War-torn Somalia braces for fresh violence amid shaky peace accord

Failed talks and the killing of yet another aid worker highlight the growing humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

In yet another fragile peace accord in Somalia, the government and opposition parties yesterday announced an agreement designed to halt months of escalating fighting. But the war-torn country, an Al Qaeda front in Africa, braced for fresh violence as Islamist insurgents vowed to continue fighting and executed a United Nations aid worker.

According to the official Chinese news service Xinhua, government and opposition representatives met on Monday to discuss a peace agreement.

Joint committees from the Somali transitional government and the opposition coalition Monday met in Djibouti for the first time and formally signed an 11-point communiqué "to help start effective implementation" of the peace agreement, reports from Djibouti said.
In the communiqué received here Tuesday, the two committees, who met in Djibouti from August 16-18, said they adopted "Terms of Reference for both Committees" and discussed practical means of implementing the Djibouti peace agreement initiated on June 9, which called for a cessation of hostilities effective 30 days from signing of the agreement and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia within 120 days after a UN force is implemented.

The peace accord, like many others, was not expected to hold. Promptly reacting to yesterday's deal, a faction of Islamist insurgents vowed to fight on, reports Bloomberg.

Somali Islamic insurgents fighting a United Nations-backed transitional government have pledged to unite rival factions to drive Ethiopian troops from the east African nation, a spokesman for the rebel group said....
"We will continue fighting against the Ethiopian forces who invaded our homeland aggressively until they withdraw from our country," [Abdilkadir Ali Omar, the deputy chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, said].

Thousands of Ethiopian troops have been on the ground in Somalia since 2006, deployed to fight off Islamist insurgents trying to seize the capital. But neither the Ethiopians nor a June peace accord has stemmed the violence, the Associated Press reported.

Somalia's government struck the deal in June with a relatively moderate faction of the country's Islamic insurgency. But Somalia's more hard-line opposition leaders never took part in the agreement, which has had little effect on the ground.

As a result, violence in Somalia has mushroomed in recent months into an Iraq-style insurgency, with nearly daily bombings and a growing spate of kidnappings. More than 8,000 civilians have been killed and at least 1 million uprooted by the violence since early last year, according to Al Jazeera. There are doubts that this week's accord will fare any better in bringing peace, a fact driven home by the death of a United Nations worker.

A Somali working for the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has been killed after being abducted in southern Somalia.

Abdulkadir Diad Mohamed was abducted by unidentified men in the town of Dinsor and killed after trying to escape, the Rome-based agency said on Monday.

The death of a WFP worker also highlights the growing humanitarian crisis that threatens the entire Horn of Africa, Britain's Sunday Herald reports.

The very people trying to help Somalia's hungry millions are now being targeted themselves. Twenty aid workers have been assassinated so far this year, the majority in the past two months, in what humanitarians fear is an "orchestrated campaign" of terror....
Getting food into Somalia is becoming impossible. Around 90% of the UN World Food Programme's (WFP) deliveries are supposed to come by ship, but rampant piracy off the Somali coast has meant most shipping firms are too scared to deliver food. European navies have been escorting WFP shipments since November, but since the last Dutch escort at the end of last month no other country has offered to help.
What food is inside the country is either too expensive or cannot be safely delivered to those most in need. Roadblocks set up by militia groups regularly attack aid convoys and five drivers working for the WFP have been killed this year.

With the crisis growing, a new strategy for stability that emphasizes local governance in Somalia is needed, reports The International Herald Tribune.

Part of the problem, a rising number of Western academics and Somali professionals argue, is that the bulk of outside efforts have concentrated on setting up a strong central government, which may be anathema in a country where authority tends to be diffuse and clan-based....
But there may be another answer: going local.
Many Somali intellectuals and Western academics are pushing a form of government that might be better suited to Somalia's fluid, fragmented and decentralized society. The new idea – actually an old idea that seems to enjoying something of a renaissance because of the transitional government's shortcomings – is to rebuild Somalia from the bottom up.
It is called the building-block approach. The first blocks would be small governments at the lowest levels, in villages and towns. These would be stacked to form district and regional governments. The last step would be uniting the regional governments in a loose national federation that controlled, say, currency and the pirate-infested shoreline, but did not sideline local leaders.
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