Sound AU alarm on destabilisation of
SUDANESE Foreign Minister Mustafa Othman Ismael has warned that the
nation's peace process will fail "unless it is viewed within
the context of a comprehensive regional framework".
He was speaking at the 10th Ordinary
Intergovernmental Authority on Development summit in Kampala,
Uganda, apparently referring to stalemated thorny issues such as the
Somali peace process and Ethiopia-Eritrea border tensions.
As if to highlight the broader
geopolitical stakes bearing down on northeast Africa, there are the
ominous implications of the recent murders of two British nationals
outside Hargeisa, the capital of normally peaceful Somali- land, the
diplomatically unrecognised northern Somali republic.
It has been spared the violence and
chaos of the failed Somali state in the south.
Noteworthy about these murders is the
existence of a coalition of regional forces Egypt, Djibouti and,
especially, Saudi Arabia opposed to Somaliland's existence, with a
possible interest in its destabilisation.
As it is, Somaliland's "foreign minister", Edna Adan
Ismail, claims that the murders were carried out by al-Qaeda-linked
terrorists. Apart from the threat to Somaliland posed by its
possible targeting by al-Qaeda, the stakes extend wider.
There exists a finely tuned
religiocultural balance between Islam, Christianity and indigenous
faiths throughout northeast Africa, reflecting an environment of
religious pluralism. This could all be threatened if Somali- land's
pastoral-Sufi Islamic society succumbs to the influence of extremist
The export of Wahhabism throughout
central, southwest and southeast Asia is widely seen as being at the
root of Islamist extremism; a trend US President George Bush is
fanning through his misguided policy of Middle East transformation
centred on Iraq as the frontline in the "war on terror"
but with Israeli Likud hegemony as its subtext.
The Saudis are under growing pressure
to clean up their act as exporters of Wahhabist extremism. But the
Somaliland killings suggest northeast Africa could become its next
According to Bashir Goth, in his
Against the Saudisation of Somaliland, anyone who "followed
recent press reports from Somali- land would have read that a group
of Saudi-oriented clerics, calling themselves the Authority for the
Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, an offshoot of its Saudi
counterpart, has been demanding the enforcement of draconian rules
on what Somali- landers wear, say and do in their private
lives", compared with the historically relaxed harmony between
Islam and Somali culture. The possible surfacing of al-Qaeda may
reflect this trend; one converging with Saudi, Egyptian and
Djiboutian resistance to the apparent federalist direction of the
Somali talks in Kenya.
They want those talks to cover
northern Somalia, which Somali- land resists. Hence, Somaliland's
stability is now at stake. The possibility of it sliding into the
same chaos engulfing southern Somalia amid an Islamist ascendancy, a
trend not evident in northeast Africa to date, ought to signal an
African Union (AU) "red alert".
It should also give added impetus to
achieving peace accords in Sudan, southern Somalia and between
Ethiopia and Eritrea.
This should also focus African and
international minds on taking Somaliland out of its nonrecognition
limbo as part of a wider counterterrorist strategy. An Afro-Arab
security dialogue including increased intelligence co-operation
aimed at containing Islamic extremism along Africa's Indian Ocean
littoral might be priority elements in this strategy.
This is where the "comprehensive
regional framework" called for by Sudan's foreign minister
takes on added urgency, not just regionally but in Sudan itself.
Sudan's conflict, as in Somalia, is
multiregional; not simply north-south. Sudan's interim settlement
will be inherently unstable. Thus, the fact peacekeeping in the
Sudan was omitted from Washington's $87bn budgetary picture of
rebuilding aid for Iraq and Afghanistan is hard.
Kornegay is programme co- ordinator,
Centre for Africa's International Relations, University of the
Nov 10 2003 07:40:07:000AM Business
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