THE weekend's attacks on the strongholds of Somalia's most belligerent warlord, Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed, should be followed up with the arrest of General Aideed and all the other Somali warlords, according to key Somali and Western analysts. Such arrests, plus disarmament of their forces, could open the way for more legitimate Somali leaders, ones more inclined to peace than war, these analysts say.
"If in the next month they [United Nations forces] do arrest some, or a group of the warlords, it's bound to open up the political area," a US official with long experience in Somalia said yesterday. "There may be some reactions to the arrests [but] in the long run, it's constructive."
Bob Koepp of the relief agency Lutheran World Federation warns that "massive attacks ... [by the US and UN] against some people will only lead to further bloodshed and set back for a long time any progress toward reconciliation."
The US-led attacks mark the end of six months of trying to negotiate with Aideed. When US-led troops first arrived last December, "we had to deal with those who wielded the power," Col. Serge Labbe, head of Canadian forces in Somalia, said Saturday night from Mogadishu. Now, he added, "Times have changed."
"Perhaps the [warlords] we were dealing with all along have no intention of putting the country back on course," Col. Labbe said. "Aideed has now openly gone down the road of violence."
Somalis from factions other than Aideed's, contacted in Nairobi, welcomed the attacks, saying all the warlords should be arrested and their forces disarmed in order to restore peace.
"I think the UN is finally beginning to realize you can't do business with warlords," says Hassan Ali Mirreh, a co-founder of one of Somalia's key political parties, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). "A group of us within the SSDF maintain that all the warlords - even ours - should be tried for war crimes," he said.
Somalia's current military factional leaders have repressed the views of civilian elders and others who are more inclined toward peace, claims Said Samatar, a Somali professor of African history at New Jersey's Rutgers University.
"These so-called warlords are not legitimate clan leaders," he said in a telephone interview. "Provided the legitimate leadership is given [UN] protection, they would be able to exert their influence for peace." In the towns of Baidoa and Belet Uen, for example, where warlords have been checked by UN troops, civilian leadership has begun to take hold.