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?
Members 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?