The international community is neglecting the security threat from Somalia, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said on Friday, suggesting that the United States wanted to avoid a repeat of a failed 1992 military intervention.
The festering Somali conflict is failing to get global attention, losing out to Sudan, the war in Afghanistan, the bid for peace in the Middle East and the fight against drugs in Mexico, Wetangula told Reuters in an interview in New York.
The virtually lawless country is the biggest security threat in the Horn of Africa as Islamist al-Shabaab insurgents fight to topple Somalia’s Western-backed administration, he said.
“We know … how much the United States is pumping into Afghanistan, we’re told a couple of billion dollars daily. The East African region is asking for $500-million, not daily, not monthly, not yearly, one-off” to stabilise Somalia, he said.
When asked why he believed Somalia was being ignored, he said: “Your guess is as good as mine. For the United States, maybe the embarrassment they suffered when they went there, I don’t know. Maybe that’s what is informing their policy.”
The United States says it is committed to helping Somalia’s government fight back Islamist rebels and to support African Union peacekeepers with equipment, training and logistical support.
But it has not had a presence in Somalia since 1994 after leading a failed UN intervention which began as a military food-aid effort in 1992. It withdrew after the killing of US troops in late 1993, depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged UN member states “to provide urgent military and financial support and other resources” to the Somali government and has organised a high-level meeting on Somalia on September 23 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders.
About 7 200 AU peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are deployed in Mogadishu and focus on guarding the airport and seaport and shielding President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed from the militants.
Line of fire
Wetangula said problems of neighbouring Somalia would not destabilise Kenya, but that he was concerned Kenya could be targeted by al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for killing 79 people in an attack in Uganda’s capital on July 11.
“We are also in the line of that fire. If they can hit Kampala they can hit any other part of East Africa,” he said.
“When you look at the events of Kampala … when you see the inflow of … weapons into my country, into Ethiopia and the region, you sometimes cannot stop wondering why those with the capacity and the ability to join hands in stabilising regions that have been unstable are not doing so,” he said.
Somalia has been plagued by anarchy since warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Pirates are active in its coastal waters and have driven up shipping costs in the Gulf of Aden.
Al-Shabaab has waged a three-year insurgency against the fragile transitional government and it controls much of Mogadishu and huge tracts of southern and central Somalia. – Reuters