23 February 2012
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Quilliam welcomes the important initiative led by Britain to host an international confernece to direct the world’s attention to the suffering of the Somali people.
Quilliam co-founder and Chairman, Maajid Nawaz, said:
‘The recent announcement of the merger between Somalia’s al-Shabbab Islamist group and al-Qaeda should ring alarm bells in the region and across the world. We should not underestimate the capability of this type of coalition to launch regional or international terrorist campaigns. This is particularly important because of successful recruitment efforts by al-Shabbab in the West, and the counter-productive role they can play in the Arab uprisings via al-Qaeda in Yemen’
‘In this climate, the conference will present a practical opportunity to coordinate various efforts to address the Somali conflict, with the UN, AMISON, IGAD, and the EU, working to bring security and stability to Somalia’.
On 17 February 2012, a few days before London’s schedule conference, there was an important development inside Somalia. A national constitutional conference took place in Garowe, Puntland, where regional factional actors reached broad agreement regarding post-transition governance and power-sharing in a new constitutional order for Somalia.
Despite the success of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in taking control of Mogadishu, and putting al-Shabbab under huge pressure, there is still a long way to go to end hostitilities.
Facts on the ground indicate that al-Shabbab’s military capabilities are still very significant. While their main source of logisitical support remains a highly contentious debate, the UN Security Council has pointed to Eritra as one likely source of weapons for the group.
Noman Benotman, Senior Analyst in Strategic Communications at Quilliam, said:
‘It took 10 300 African Union troops, plus thousands of government soldiers (TFG) to push al-Shabbab out of the capital Mogadishu, but they still control large areas in the middle and the south of the country.’
‘We have learnt that Qatar and Turkey believe the London conference should not exclude the possibility of opening the door for al-Shabbab, if they wish to engage politically, based on the national constitutional conference of February 17. This idea is encouraged by two main factors – negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the democratic mood of the Arab Spring’.
As a middle-line between the Somali government’s call and the understandable security concerns of the international community, Quilliam invites this conference to considr a phased ‘smart’ end to the arms embargo on the country. This will gradually enable the nascent SOmali governemnt to better meet its desire to resist efforts of militant groups to unseat it from the capital Mogadishu.