Gunfire erupts in South Sudan capital, talks delayed
Dubai: An analyst on Somali affairs has said foreign intervention in Somalia — left without a central government since the 1991 ousting of its then military ruler — is “the root cause of civil strife”.
Shams Hussain, an academic who holds dual Somali and British nationality, said: “One would argue that 90 per cent of the problems in Somalia are based on foreign intervention. They include regional and international actors.”
Shams, on a recent visit to the UAE, identified the regional actors as mainly the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as the “IGAD counters”. IGAD — the Intergovernmental Authority on Development — is a regional bloc of east African nations including Somalia. One of its stated objectives is to support “the prevention, management and resolution of inter-state and intra-state conflicts through dialogue.”
Meanwhile, the international actors, according to Shams, include the US and the European Union. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Shams said: “There are also invisible actors who intervene through others. Piracy and the [Al Qaida-linked] Al Shabab militia were created by outsiders.
“But exactly who is behind it all, I don’t know. What I do know is that without outside support and a blind eye, they would not have lasted this long.” Shams pointed out that divisions in Somalia go back to the colonial period that led it to be divided into five parts: British Somaliland, French Somaliland, Italian Somalia, the Ogaden-Haud and reserved areas (given by the UK to Ethiopia) and the Northern Frontier Districts (ceded to Kenya by the UK).
She added that in 1991, the former British Somaliland in the north west dissolved the union and engaged in separate peace processes inside the country, which were “locally funded, implementing and electing a government and a parliament that is also regulated by the House of Elders.” However, Somaliland so far remains unrecognised internationally.
“Somaliland emerged as a hot potato to potential interventionists. On the one hand, its stability was not conducive for foreign troops. When they were united Somalis were accused of being ‘expansionists’ and not adhering to the boundaries left by the European colonial powers. When divided, they were accused of being secessionists.”
Meanwhile, developments have taken a different turn in the southern regions, Shams added. “The southern region — a former Italian colony — branched out differently. Two decades have passed with internal conflict and despite 13 peacemaking conferences worldwide the likelihood of peace stays delayed,” she said. From 2000 to 2012, a series of internationally recognised ‘transitional’ institutions were formed. Today, a permanent Federal Government of Somalia is in place. “We are pleased that the so-called transitional governments ended,” Shams said, but though “the recognition of the Somali federal government is a positive step, one has to bear in mind that there are foreign troops inside Somalia. This time they are fellow Africans funded by international actors who purport to ‘help stability’. When asked why foreign powers would be interested in Somalia, Shams replied: “The answer is simple: strategy and resources. Somalia is located in one of the most strategic places in the world, connecting Africa, Asia and Europe through shipping lines of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, not to mention the Suez Canal and the oil routes of Arabia.”
She added that Somalia is rich in mineral resources, including oil and gas, livestock, agriculture and fishery. “I think both the regional and international actors should revisit the nature of their involvement in Somalia. These actors are talking about their security, but nobody mentions the sovereignty infringement of Somalia, the illegal fishing, toxic waste dumping,” she said.
Despite the challenges facing Somalia, Shams remains an optimist, putting her faith in the spirit of her people. “Somalis have suffered a lot, but they exhibited a magnificent strength and resilience.”
(Reuters) – Gunshots rang out in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, for about an hour on Sunday as peace talks between rebels and the government to hammer out a ceasefire deal faced further delay in neighboring Ethiopia.
The gunfire came from the direction of the military headquarters of the SPLA government forces, towards the northern outskirts of the city. It was not clear who was involved.
Three weeks of fighting, which began in Juba but spread beyond, often along ethnic faultlines, have killed more than a thousand people, forced a cut in oil output and left the world’s newest state on the brink of civil war.
Juba has been largely calm since the early clashes, though there was also a brief gun fight on Saturday evening and residents talk of growing tensions.
“I saw a truck full of soldiers going along the Bilpam road. They were singing. About 20 minutes later the shooting started and people started running towards town,” said Animu Afekuru, who lives in the neighborhood.
Western and regional powers, many of which supported the negotiations that led to South Sudan’s secession from Sudan in 2011, are pressing for a peace deal, fearing the latest fighting could destabilize east Africa.
The unrest pits President Salva Kiir’s SPLA government forces against rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
Both warring factions have said they want peace and are committed to a ceasefire in principle, though neither has indicated when they would lay down their weapons.
But there is widespread skepticism in Juba, where residents are on edge amid rumors of a rebel advance on the city that lies on the banks of the White Nile.
“I fear for our country in the coming days,” said 19-year-old Nyathok Khat. “The politicians don’t care about the suffering of the people.”
NO “DELAY GIMMICK”
Fighting also erupted outside the flashpoint town of Bor, capital of vast Jonglei state which has untapped oil reserves.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday voiced his support for the Addis Ababa peace talks and warned against the use of force by either side to gain the upper hand.
“The negotiations have to be serious. They cannot be a delay gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan,” Kerry told reporters during a visit to Israel.
Rebel and government negotiators were supposed to sit down face-to-face for the first time on Sunday. But the rebel delegation and a Western diplomat told Reuters late in the evening there would be no meeting that day.
Kiir blamed his long term rival, whom he sacked in July, for starting the fighting in a bid to seize power. Machar dismissed the allegation but he has acknowledged leading soldiers battling the government.
A key stumbling block to the talks is what should happen to a number of political detainees allied to Machar who are accused of involvement in the plot.
The rebels have demanded their comrades’ release – a call backed by the United States and European Union.
“This is a capital offence, it is a case of treason and we are expected as the government of the Republic of South Sudan to investigate within two, three days? This is out of the question,” South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei told reporters in Addis Ababa.
Several false starts have dampened hopes for a swift end to the fighting, which has driven more than 200,000 people from their homes. The United Nations is scrambling to raise money to provide food, clean water and shelter.
Sudan’s state news service reported Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would head to Juba on Monday to meet Kiir.
(Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Nairobi, Tom Perry in Cairo and Arshad Mohammed in Jerusalem; Writing by Richard Lough, Editing by Rosalind Russell)