Outside editorial: It's time to stabilize Somalia

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star:

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Since the collapse of its government 16 years ago, Somalia has been sliding into an abyss.

Now it is believed to be a haven for al-Qaida terrorist cells. Before they take root, the international community must help stabilize Somalia's transitional government.

The government, formed in 2004 with the assistance of neighboring nations, has faltered and lacks a standing army.

A threat was posed late last year by various warlords and the Islamic Courts Union, which had taken over the capital. But it appears to have been crushed with the help of military intervention by Ethiopia.

Uganda has since weighed in with a stabilizing force, and Kenya plays the diplomatic role of trying to reconcile the warring parties. And a recent announcement of a U.S. government grant of $14 million to Kenya for the war on terror also is laudable. Nevertheless, African states through the African Union should establish and maintain a strong military presence that will help the new government get on its feet and establish its rule all over Somalia.

Even though the ultimate responsibility lies with the Somali people, the international community should not just stand by. It should actively support the African effort to stabilize Somalia.

Somalia's problems often draw little international concern. But the twin 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in the neighboring nations of Kenya and Tanzania offer an example of why Somalia matters. The plotters of the bombings went into hiding in Somalia. They were attracted by the lack of a strong central government.

The time to push harder for peace and a stable central authority in Somalia is overdue. The African Union and the international community must act decisively.

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