Over the Moon Over Somalia

At least one person on the UN Security Council is enthusiastic about the possibility of a robust UN peacekeeping force deploying to Somalia.

“I am so excited! I’m over the moon!” South Africa’s jubilant U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo told reporters afterwards.

Somalis are also likely to be pleased by the news, because it indicates a firm UN commitment to help alleviate the deteriorating humanitarian and political situation in their country. The African Union also welcomes UN involvement, as its contingent of 2,600 Ugandan and Burundian troops is not sufficient to maintain security as the country slowly opens up a peace process. One reason that this force has remained so deeply undermanned is because neighboring countries are loathe to involve their troops in a regional conflagration; UN peacekeepers from all over the world will not have this problem.

Possible troop-contributing countries may be less ecstatic, however, at the prospect of ponying up additional contributions to the over 110,000 blue helmets already deployed around the world. Other commentators are also likely to question the feasibility of rounding up troops for another UN peacekeeping mission when the force in Darfur remains over 16,000 personnel short of its target size.

These are legitimate concerns, and, in calling for preparations for possible UN deployment, the Security Council is in fact anticipating the difficulty of obtaining peacekeepers. Setting out the conditions for dispatching a peacekeeping mission to Somalia — while simultaneously pushing for more concerted pressure in broader peace negotiations — is not mere bureaucratic red tape; it is a prudent recognition that simply throwing in troops that the international community cannot yet provide would not solve either Somalia’s political or humanitarian woes. Pragmatism is necessary on deliberations of whether, when, and how UN peacekeepers — or a coalition under a different guise, which was one of the options laid out in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on Somalia — deploy to Somalia, but to allow the weight of the difficulties of achieving such a deployment to trump the actual needs of the situation on the ground would smack of expediency and perpetrate a great disservice on Somalis.