on Monday. (Reuters)

The reason that there is little scrutiny over what is occurring in Somalia is because the nation’s current atmosphere is simply too dangerous for any journalists. Eight journalists have already died in Somalia in 2012. EJ Hogendoorn, who served on the UN Panel of Experts on Somalia, claims that it is a challenge to attain any credible information from sources in the country.

This sounds like an all out free-for-all. I do not blame the government for fearing the militant movements, for there have been consistent suicide bombings at the Capital, the father-in-law of the former President of Somalia was shot and killed last Saturday, and the newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud survived an assassination attempt two weeks ago, just days after being elected. However, allowing nations to enter and ignore international law does not seem to be the appropriate means of protecting this war-ridden country. This situation needs to be controlled immediately.

What should, or better yet, what could be done here? Is a government allowed to invite countries to enter its territory and then tell troops to ignore all local and international law? Could the Somali government be held liable for aiding in the creation of such a chaotic warzone? The United Nations and U.S. forces are present in Somalia, but don’t you think more drastic measures need to be taken to put out this wildfire of military chaos? I don’t know what should be done here, but advising troops in an environment where international law is already ignored, to go ahead and ignore all local and international law seems to be fighting fire with fire. Is this the only feasible option?




  1. I think the biggest question here about the new Somalian government is “Does it really matter what they want?”. Most every nation in Africa has a history of European nations coming in and following their own motives, whether it was depleting natural resources or taking over land. This was with total disregard to the will of the people, in whatever governmental structure was present. Today, it seems to be the same situation, only now instead of European nations, it can be militant groups or terrorist organizations.
    I do not agree with allowing outside nations to act carte blanche. I think the more unknown groups inside a nation will create a chaos, and too many incidents of friendly fire, to justify whatever good they could do. However, I do not think the newly elected President, who as Patrick noted just survived an assassination attempt, has any power to do anything else.
    In order for the fledging government to survive, it needs to show legitimacy to the people and their enemies. This does not come from running to other nations for help but, at this point in time, it may be the only option. If these outside nations can help create order, then the biggest hurdle becomes moving on and creating a stable nation, which is a huge feat unto itself.

  2. I believe that Mr. Dowdle raises many good points. A newly elected government that looks to encourage foreign military assistance by declaring that foreign forces are to be immune to local and international law is inviting disaster. Especially since simply declaring that international law will not apply, hardly makes it so. As Mr. Paliotta pointed out, beyond the human rights violations that will probably follow, the people will not view the new government as legitimate, but rather as weak and a puppet of foreign nations. The propaganda that Al-Shahab will have as ammunition if foreign nations begin to send in more troops will be incredible. With no regulation by the local government and therefore no accountability, any civilian deaths at the hands of troops, even Al-Shahab, can easily be pinned on foreign forces. As a connection, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s government will be blamed. Massacres can be executed by Al-Shahab with the sole purpose of framing these foreign forces and winning the support of the people.

    The last thing that President Obama wants to do is risk losing American troops in a fight that he will surely be criticized for as America having no business getting involved in. Sending in a battalion of Marines would be a very efficient solution to controlling the situation, but in an election year, a very unpopular one. The best President Mohamud can hope for from the U.S. is more money and supplies, maybe a few more troops solely to train his, no fighting.

  3. Battling lawlessness with lawlessness seems like the worst possible choice to make for the new Somali government. In my opinion, if the new President wants his government’s authority to be taken seriously he should be doing everything in his power to enforce the law as it is written, not casting it aside in the hope that someone else could come in and fix his problem without having to restrict their actions. If the President does not approve of the current law he should be taking action to change it. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with a government leader asking for help from other country’s leaders, but throwing himself at their mercy and begging them to come in and save his country by any means they wish because he cannot do it himself is appalling and will not give the Somali people any sort of confidence in their new leader. The new President was elected to lead and help the people. It does not seem that he is worthy of his position based on his actions to this point.

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