Hargeisa, 16 May 2009) – Greg Garland, media and outreach coordinator for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, answered questions in a June 16 CO.NX webchat on Somalia.
Following is the transcript:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of International Information Programs
CO.NX Webchat: Is there hope for Somalia?
Guest: Greg Garland
Date: June 16, 2009
Time: 8 a.m. EDT (12:00 GMT)
Gregory L Garland: Hello everybody! Thanks you for taking the time to participate today. I won’t be able to answer all the many questions you have, so please be understanding. I’ll try to answer those that have a broad interest and applicability. Let’s start!
Q [Mbekwe]: What are the main factors driving problems in Somalia?
A [Gregory L. Garland]: The two biggest factors? A shattered economy that magnifies the temptation for young men to enter into piracy, and the lack of a rule of law that could enforce national and international law. There are a variety of other factors unique to Somalia, such as illegal fishing, but lack of effective governance in much of the country and few jobs opportunities are the keys.
Q [Rooble]: Why the US government is not taking a brave step to recognize Somaliland as the first step to settle things in Somalia?
A [Gregory L Garland]: The U.S. believes that the Transitional federal Government provides the best solution for a unified Somalia. Inasmuch as Somaliland provides a degree of good governance, it offers an example to what is possible to all Somalis.
Q [jigoli]: Do u think imposing shariff to the presidency will solve the Somalian problem?
A [Gregory L. Garland]: No one person can solve the country’s problems. What is needed is effective and inclusive governance that extends nation-wide.
Q [Joseph]: What role will USA play in fixing Somalia?
A [Gregory L. Garland]: Somalis themselves will fix Somalia. The United States, along with the rest of the international community, will play a vital role in maintaining levels of humanitarian assistance, such as food and medicines. We are also participating in the international, multilateral Contact Group on Somalia to devise long-term ways and programs that can bolster the efforts of Somalis to establish rule of law and revitalize their economy.
Comment [Shakur]: Of course, both Somali Land and Puntalnd regional administrations can be seen as good role models.
Q [Rooble]: Why the American government is not doing anything effective about the piracy in the Somalia’s waters with those huge warships?
A [Gregory L Garland]: In fact, there is considerable evidence that the multinational naval presence off the coast of Somalia has become an effective deterrent against piracy. But it is only a short-term answer, a band-aid let’s say. The long-term solution is on-shore — the establishment of effective governance throughout Somalia and the revival of an economy that will offer employment alternatives.
Q [Joseph]: How would you repair Somalia as a country?
A [Gregory L. Garland]: Somalia has gone almost two decades without an effective central government. Thus, it’s necessary to establish effective national authority that extends into the interior and all along the coast. That, in fact, is the goal of the Transitional Federal Government that is situated in Mogadishu but controls little beyond the capital. Once that authority is established, there should be a return to the rule of law based on Somali traditions. The economy will rebound once rule of law has been established. The international community — East Africa, the Arab world, East Asia, Europe, and the United States — has a vital role to play to nurture the economy while in the meantime maintaining levels of humanitarian assistance.
Amelia Vance IIP Washington: Thank you everyone for your questions! Mr. Garland is currently reviewing them and will respond shortly. If you are new to the web chat, please let us know where you are from. Thank you!
Q [Mukesh Williams]: Marine piracy has a long history though ‘illegal waste dumping’ is new. Since 1992 environmental rules in the Anglo-American world became quite strict and it became increasingly difficult for companies to dispose toxic and nuclear waste illegally in the civilized world. In such a climate, politically or economically weak countries were easily exploited. Poor and politically weak Somalia became an ideal victim. The solutions proffered today do not take account of this factor and are therefore not acceptable by the Somalis themselves. What should the world do?
A [Gregory L Garland]: You’re statement in general is correct. First, about the history of marine piracy. It is one of the oldest professions. But it is controllable, as recent history has taught in the Straits of Malacca. Piracy thrives where there is weak governance and poor economic choices — the formula in Somalia today. As for dumping of illegal waste, there is considerable evidence that a problem has existed in Somalia, with damage to its waters. This does not excuse or even explain the motives behind the wave of piracy, it is a factor that certainly ought to be assessed and dealt with as part of the long-term solution. At the end of the day, it is Somalis themselves who have to come to terms with the root causes of piracy with effective, inclusive governance throughout their country.
Q [Shakur]: I must admit that I find it difficult to understand the word “international community”! Eretria, Ethiopia, North Korea, Iran, etc – are members of the international community, the definition of international community may be as wide as you cannot imagine. That is the reason why I think America has to take the lead?
Shakur: I think the federal government deserves the maximum support, without compromising peace and stability in other regions. Yet, we learned from past interventions that there are seemingly disagreements from within the international community. I would think, Somalians are ready to grip the opportunity, provided America takes the lead of international help.
Amelia Vance IIP Washington: America.gov just released its new feature on piracy, so after the chat anyone interested can check out http://tinyurl.com/n96534 . There will also be a chat specifically on piracy in the 21st century on June 30, 09:00 am EDT (13:00GMT) at http://statedept.connectsolutions.com/conx . For more info on the chat, check out http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=89483129015.
Q [Mukesh Williams]: Many African leaders within and outside Somalia believe that instead of attacking the pirates and extremists it is wise to negotiate with them. Western leaders however feel otherwise. They feel that there can be no negotiation with pirates or extremists. The only way out is military action like the one successfully mounted in the wake of the hijacked US cargo ship Maersk Alabama. Both these approaches seem to be fraught with problems. What is your solution to break this impasse?
A [Gregory L Garland]: I have to disagree with the conclusion that an impasse exists. The multinational offshore naval presence is a short-term bandage supported by United Nations Security Council resolutions and contribution worldwide. Nobody pretend it is the solution. What is has succeeded in doing is keeping major shipping lanes more or less clear. Meanwhile, Africans, Middle easterners, Europeans, Americans, and Asian have gathered numerous times in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to discuss all aspects of the problem. Somalia’s TFG is an active participant, as is the African Union, Kenya, Yemen and Egypt. I know because I have attended meetings as a U.S. head of working group in Cairo and New York and have worked closely with the Africans (including Egypt) in particular. Force has rarely been used, and no country argues that it is an answer — though it makes for sensationalist television footage. The solution, all agree, is for effective governance to be reestablished throughout Somalia with a revived economy.
Q [Shakur]: Greg. It is not up to the Somalians any longer. You see, we are on life support machine; our country has been destroyed by million and one conflicting interests. Today so many countries call themselves as “the stake holders” Stake holders of what I wonder?
Comment [dia alesawi]: guys we forget the that there’s a countries like Ethiopia and Eretria supporting some of militia against the other they bring to them the money and the weapons and if they stop it gona fix some of Somalia problem
Q [Guest]: Hiiraan Online: Why the international community is out financed by the extremist’s elements in Somalia? Due to the financial situation in Somalia, young improvised Somalis are flocking to extremist camps; however these same young men could be recruited to the Somali Security Forces if the international community comes forward with promised financial support to TFG
A [Gregory L Garland]: You’ve hit upon one of the short-term answers — there has to be economic incentive to wean young men away from the temptation of piracy to other means of earning a living. The U.S. believes that the TFG is the best path for establishing effective governance in Somalia. Our support has and is taking many forms, including humanitarian assistance and starting work on building a coast guard. Can we do more? Yes, and that’s what we’re mapping out in the international Contact Group on Somalia (separate from the one on piracy).
Comment [Shakur]: Dia, they will not stop. They need to be told enough is enough. Take the case of Afghanistan, the neighboring countries were told to stay away mainly because of the direct interest they may have. In Iraq, again same applies. It is only when it comes to Somalia that we consult Ethiopia, Eretria, Kenya – that seems double standard to me.
Q [Rashid Ebrahim]: Hello Everyone…I’m From Bahrain where as many of you know the anti piracy task force is stationed (The US 5th Fleet). My question is Will we ever really put an end to this pirate menace?
CO.NX Moderator (Mark): For those of you just joining the webchat, welcome! Feel free to introduce yourself.
Q [Abdiaziz Hassan]: The fact is that a Failed Somalia is a threat to the global security and Something needs to be fixed. The nation and its people are ready to take the lead, but are you, U.S, the world’s number one power ready to assist Somalia militarily to overpower its rivals who do not have agenda? As much as I know, the peace for Somalis is peace for the world. Now, young, uneducated men who have no bigger agenda have disrupted world trade and caused the mess we can see in the maritime. Therefore, did you ask yourself [as Obama administration] what the consequences of Alshabaab takeover, which is getting direct order from Al-Qaeda can be?
A [Gregory L Garland]: The world understands that a failed Somalia is a global threat, not just one to its own people or its immediate neighbors. The U.S is working closely with the international community — including nations in East Africa and the Middle East as well as the African Union — to find answers to the issues you raise. As I have said, the U.S. believes that the TFG is best vehicle for rebuilding Somalia, and the international community is proceeding to support it. At the same time, the U.S. continues efforts to combat violent extremism and eliminate the terrorist threat in Somalia.
Q [Wise]: Do you think that the US did enough for Somalia? like do you think that sending navy troops at the sea and not helping the new government?
A [Gregory L Garland]: On-shore and off-shore contributions are two sides of the same coin of U.S. policy toward Somalia. The U.S. and a number of other countries could immediately respond to the piracy threat to international shipping with naval units. Hat naval; presence has helped maintain the Gulf of Aden as a viable waterway in the face of extraordinary piracy menaces. But it is only a quick fix; the long-term solution is tackling the root causes of piracy on shore The U.S. is also deeply engaged on shore in Somalia to assist the Somali people. It is the major provider of food and other humanitarian supplies that keep so many Somalis alive. It has supported the Africa Union Mission in Somalia — key to the security of the TFG — with logistics. And it has led international coordination through the two contact groups and the United Nations.
Q [sahardid from DC but in Kenya]: who must/should be involve in formulating the change plan for Somalia?
A [Gregory L Garland]: Somalis themselves, not outsiders. The core U.S. objective has been to encourage dialogue among Somali stakeholders with the goal of resuming the transitional process outlined by the Transitional Federal Charter. This means bringing in parts of society who can agree to the shared goal of effective governance, rule of law, and revival of the economy. Much of the world is willing to support that process, but the leadership and implementation must be Somali.
Q [Mohamed Ahmed Ali]: Current Somalia will be like Afghanistan and it may take decades to overpower the militants, the recent international policy is giving Somaliland as a present to the militants Muslim radicals, what is the US policy to safe Somaliland?
A [Gregory L Garland]: You are likely correct that Somalis must plan for decades, not years, much less weeks. We are acutely aware that two decades have already been lost. The U.S. believes that Somaliland is part of the solution for a unified, well-governed Somalia. I have heard the TFG Somali foreign minister himself make this assertion, and recognition on the record the accomplishment of the region’s governance.
Amelia Vance IIP Washington: Hi everyone! Don’t forget to check out the other programs CO.NX has available after the chat today. Find out more at http://co-nx.state.gov . If you are new to the chat, please say where you are from. Thank you!
Gregory L. Garland: Posted by Nwadi Udoka Eze (Nigeria) – bye this was great event. I am so happy to be an honored guest here. The food is great, the wine, off the hook. or maybe tea, depending on where you are or brunch, whatever. I am just trying to say: It’s funny attending an event online, but it feels good. I feel important. lol!
Gregory L. Garland: Posted by Muntaka Ghana – Somalia could be a beacon of the horns of Africa if a stable democratic platform is mounted with a structured society. It’s sad the ferocious tendencies of religion has infested deeply patrolling and controlling the minds of my brothers up there. I hope one day Africans will realize religion is primitive and whiles they might has been instruments of liberation sometimes in the past are now predominantly the contrivance and agents of the enormous ignorance in our societies, despotism and persecution of our thoughts and freedom.
CO.NX Moderator (Tim): Posted by Baba Iddi – Dialog with stakeholders in the region is a sure way to resolving the Somali crisis. Military approach to the issue would lead to undesirable results just like we have seen in many parts of the world. The west must be committed to finding permanent workable solutions to the crisis. The Obama approach to dealing with states such as Somalia, Iran, Cuba may yield great results for the US and the world at large, if sustained with sincerity.
Q [Mukesh Williams]: In a book entitled Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, historian Marcus Rediker points out that when poor seamen become pirates it draws attention to their social class, when enslaved Africans turn pirates it poses questions of race and when women take to piracy it reveals gender issues. All those who became pirates and sailed under their Jolly Rogers were participating in a political drama exposing the ills of their nations. They represented a specific geography and a dramatic condition, which was hard to ignore both literally and metaphorically. Most pirates went to sea to prevent starvation and death exposing the irresponsibility of the state. Do you think modern piracy in Somalia exposes the ills of the state and the complicity of Europe and the US in destabilizing it?
A [Gregory L Garland]: Yours is an academic and historical analysis that bear attention inasmuch as those of us in the present can learn from the past. It is granted that piracy is an ill (and an international crime) that has roots causes in social, political, and economic chaos. So does murder, and so does drug trafficking. But as a crime that threatens a major international trade corridor, it must be treated criminally. That’s something the world’s nations have agreed on. An analogous case took place in the Straits of Malacca some years ago, and international cooperation combined with effective local governance to stamp out most of the piracy. That’s effective governance and long-term economic opportunity in Somalia is crucial as long-term solutions. That’s not a matter of race or gender — interesting as those approaches might be. Just as piracy law came about in response to threats to international commerce centuries ago, Somalia reminds us why this is so and the common interest of all the world in containing it through effective governance on shore.
CO.NX Moderator (Tim): Posted by Rashid Ibrahim (Kenya) – I believe, the only thing that has the slightest chance of bringing stability in Somalia is more bloodshed; but it should be organized and precise. An individual of immense resources and an army of around 4000 well trained vigilantes will surely get things straightened. What we have had in Somalia is a confused and disenfranchised population that believes its interests are best served by individuals of their own ethnic background and this myth can only be quashed by getting rid of the trouble makers and ensuring that the power vacuum is filled and in the short run putting in place institutions that will safeguard the sovereignty of a nation and creating a constitution that protects the rights of all.
CO.NX Moderator (Tim): Posted by Suleiman Abdullahi – As long as individual rights are respected, the will of the people upheld and accountability, transparency and human rights are upheld, we don’t need to coin the word democracy to any kind of government. What is essential is satisfaction of the citizens with their country and how its affairs are being run. Again, it’s the bearer of the shoe who knows where it pinches most? Have we taken the time to listen and to reflect upon the wishes of the Somali people, we haven’t. Most of the people today only know about the existing problems in the country through media outlets and intelligence services who base their findings on “reliable” sources, too bad.
CO.NX Moderator (Tim): Posted by Ali Macalin – Hello..Always Hope and life goes on.. Positive thinking..When we take the first step in helping someone else – we are helped – often in ways that we do not know. We become part of a community that matters to us. We matter… Consider the people as potential resources, not as problems AND develop human potential through a proper education that acknowledges and promotes human nobility HOW- Learning to know,- Learning to Do,- Learning to Live Together and,- Learning to Be Peace, Ali
CO.NX Moderator (Tim): Posted by Suleiman Abdullahi – Somalia’s rich mineral resources that lie untapped is the reason we are focusing so much on this nation in the Horn of Africa. Why are we not giving similar attention to Kosovo which remains besieged by Serbia? And Armenia which has been constantly bullied by Turkey? why don’t we lend support to Myanmar which lives at the mercy of a military junta and where religious tolerance is non-existent? For crying out loud, let us be impartial and most importantly honest! A lot of the people who will lend their comments to this discussion have skewed and irrational view of Somalia. What we think of are the war mongering lords and hard line politicians but what we should be focusing on are the people of Somalia who live in fear everyday and are constantly on the move in search of safer grounds.
Comment [Abdi]: addressing seriously the situation and supporting the TFG is the only way to sort out the problems in Somalia
Comment [ahmed indepedebt researcher]: There is hope and the hope is that Somalis will force the world to balance the need of the Somali people for stability and prosperity against merciless international politics in the form of international NGOs
Comment [katus]: The situation that is….
Q [katus]: Osman am keen to know is nearly as bad as the media makes it…or is it worse?
Q [ahmed indepedebt researcher]: There are more than 800 international NGOs working in Somalia all the UN agencies are supposedly working in Somalia with a combined expenditure of $2billion since 2002 according to UNPOS so why not there is no peace still?
Osman Moallim: There is hope when you compared in the past. For example some time people now talking and thinking how the administration where before they were busy to support clan ambition. We have seen election of president as well as president resignation and elected another one. 10 years ago it was dream to believe such of this change
Q [rafiandra]: what should UN do about Somalia?
A [Gregory L Garland]: The UN is already deeply engaged in Somalia. There are two international contact groups, on for on shore and one on piracy off shore (I’m participating in the latter). The UN Office on Somalia (check on the formal name) in Nairobi coordinates aid effort. The U.S. has placed the UN at the center of its Somalia policy. But please remember that the UN is made of member-states, and is only as effective as its membership. By the way, the African Union has the only peacekeeping troops actually in Somalia — a bold testimony to that organization’s evolution. You mention Indonesia. While Indonesia has an interest in Somalia as a growing economy reliant on international shipping, as an Indian Ocean littoral state, and a fellow Muslim nation, we should remember that Indonesia has its own piracy issues. Together with Singapore and Malaysia, it has effectively controlled piracy in the Straits of Malacca. As such, I would suggest (personally speaking, not as a USG spokesman) that Indonesia offers the priceless expertise of having been there and done that well — that is, fought and reduced piracy in one important waterway.
Q [Iqraa Alamiin]: I am Iqraa, from Indonesia I think that I am so optimistic that there is hope for SOMALIA in future. The United Nation must pay attention in deed to make the situation becomes conducive and the world must help the Somalian from starving. They are our brother as human beings. I do hope that Somalia will be better and better as soon as possible. All Nations can take participate materially and morally as well to decrease the suffering of the Somalia. I just wonder about the children’s destinies dan the future in Somalia. They have to cooperate hand by hand to bring our only one earth planet into peaceful and love. My question is What actions can be done by United Nations to make the situation becomes normally.
A [CO.NX Moderator (Tim)]: Hi Iqraa…check above for UN engagement in Somalia.
Osman Moallim: the recognition of the Italian government to the TFG is one of the sign that shows you the hope because the Italian government is one of the key player the Somali conflict
Q [Rooble]: (09:28) Why this sudden support for Somalia after 18 years of civil war under the eyes of the US?
A [Gregory L Garland]: (09:28) That’s a common perception, but wrong. The U.S. has struggled with Somali issues for decades if we are to talk history, going back long before 1991-92. But support for effective nation-wide governance and rule of law by an inclusive national authority has been consistently a core objective of US policy. Somalis know better than most the strong voices of the Somali émigré community in the US, as well as in other Western countries. They have helped keep Somalia on the table so to speak, in the public eye domestically here in America. The current interest is exceptional in one important respect: piracy has made it to the front pages. It has given the American media a story that can be told easily with occasional valuable footage. Now, Americans think of piracy first when they think of Somalia. I would argue that this is an opportunity for all those concerned with Somali’s future, including Somalis themselves, to take advantage of. Americans don’t pay sustained attention as a general rule to the rest of world. Right now, with US naval units off shore, an American freighter that was attacked and freed by US naval intervention, and a suspect being detained in New York, piracy is still headlines here. This is the opportunity that the TFG, African Union, regional leaders elsewhere, and the UN all recognize. But believe me, as an Africanist I can assure that the US Government has paid sustained attention to Somalia since the early 1990s and before.
Gregory L Garland: (09:32) Thank you all for participating, listening, reading. I learned at least as much from your questions as you may from my answers — that’s what keeps me passionate about the business of cross-cultural dialogue. And thanks to my colleagues at IIP for making this program possible. Regards, Greg Garland
Amelia Vance IIP Washington: (09:35) Thank you so much for joining us today, Mr. Garland. And a big thanks to our audience. This chat is now closed. A transcript of this chat will be available in one to two days on America.gov and on our facebook page at http://co-nx.state.gov. We love to hear feedback so please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write on our facebook wall.