The African Union had an opportunity to demonstrate that they can act independently to stabilize problem areas on the continent, and appear to have blown it. Instead of acting quickly to tamp down anarchy in Somalia by providing peacekeeping troops to replace the Ethiopians, the member nations of the AU could not even provide half of the forces necessary for the mission:
African Union leaders have failed to secure full numbers for a planned peacekeeping force in Somalia, following a two-day summit in Ethiopia.
Speaking at the closure, new AU chairman John Kufuor said several nations had pledged troops – but only 4,000 out of a required 8,000.
The force is due to replace withdrawing Ethiopian soldiers, whose intervention swept Islamists from power last month.
The conference even had a head start on troop commitments. Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi all agreed to send the 4,000 troops prior to the start of the meetings. Those nations intended on using those pledges to secure more support from other African nations. Instead, the AU missed an opportunity to end the chaos in which Somalia has existed for the past two decades.
Somalia’s transitional government appeared to make better progress on their own. Somalia announced a reconciliation conference that would include various leaders of religious and clan organizations, a necessary step if Mogadishu will find its way to a stable, elected government and an end to vigilantism and retribution. The move will free up millions of aid dollars from Europe and the US, which has pressed Somalian president Abdullahi Yusuf to invite “moderate Islamists” to participate.
Hopefully, the conference will work if the AU cannot get its act together to provide for better security. If the Somalis can agree to put aside past wrongs and forego revenge, the transitional government will have a short window in which to build the infrastructure necessary for elections and credibility. Otherwise, the nation will fall back into warlord rule, allowing radical Islamists to creep back into power and terrorists to once again exploit the anarchy for their own purposes. Europe and the US have to remain engaged to prevent another catastrophic collapse.