An Opportunity for Somalia?

Releasing a long-awaited report on Somalia today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced some degree of optimism in the prospect of achieving peace in the war-torn country.

Assessments and missions carried out by the United Nations have shown that “despite the difficult security situation characterized by indiscriminate killing, kidnapping and hijacking, there is an opportunity to end the prolonged conflict in Somalia and the suffering of its people,” Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report.

The report outlines four possible scenarios that could lead to the deployment of 27,000 UN peacekeepers in Somalia, whose instability is currently guarded over by only 2,600 African Union troops (the AP’s Edith Lederer provides a particularly accurate run-down of these scenarios).

Before celebrating the impending deployment of blue helmets in Somalia, however, one should take a good look at the steps that Ban prescribes as prerequisites for such a force. Particularly key is a significant level of progress that Somalia must make on the political front — progress that has been unfortunately absent in the country’s decade and a half of virtual lawlessness.

Ban advises that, in order to avoid the mistakes of 1993 — when, according to critics, a UN military operation detracted from the UN’s political and humanitarian goals — a peace accord must precede UN deployment. He specifies that at least 70% of the Somali opposition would have to reach an agreement on power-sharing, disarmament, and the renunciation of violence, and would have to accede to the UN’s presence. This, too, at the moment at least, seems unfortunately unlikely.