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April 22, 2009
Q&A: United States recalibrates policy toward Somalia

Maersk-Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips, right, stands alongside Cmdr. Frank Castellano, commanding officer of USS Bainbridge after being rescued by U.S Naval Forces off the coast of Somalia. Philips was held hostage for four days by pirates. Photo: U.S. Navy

Recent pirate attacks on U.S.-flagged ships have thrust the issue of Somali piracy into the spotlight and prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to vow to “halt the rise of piracy.”

But piracy off Somalia’s shores is linked to onshore problems, as the country lacks a stable government. The U.S. has a messy history in Somalia, as American forces withdrew in 1994 after a failed attempt at intervention.

David Shinn, a former ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, spoke with Worldfocus for our online radio show on lawlessness in Somalia.

Below, he discusses how the U.S. can approach Somalia given its poor reputation in the African country. Read Ambassador Shinn’s blog.

Q: If nation building is not an option, to what capacity can or should the United States get involved without further tarnishing its reputation in the area and antagonizing the Somali people?

David Shinn: Nation building is an option in the long term, but not the short term. Until it is a viable option, the United States should continue to provide humanitarian assistance that is distributed by international organizations like the World Food Program and NGOs and quietly support the new Somali government of national unity. Together with other members of the international community, the United States should identify ways that it can help this government establish a police force and eventually a national military force. The United States should be prepared to step in quickly with development assistance as soon as the security situation allows.

Q: If the United States is already seen as a collaborator with Ethiopia, who should be the “face” of Somali reconstruction?

David Shinn: The face of Somali reconstruction should be the Somalis themselves supported by either the UN or a coalition of donor countries who are willing to help fund the reconstruction effort. Somalia’s neighbors should remain on the sidelines politically but take steps as appropriate to support the establishment of a moderate Somali government.

Q: What alternative policy can the United States adopt to secure its interests in the region?

David Shinn: I don’t see an alternative U.S. policy, but one that supplements the policy suggested above. The United States should continue to maintain good relations with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti and explore ways to improve relations with Sudan and Eritrea. The goal is to encourage all of these countries, in addition to the African Union and Arab League, to play a constructive role in Somalia. The United States should deal with Somalia in collaboration with other interested countries so that responsibility for Somalia is an international responsibility, not an American undertaking. The United States should not see Somalia solely in the context of counterterrorism, which it did until early 2008. This approach damaged U.S. goals and interests in the region. Counterterrorism should be only a part of the policy, not the entire policy. The primary goal is to help establish a broad-based Somali government that is friendly with the United States and has tolerably good relations with all countries in the region.

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[…] Q&A: United States recalibrates policy toward Somalia […]


as a somali living in the diaspora i am appalled by the conditions that my home country is in.there is no excuse as to why we can not find solutions to our problems.i am very confident that we will come out of this and restore the dignity we had as a proud nation.i can not believe ethiopia invaded somali soil.what a turn on events has just taken place.i am sad because the us my new country is helping our traditional and long time enemy with military aid and logistics.peace somalia


Mr.Shinn are you realey expert of east African politics. I am sorry for your students why should USA seek good relation with Eritrea what about your prediction that eritrea will collaps in few weeks in 1998.Please answer this question.
with best regards


Press Release: Daily Telegraph: Journalism at its Lowest Ebb of Integrity
By Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Apr 23, 2009, 14:50

Reporting on Eritrea for the Daily Telegraph of the United Kingdom, Damien McElory, manifested the art of distortion and deceit by trying to align Eritrea with al-Shebab.

President Isaias Afwerki and the Delegation led by Andrew Mitchell, the British Shadow Foreign Secretary, discussed a wide variety of issues; amongst them, Somalia, bilateral cooperation and the role of NGOs. Mr. Andrew Mitchell expressed his appreciation of the President’s deep knowledge of the situation in Somalia and referred the analysis as compelling. Furthermore, Lord Ashcroft, part of the delegation and present at the meeting, clearly entertained the views of the President on the role of NGOs.

Although the journalist was not privy to the meeting, President Isaias had summarized to him the gist of the discussions during his brief interview that lasted above five minutes. But Mr. Damien chose to ignore the briefing and to write something else because, it seems, he had come to Eritrea with an already drafted story. Indeed, his article starts with an alleged statement by an unidentified diplomatic source who claims that the Obama Administration had recently “warned Eritrea”. This was a blatant lie hinged on an incident that never took place and to which Eritrea could not be associated by any stretch of imagination.

Eritrea’s stance on Somalia has been repeatedly echoed by the Government of Eritrea on several occasions. It is also borne out by the facts on the ground which clearly demonstrate that the meddling of external forces has only exasperated the situation in Somalia. Eritrea has no other agenda except the maintenance of peace and stability in our region. Eritrea’s argument originates from the full knowledge of the Somali society and the prevailing realities on the ground. Ignoring the complexities and intricacies of the cultures and experiences of any given society, is the beginning of a failed endeavor.

The most amazing aspect of the Somalia situation is that, initially, the external actors vigorously searched for pretexts to justify their intent of intervention, and claimed the presence of 2000 Eritrean forces in Somalia. Consequently, the Western Media called it a proxy war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The U.S. backed invasion of Somalia was initiated with pompous fanfare and statements of arrogance. At the time, Eritrea warned of the possible consequences. After two years, the pretentious statements of Ethiopia were nowhere to find. They “graciously” accepted a humiliating defeat and hit the road back home with tens of thousands of their dead soldiers left behind. Now, the perpetrators of this fiasco are looking for a scapegoat for their failed policy in Somalia. In this regard, Eritrea has become the target again.

Eritrea has been consistently calling for a comprehensive peace process in which all Somalis have a say in the installation of a lawful and legitimate government. What is more noble than calling for the widest possible participation of the people of Somalia? Eritrea never aligned itself with one group of actors in Somalia. Damien McElory’s inference that Eritrea is courting al-Shabab is a plain fabrication, to say the least. No one group is a solution, but only part of a solution in Somalia or elsewhere, for that matter. Contrary to what Damien McElory insinuates, Eritrea champions the Somali people at large. And at no time has Eritrea claimed to have aligned itself with any isolated group.

Piracy is a disease that was able to mushroom because of the anarchic situation in Somalia and, is indeed, a threat to be reckoned with. But how do you go about curing this disease without addressing the fundamental problem? It is Eritrea’s genuine belief that once the Somalis engage in and complete the reconstitution of their country, piracy will disappear.

The Delegation and the “journalist” had a half day visit to a village in the peripheries of Asmara, with a successful Water and Sanitation Project of which Andrew Mitchell expressed his delight with the appropriate application of Britain’s tax payers money. Not a word was mentioned of this success story in the Daily Telegraph. Instead, the “journalist” chose to disseminate fabricated and deceitful stories about Eritrea and tried to appear as if he has researched his story extensively.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
23 April 2009


‘Yemiategib injera ke mitad yastawqal’ an Ethiopian saying literal means a plan that will succeed can be known ahead of time. Ambassador Shine’s thoughts about the region are evolving at a speed of snail, while events in Somalia and the region are moving at a speed of light. The Ambassador is still think the U.N, AU and its neighbors, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya etc, will bring peace to Somalia, the same organization that have plunged the country into chaos. In 2006 UIC more or less were able to bring stability to the country, when the U.N. fabricated lies opened the door for Ethiopia’s invasion, fighting jihadists, islamists etc. the U.N. and Ambassador Shine still expects peace in the country, dividing the Somali people between moderate and radical Muslims, repeating the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. The Ambassador and others, who claim to be expert of the region if they are really concerned for the peace and stability to the Horn of Africa, need to adopt the position of Eritrea. The Eritreans have proved to be right in many of the issues concerning the region. They are the super powers of progressive ideas. Until that takes place all effort of peace to Somalia can be described by another Ethiopian saying ‘Alsheshum zor alu’.


Ethiopia, the regions super power, by any means has to make sure that governments do not fall in the hands of exterimists and jihadists. There is nothing new with what the Ambassador David Shinn outlined as a prefered American policy towards Somalia – and that is exactly Ethiopias Government policy. As usual, we say it now, and they understand it after five years!


As to US relationship with the region, Mr. Shinn’s comment is well taken. Eritrea’s stand is clear that Somalis should re-creat their own Somalia bythemselves. Other countries should only be a motivation factor and should not interfer intheir internal affairs. I believe this is a novel idea and I admire Ambasador Shinn for viewing the case correctly.

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