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Rajat Dubey asked: What could be a feasible solution for the political and humanitarian crisis in Somalia, and how should the world respond to it?

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  • Ruchita Beri replies: Since the collapse of Said Barre’s regime in 1991, anarchy, insidious clan conflicts and political fragmentation seem to characterise Somalia. The recently released Failed State Index, published by the journal Foreign Policy, places Somalia at the top of the list. There have been number of initiatives to resolve the Somali crisis. The most notable attempt was that of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that brought the warring factions to come to an agreement on a Transitional National Charter in 2003, followed by inauguration of the TFG in Kenya. The TFG however was opposed by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that in 2006 controlled the entire South and Central Somalia. The TFG managed to get rid of the ICU with help from Ethiopian armed forces and the United States of America. However the TFG’s attempt to control the region was challenged by Mogadishu-based militia Al Shabaab. In 2008, after an agreement with the moderate Islamists, their leader, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was elected as the president of Somalia in 2009.

    However, despite the presence of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, the conflict continues to rage in south and central Somalia. It will be prudent to mention that Somalia at present comprise of three fragmented political entities: First is Somaliland that lies in the north and is comparatively stable. However, it is not recognised as an independent state by the international community. Second is Puntland, a breakaway territory that has been in news as the hub of pirate activity. Third is South and Central Somalia, where the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) rule is limited to Mogadishu while the rest of the countryside is largely under the control of Al Shabaab.

    There are number of challenges towards the road to peace in Somalia. Internally, the TFG is faced with multiple problems, including shortage of resources and lack of effective coordination. The international community has helped train the Transitional Federal Armed Forces; however, desertions are very high due to factors, such as, the lack of clear command and control structures and delays in payment of salaries, etc. At the same time, the lasting peace in Somalia will not be possible without recognising the concerns of external powers such as Ethiopia that fears the establishment of an unfriendly regime in the country. The continuing rivalry between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the region (with reports of each country supporting rival groups) compounds the problem. The final option that remains with the international community and the TFG is to open peace talks with members of Al Shabaab group.