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24 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Hopes for a peaceful Somalia could be dashed by careless leadership

Damien McElroy

Somalia should be enjoying a honeymoon period, having achieved a peaceful transition of power between outgoing and incoming presidents last year. Yet doubts over its new leadership are spiralling. These concerns are shared internally, regionally and at an international level. The most treacherous period in the affairs of a nation is often during apparent lulls when matters appear to be improving. Somalia has had its share of suffering. It epitomised the concept of failed state for the best part of two decades. Its post-2006 rehabilitation has been a product of painstaking diplomacy and gargantuan peacekeeping efforts, not least by members of the African Union.

There have been many involved in halting the descent into chaos and bolstering the efforts by Somalis themselves to re-establish state institutions. It is all the more admirable that most involved are unsung, in a world focused on many other conflicts and disasters. Yet the events of recent months have put the gains in jeopardy. The current travails originate at the top, with a new leader who has a cavalier disregard for the delicate balance of interests in the country. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the man who left the presidency last year, understands more than most the pressures still facing the country. When he spoke in London last week, he pointed out that there was a difference between changing the style of leadership and altering the direction of policy. Circumstances have greatly changed in the Horn of Africa since he left office. Yet the new landscape does not present an opening for Mogadishu to make dramatic realignments.

Two regional giants of enmity, Ethiopia and Eritrea, have embarked on a reconciliation process, throwing open an apparently frozen regional calculus. Fearing these shifting sands, Djibouti has emerged as a hostile actor.

Meanwhile, as this newspaper reported last week, the proto-independent territory of Somaliland has teamed up with DP World to develop new port infrastructure on the Gulf of Aden. Into this mix can been thrown the pressures exerted by a combination of Qatar and Turkey.

Mogadishu makes its own choices under its new leader, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Others, including his predecessor, caution the country still needs help from all and would be wise to keep neutrality as a guiding principal. The UN secretary general's new envoy for Somalia, Nicholas Haysom, a South African, has also talked about the importance of a neutral outlook to the country.

Somalia has been here before. The debt-fuelled regime of Said Barre collapsed after the Cold War, having tried to play off different sides. It had sucked in plenty of outside support but left a horrendous legacy.

thenational.ae

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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