Friday, October 31, 2008

Peace Deals and Bombings in Somalia

In case it doesn't make headlines in the current media market, which is still saturated with talk of Obama, McCain and the Economy, I thought all our readers might be interested to know what's been going on in Somalia this week. On Sunday, warring parties in Somalia signed a Peace Deal. According to the UN, "The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) signed two accords today in neighbouring Djibouti after three days of talks backed by the UN and the wider international community."

Just four days later, a series of suicide attacks hit two towns in Somalia and killed at least 22 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but many blamed a militant Islamist group called the Shabab. This setback in Somali peace highlights a serious problem when peace talks are conducted at the exclusion of spoilers. Not that I'm suggesting all terrorist groups in Somalia (or elsewhere for that matter) should be legitimized by being included in peace talks. But the result is all too often the same -- excluded groups overshadow the progress made at talks by perpetuating more violence. Indeed, in its report on the peace talks on October 27th, the New York Times highlighted the progress the talks had made with several militant groups, but also noted, "the most fearsome wing of Somalia’s Islamist insurgency, the Shabab, has shunned the peace talks and vowed to fight on." And fight on they have. Now nearly all the news stories on Somalia have returned to focus on the violence with very little mention of the progress that was made just days before.

Somalia has been entrenched in an intractable conflict for seventeen years. For a discussion of the situation and prospects for peace in Somalia, read a Q&A by Reuters.