THEWORLDTODAY.ORG DECEMBER 2007
political and clan-based polarisation – could destabilise the whole country, as it did in the early 1990s. The conflict may already be spreading. In late October, at least seven people were killed in exchanges between government forces and clan militia in Merka, just outside Mogadishu. Militias loyal to former Courts leader, Yussuf Siyad Indha’adde, are reportedly regrouping nearby. During the past few weeks, clashes between insurgents and government and Ethiopian troops also broke out in Beletweyne, a strategic town on the main road to Ethiopia. Ethiopian troops responding to ambushes by reportedly killing and injuring people with indiscriminate rocket-fire. Two once stable regions – Somaliland and Puntland – may also be drawn in. In mid October, Somaliland’s forces captured the contested town of Las Anod, and now Puntland is reorganising its militias to recapture the town. The mayhem in Mogadishu is also fuelling regional instability. Although Ethiopia uses the rhetoric of international terrorism to justify its action in Somalia, its intervention was largely provoked by regional concerns, especially continued tensions with Eritrea, which reportedly provided support to the Courts as well as to armed Ethiopian opposition groups. Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia is also contributing to conflict in its own eastern Somali region, where a longstanding rebel movement, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, seized the opportunity of the military being stretched next door to increase attacks, including on a Chinese oil site. Ethiopian troops responded with a brutal counter-insurgency campaign against civilians.
SHORT-SIGHTED In October, Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi resigned amid accusations of corruption and poor working relations with Yussuf. Many Somalis see Yussuf’s choice of a successor as a critical test of the government’s future and ability to bridge the deepening clan tensions, but the west must also do more. Ethiopia’s primary western allies – the United States, Britain and the European Union – have responded with silent diplomacy and apparent support for Ethiopian policies. This is short-sighted. Ethiopia faces difficult challenges at home, in Somalia and the region. But human rights abuses and war crimes are the wrong way to deal with them. Such conduct is creating a mounting toll of victims and risks sending more young people into the arms of the radicals. If western policymakers want to stabilise the Horn, they should apply pressure on Addis Ababa to end its own human rights abuses and ensure accountability. They should support independent human rights investigations into crimes in Somalia and Ethiopia’s Somali region and demand that Ethiopia and the government end attacks on civilians and make it possible to deliver humanitarian aid to displaced people. They must also send the message, privately, publicly and consistently, that Ethiopia and other players will never achieve sustainable peace and security by flouting the rule of law and international human rights.
| INDEPENDENT THINKING ON INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
FOOD PRODUCTION IN MALAWI
From emergency food aid to maize exporter in just eighteen months, is Malawi marking out a new African miracle? Government seed and fertiliser subsidies have certainly been highly controversial and the jury is still out on whether the success is sustainable.
eIGHTEENMONTHSAGO, FIVE million people in Malawi, or just under forty percent of its population, were receiving emergency food and other humanitarian aid. The combination of poor and erratic rains with the inability of millions of smallholder farmers to buy seed and fertiliser had resulted in a maize harvest in 2005 that, at 1.2 million metric tons, provided just over half estimated national requirements. The resulting food crisis was made worse by inefficient distribution of what was available and the high cost of imports. This led to record levels of acute malnutrition, on top of the country’s already high chronic rates. Deaths from HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis went up, as did social tensions, gender based violence and petty crime as families and communities struggled to survive.